There is yet another delay in production of the new Chinese JF17 fighter (also known as the FC-1). By the end of the year, a modified prototype, with changes in the air intakes, the strake, internal equipment and the vertical fin, will be available for flight testing. The aircraft was supposed to be ready for first flight in 1998, but numerous delays prevented that from happening until 2003.
The JF17 was developed in cooperation with Pakistan, which wants to buy 150 of them. Pakistan could not get modern fighters from anyone else, and turned to China. The 13 ton JF17 is meant to be a low cost ($20 million) alternative to the American F16. The JF17 is considered the equal to earlier versions of the F16, but only 80 percent as effective as more recent F16 models. The JF17 uses the same Russian engine, the RD-93, that is used in the MiG29. The JF17 design is based on a cancelled Russian project, the MiG33. Most of the JF17 electronics are Western, with Italian firms being major suppliers. There was recently a snag about the Russians not wanting to allow the JF17s to go to Pakistan with Russian engines. Negotiations resolved this problem, especially the current peace talks between India (a long time Russian customer) and Pakistan.
The JF17 can carry 3.6 tons of weapons and use radar guided and heat seeking missiles. It has max speed of nearly 2,000 kilometers an hour, an operating range of 1,300 kilometers and a max altitude of 55,000 feet.