A JF-17 Fierce Dragon fighter aircraft with the insignia of the Myanmar Air Force (MAF) on its tail has been conducting test flights in China's Chengdu airport, indicating that plans to induct them into MAF by end of this year may be on course.
That will make Pakistan a military hardware exporter because the Fierce Dragon has been jointly developed by Pakistan and China.
Khwaja Suhail Mansoor, chairman of Pakistan’s standing committee on defence production, claimed recently that the fiscal year that ended in July, the value of defence exports was $98.3 million, a 55% jump from a decade back.
While the JF-17 is a major joint collaboration effort to manufacture and sell combat planes by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and the state-owned Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (PAC/CAC), it has been mainly developed by China by improving its CAC FC-1 Xiaolong air fighter.
Myanmar is the first country to buy these planes to replace its aging combat force of 24 aging J-7 fighters and 16 A-5IIK ground attack aircraft.
MAF has a force level of 112 fighters, about 80 trainer aircraft, 25 transport aircraft, and around 140 helicopters.
In July 2015, Myanmar had signed a deal for 16 JF-17 Block II aircraft at a unit cost of $16 million, Jane’s Defence Weekly claimed.
Myanmar may also be considering buying an additional unspecified number of JF-17s. The Defense Ministry is tight-lipped on that.
The JF-17 Block II variant of the light multi-role and combat fighter is an improved version of the Block I fighter and boasts of mid-air refuelling facilities.
But, its role will largely be to provide close air support or for defensive operations.
With China’s active help, the Pakistan Air Force is also pursuing an ongoing effort to build and induct about 150 JF-17 fighters.