The Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammed, attended this year’s Pakistan Day parade and was treated to an acrobatic performance by a group of JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighters. The aircraft is assembled in Pakistan and was developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (PAC/CAC).
That performance was a sales pitch which captured the attention of Malaysia and also the participating delegation of Azerbaijan, two countries which are seriously considering the Pakistani JF-17 Thunder fighter for procurement. This comes after the Pakistani claim of using JF-17 Thunders to carry out a cross border raid inside Indian Occupied Kashmir and also to shoot down Indian MiG-21s which violated the LOC to barge inside Pakistani airspace to engage the strike force in a conflagration between the two neighbors. Apart from Pakistan and China, Myanmar operates JF-17 aircrafts and Nigeria is set to procure the fighter as well.
Just days after Mahathir watched the JF-17 in action in Pakistan, Malaysia convened the Langkawi International Maritime Aerospace Expo (LIMA-2019), which began on 26th March. There, the Royal Malaysian Air Force will evaluate up close not only the JF-17, but two of its competitors: the Indian-made Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and the Korean-made FA-50 Golden Eagle.
Kuala Lumpur is strapped for cash as it seeks to upgrade its air force and the JF-17, a strong performer with a relatively low unit price, fits the bill. It has been seriously considering the aircraft for at least one year now. The JF-17 does appear to be the lead contender for the Malaysian contract, given the aircraft’s strong industrial backing in Pakistan. Malaysia is reportedly being offered the more advanced Block III variant of the JF-17, which features an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, better countermeasures, and a helmet-mounted display system. The main hold-up for Malaysia with the JF-17 is the fighter’s use of the Russian-designed, Chinese-license-built RD-93 engine, which will prove difficult to service even though Kuala Lumpur’s existing fleet of MiG-29 fighters use this engine.
[Geo News, The Nation]