- Web Master
- September 27, 2023
In what could be good news for the resistance movement and Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), there appears to be shimmering tensions between Islamabad and Naypyitaw over the supply of a set of newly acquired JF-17s fighter planes.
Military junta leader Min Aung Hlaing is said to have
expressed his displeasure to none other than Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz
Sharif and military chief, General Asim Munir as the aircrafts - JF-17 Thunder,
a multi-role combat aircraft – which Pakistan has supplied to Myanmar between
2019 and 2021 have all been declared “unfit for operations.”
The newly acquired JF-17 Thunder, a multi-role combat aircraft from Pakistan had to be grounded owing to malfunctioning of the planes. The newly delivered planes are part of a deal which the Burmese military junta signed in 2016 to purchase JF-17 produced jointly by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corporation of China.
But soon after the delivery of the aircrafts the Burmese Air
Force were forced to ground the planes as malfunctions and structural flaws
were detected. A similar problem resulted with the new acquired fleets in 2022. There are a total of 11 JF-17 fighter jets but none are
currently operational due to technical glitches.
Now after a couple of futile attempts by Pakistani engineers who made a secret visit to Myanmar in September 2022 to fix the problems, the military junta is fuming and if what sources say is to be believed, it has sent out “a stern message” to Islamabad to answer for the mess.
While at the same time it has been egging Beijing to
intervene. A recent visit by the Myanmar’s Chinese envoy to Naypyitaw is said
to have carried a message from the CCP’s top leadership to Gen Min Aung Hlaing.
According to sources, Pakistan is trying hard to renegotiate the deal with newer versions of the JF-17s. In all likelihood these new variants are will be developed by the same combination of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corporation of China.
However, so far there is little information on whether the renegotiated deal has been accepted by the military junta leadership. Informed sources say that the military junta is very upset as the
non-utility of the aircrafts has hampered most of its plans of beefing up its airpower to carry out targeted strikes on Myanmar’s resistance groups which are fighting under the banner of the People’s Defence Force (PDF) an armed wing of the NUG.
Following the news of the crisis arising out of the malfunctioning of the JF-17s, Pakistan’s efforts to sell similar aircrafts to other countries, especially Latin American countries has hit a roadblock.
Now with the military junta in Myanmar refusing to get into any new talks on
procuring aircrafts from Pakistan, other countries too have been reluctant to
engage with Pakistan.
Besides the experience in Myanmar, the JF-17s has had a poor run in Nigeria as well. The Nigerian Airforce (NAF) had inducted 15 F-7 NI fighter aircraft in 2009. By 2018, six out of the 15 jets had crashed.
The remaining nine were rendered unserviceable. Five of these sent to China for
heavy maintenance and upgrades which were received back by NAF in 2022. However
soon after on July 2023, a FT-7 NI trainer aircraft supplied by China crashed.
Argentina is amongst the few countries which has refused to buy the JF -17s from China and Pakistan.
JF-17s utility and maintenance costs, and what it means
In fact, Myanmar was the first country to purchase the Pakistan and China combined JF-17 Thunder, aircraft in 2015. These aircrafts which rely on the Russian Klimov RD 93 aeroengine and western avionics and set up on a China-made airframe has huge operations and maintenance costs as compared to a modern weapon system.
According to international aeronautics experts, even after repairs the JF-17s would be “difficult to use” with proper technical know how at an operations level. This would mean that the Myanmar Air Force requires the expertise to be able to attend to the technical issues as and when it arises. The military junta has made plans to send its technicians to Islamabad to train on upgrades and maintenance, but that effort is on hold.
Experts also point to some crucial features of the JF-17s which they say is the China-made KLJ-7 Al radar. A vital component which is the beyond-visual-range (BVR) missile or airborne interception radar is also missing. According to one such expert this impacts the accuracy levels and as a result is not effective. Besides this “there are several other problems” even the body of the aircraft which is not made to withstand gravitational force and strong winds.
The Myanmar junta has been largely dependent on the strength of its aerial power with air strikes by the Myanmar Air Force on ethnic armed revolutionary organizations and civilians. It has been in talks with China and Pakistan to help it to build its air-to-surface missile capabilities using the JF-17s. But that process has not been easy for the military junta even after spending billions of dollars.
What needs to be highlighted is that China itself has not included a single JF-17s in its inventory till date.
Note: From a writer in northeast India
Photo by Defensemirror.com