A JF-17 “Thunder” combat jet destined for the Myanmar air force is currently undergoing flight tests at Chengdu airfield in China, the home of the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC). A photo appearing on the Chinese internet shows the aircraft, designated the JF-17M, in two-tone blue camouflage. CAC is in a joint venture with the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) to produce the JF-17.
Myanmar signed for 16 JF-17 Block 2 versions worth approximately $560 million in July 2015. On Pakistani television last December, two were seen in the final stages of production at PAC’s Kamra factory. Deliveries are expected to start from second half this year and could replace the venerable Nanchang Q-5 and Chengdu J-7 fighters that China previously supplied to Myanmar.
Compared with standard-production JF-17s for the Pakistan air force, the JF-17M features a different UHF/VHF antenna beneath the nose and LED landing lights on the front undercarriage. Block 2 aircraft possess in-flight refueling capabilities as well as improved avionics and electronics systems. It is not clear why this aircraft for Myanmar is being test-flown from Chengdu, since all final production of the JF-17 is done at Kamra.
Separately, the twin-seat JF-17B variant made its first flight from Chengdu on April 27 this year. CAC claims that the twin-seater retains the combat capabilities of the single-seater. Despite additional space in the fuselage for the stretched cockpit, endurance remains largely unchanged due to the installation of a fuel tank in a dorsal spine.