As a part of the major upgradation programme, the Sino-Pak fighter JF-17 was spotted with two PL-10E air-to-air missiles.
The picture, clicked in March 2021, shows a JF-17A Block III prototype, (no. 3001), armed with two PL-10E short range air-to-air missiles installed on the wingtip hardpoints. First published on the online portal airliners.net, this is the first-ever photo published on a public domain where the aircraft is seen carrying the missile.
The photo can be seen here: https://www.airliners.net/photo/Pakistan-Air-Force/JF-17-Thunder-Block-III/6414197
The PL-10E is an Imaging Infra Red (IIR) air-to-air missile, designed for short range engagements, same in the league of American AIM-9X “Sidewinder” and European AIM-132 ASRAAM. It has 90° High-Off Bore Sight (HOBS) capability. When cued with a Helmet Mounted Display and Sight (HMDS) system, it significantly eases the operator’s effort to target an airborne target by allowing him to gain a lock and fire the missile without turning the aligning the whole airframe towards the target. The IIR seeker is another major highlight, as it is highly resistant to infrared flares and focuses on aircraft signature precisely according to the developers.
This will also be the first missile of such type to be introduced with a Pakistan Air Force platform as the widely deployed AIM-9L/M and PL-5 feature conventional heat seekers. It is believed that the Chinese missile is selected over South African V3-A-Darter air-to-air missile due to favourable results in evaluation.
JF-17A Block 3 will bring revolution in indigenous Pakistan aerospace industry as well as for the air force. Even though it is based on the original JF-17A airframe, the primary highlights are internal components of the aircraft that include a new radar, three-axis Fly-By-Wire (FBW) and helmet-mounted display and sight (HMDS) system. An integrated Electronic Warfare (EW) suite and an Infrared Search and Track (IRST) were also planned but later dropped due to the limitations posed by the size of the airframe. However, external EW pods like KG-600 or KG-700 will be integrated that are already tested on the preceding Block 2. The medium-to-long-range active radar-guided PL-15 is also expected to be the primary Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVR-AAM).
JF-17 is a jointly developed aircraft by China and Pakistan. It serves as the mainstay fighter aircraft of Pakistan Air Force, complementing the F-16s and serve as a multirole platform. It served in combat missions including Counter-Insurgency operations in North Waziristan, and Operation Swift Retort against India in 2019.