Pakistan has reportedly sent a team of engineers to Myanmar to fix the Air Force’s “junk” JF-17 Thunder fighter jets which the country ordered in 2016 but were grounded last year.
Not a single aircraft from the 11-strong JF-17 fleet is currently operational due to technical glitches, the Economic Times reported. The jets have developed structural cracks and other technical issues, and are unfit for service.
Myanmar reportedly inked a deal in early 2016 to procure 16 JF-17s from China at a cost of $25 million each. A first batch of six aircraft were delivered to the Air Force in 2018, but details about the other aircraft are not yet clear. The deal made Myanmar the first country outside China and Pakistan to buy JF-17s.
Myanmar Air Force officers will reportedly go to Pakistan for a 6-month training stint.
Argentina is said to be interested in buying JF-17s. While Chinese state media claimed that the South American country was seriously considering these jets, the ET report said that it “refused to accept the junk.”
The JF-17 aircraft is a fourth generation single-engine fighter jet capable of attacking up to 1400 km. Russia’s RD-93 engine was installed in this aircraft, which is struggling with technical problems.
Military observers told local media that the JF-17’s China-made KLJ-7 Al radar has poor accuracy and maintenance problems. The aircraft does not even have an effective beyond-visual-range (BVR) missile or airborne interception radar.
Malfunction of the Weapon Mission Management Computer has caused launch zones of BVR air-to-air missiles to shrink during combat exercises, experts claimed.
Furthermore, the airframe is reportedly vulnerable to damage, especially in its wingtips and hardpoints, when the aircraft encounters strong gravitational forces.
Adding to the long list of problems is another – Myanmar has no spare parts for the JF-17 because West-supplied avionics and electronics were restricted to the country following the coup.
The trade embargo also makes it impossible for the Myanmar military regime to directly buy missiles and bombs for its JF-17s. The regime has reportedly held talks with Pakistan to order air-to-surface missiles, bombs and rockets.