Jan 1, 2016
Sri Lanka May Buy JF-17 Fighters
With Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif scheduled to visit Sri Lanka in the first week of January 2016, efforts to secure an agreement in principle for the sale of the JF-17 Thunder are likely to be high on his agenda.
Sharif's upcoming talks in Colombo follow a mid-November visit to Pakistan by Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) commander Air Marshal Gagan Bulathsinhala during which the JF-17 was showcased by the Pakistanis.
The SLAF - which already flies several other Chinese-made aircraft types - is currently looking to upgrade its fighter capabilities. At present these rely on the Kfir, which served as the workhorse of SLAF ground attack operations in the 1983-2009 civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Currently the JF-17 is flown only by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), with the first squadron of Block 1 aircraft becoming operational in 2010. In late December 2015, PAC rolled out the 16th of a planned total of 50 Block 2 aircraft to complete the PAF's fourth JF-17 squadron in service.
Phasing out its older Dassault Mirage III/5s and Chinese F-7Ps fighters, the PAF reportedly plans to induct at least 250 JF-17s. By contrast, China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) does not fly the JF-17.