China and Pakistan are developing a combat-capable two-seat trainer variant of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (PAC/CAC) JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft, Flight Global reports.
“The only significant change to the aircraft apart from the extra seat is a dorsal fin that contains an additional fuel tank. This means the JF-17B’s fuel load is comparable to the single seater,” according to Flight Global. “Production of the first JF-17B was initiated by Pakistan and China during a joint ceremony at Chengdu Aerospace Corporation,” the Pakistan-based Dawn newspaper reported on April 28. CAC is located in Chengdu city in Sichuan province in southwest China.
A defense official working on the JF-17B program emphasized that there will be “no loss in combat capability with the addition of the extra seat.” Chinese and Pakistani representatives familiar with the JF-17N program have repeatedly said that a two-seat variant of the aircraft is under development. The first flight of the two-seat variant is planned for the end of 2016; the PAF plans to induct the first JF-17B in April 2017.
The JF-17 is a lightweight, single-engine, multirole combat aircraft, powered by a Russian-designed but Chinese-built Klimov RD-93 (RD-33 derivative) turbofan, capable of reaching a top speed of Mach 1.6. The fighter purportedly has an operational range of around 1,200 kilometers (745 miles).
According to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, the aircraft has “seven underwing/fuselage hardpoints, and is equipped with an internal GSh-23-2 twin-barrel cannon. Weapon options include up to four PL-5, -7, -8 or -9 short-range air-to-air missiles (AAMs) or four PL-12/SD-10B medium-range AAMs; two C-802A anti-ship missiles; two anti-radiation missiles; five 500 kg bombs; twin launchers for up to eight 250 kg, MK-20, GBU-12 or anti-runway bombs; single 1,000 kg bomb or GBU-10; or up to three mission pods.”