JF-17 Thunder
A JF-17 Thunder fighter jet of the Pakistan Air Force takes off from Mushaf base in Sargodha, north Pakistan June 7, 2013.Reuters

Myanmar, the country which is undergoing a transition from military junta to democracy, is said to be inching closer to licence-build JF-17 multi-role combat aircraft, according to reports.

Read: Nigeria to buy JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft from Pakistan; Turkey to buy Super Mushshak

In 2015, the Myanmar Air Force (MAF) had decided on buying 16 JF-17 aircraft that are the outcome of a collaboration between Pakistan's Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and China's Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (CAC). Myanmar is in advanced stages of negotiations with Pakistan to buy and build them in Yangon, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly reported citing sources close to MAF.

If Myanmar is able to reach a deal with Pakistan, this will mean a big boost to the country's local defence-manufacturing industry. The aircraft will go on to become MAF's workhorse combat aircraft, the report noted.

Further, Myanmar is also looking to phase out the now obsolete combat aircraft fleet that includes F-7 M Airguard and A-5C 'Fantan.' These aircraft were purchased from China in the 1990s.

Since its inception in 2009, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has been a prominent user of the JF-17 Thunder, which is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft. The PAF has built around 70-odd aircraft and plans to build a total of 250 of them.

The MAF has chosen the Block II variant, which features air-to-air refuelling capability, improved avionics, enhanced load-carrying capacity, data link and electronic warfare capabilities, the Diplomat reported.

Jane's report said that though the first 16 will be imported, Myanmar is looking to license-build the Block III variant, which reportedly features avionics advancements like elmet-mounted display and sight (HMD/S) system, a new single-panel multi-functional display (MFD), an active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar, more composites, new engine, a two-seater cockpit option, with a top speed of 2.0+ Mach, the Dawn said.

Thanks to China, Pakistan has a robust defence-manufacturing industry and this buy will give it a boost. Apart from Myanmar, Nigeria, too, has ordered three JF-17s for its air force.