The twin-seat Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (PAC/CAC) JF-17B Thunder/FC-1B Xiaolong combat aircraft has made its maiden flight, according to images posted on Chinese online forums on 27 April.
The new variant of the JF-17/FC-1 fighter is believed to have completed its first flight from the CAC's airfield in Chengdu, where just a few days before it had been photographed conducting taxiing tests since at least 24 April.
The recently posted images confirm that the fighter has a larger swept-back vertical stabiliser as seen in a model of the aircraft shown at Airshow China in November 2016. They also confirm that the variant has a deeper dorsal spine, which adds fuel capacity to compensate for the additional weight.
Specifications provided by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) state the 'FC-1 Tandem Seat Trainer' has a larger wing span (9.465 m) than that of the single-seat variant (8.5 m) as well as a slightly modified nose section.
An AVIC official told Jane's at the 2017 IDEX show in Abu Dhabi that a new fly-by-wire system has helped reduce the weight of the new variant.
According to Jane's All the World's Aircraft: Development & Production , a Chinese display card emerged a few years ago quoting dimensions of the new variant that differed slightly from those of the single-seater, including height (4.6 m instead of 4.7 for the single seater) and length (14.5 m instead of 14.2 m).
A model of a tandem-seat FC-1 was first exhibited at the Paris Air Show in June 2013 by the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC).
Chinese reports indicate the first prototype of the twin-seater was completed by late 2016.
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