Myanmar raises issue of grounded JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft to Pakistan


One of the Myanmar Air Force's JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft. Photo c/o The Irrawaddy.

The Myanmar Air Force’s fleet of 11 JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft supplied by Pakistan has reportedly been grounded, and has created a dent on the relations between the Myanmar and Pakistani governments, as well as on the reputation of the JF-17 in the global export market, according to Myanmar media outlets.

According to independent Myanmar media outlet The Irrawaddy, the Myanmar Air Force’s fleet of JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft that have been delivered only between 2018 and 2021 have been grounded since 2022 due to “technical malfunctions”, quoting analysts and former pilots of the Myanmar Air Force monitoring the Myanmar military’s capabilities.

Another independent Myanmar-based media outlet Narinjara News reported that these problems were identified to be structural cracks and airframe damage, issues with the Weapon Mission Management Computer, and poor performance of the Chinese-made KLJ-7AI fire control radar, as well as a variety of other technical problems and malfunctions that gave the Myanmar Air Force reasons to declared the JF-17 Thunder fleet  as “technically unfit for operations”.

Technicians and engineers from the aircraft’s manufacturer Pakistan Aeronautical Complex were reportedly sent to Myanmar to fix the problems but apparently failed to bring back the aircraft to operational status.

There are also concerns that Myanmar technicians do not have the technical know-how to maintain and repair the JF-17’s weapon and avionics systems.

Latest reports have indicated that Myanmar’s Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Administration Council Gen. Min Aung Hliang has expressed his displeasure on the fighter fleet’s condition to Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Armed Forces chief General Asim Munir.

The Chinese Government has also reportedly intervened in the issue, with the Chinese envoy to  Myanmar personally delivering a message from the Chinese Communist Part’s top leadership to Myanmar Prime Minister Gen. Min Aung Hliang. This is due to the Chinese involvement in the JF-17 Thunder development through Chengdu Aircraft Industries Group.

Pakistan is said to be renegotiating with Myanmar by offering newer variants of the JF-17 Thunder but there is little information to confirm Myanmar’s reply or acceptance of the offer. 

The Myanmar Air Force have been using the JF-17 Thunder in its campaign against the People’s Defence Force and the exiled National Unity Government of Myanmar, which have been waging a civil war against Myanmar’s military junta. With the JF-17s grounded, the Myanmar Air Force is resorting to use its other combat aircraft including the MiG-29 Fulcrum, and other older or less capable combat aircraft. 

[1] The Irrawaddy

[2] Narinjara News

[3] Economic Times - India Times

Myanmar raises issue of grounded JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft to Pakistan Myanmar raises issue of grounded JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft to Pakistan Reviewed by Asia Pacific Defense Journal on September 05, 2023 Rating: 5

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