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First JF-17 for Myanmar commence flight testing

The first JF-17 Thunder fighter jet for Myanmar has commenced flight testing according to pictures posted online.

Myanmar became the first export customer for the type, which is co-produced by Chinese Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), with an order of 16 Block-II JF-17 fighters in July 2015.

Deliveries could commence later this year as scheduled earlier.

The single engined multi-role fighters will replace Myanmar Air Force obsolete fleet of 16 Nanchang A-5 ground attack and 24 Chengdu F-7(Chinese MiG-21) fighter jets supplied by China in the 1990s.

JF-17 was developed to meet Pakistan Air Force requirement for an a affordable fighter jet with advanced capabilities. Even though inferior, at the half cost, the JF-17 can roughly match the performance of the Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jet.

More than 83 of the type are operational with PAF, since maiden flight in 2003, including the latest Block II variants, first unveiled in 2015 featuring improved avionics and equipped with aerial refueling capability.

Powered by the either the 84 kN thrust Chinese WS-13 turbofan or the Russian Klimov RD-93 turbofan engine, the JF-17 can carry a weapon payload of 3,600 kg under its seven wing and fuselage pylons.

Myanmar is also reportedly interested in acquiring the Block III version scheduled to debut in 2019, which is equipped with latest features like Active Scanned Electronic Array radar, helmet mounted display and sight (HMDS) system and the passive Infrared Search and Tracking (IRST) system.

The JF-17 fleet will be operated alongside the 31 MiG-29 multi-role fighters acquired by Myanmar from Belarus.

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