Beijing: The Fierce Dragon, or JF-17 Thunder, a fourth-generation fighter jet co-developed by China and Pakistan, has found a buyer following years of speculation and promotion.

The aircraft's developers, Aviation Industry Corp of China and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, signed a contract with an unidentified buyer, AVIC said in a statement sent to China Daily. It did not elaborate on when the contract was signed or how many JF-17 are to be sold. The Pakistan Air Force is the only user of the lightweight, multi-purpose combat aircraft, with 60 in active service.

"Now it has a new buyer. Moreover, several potential buyers have expressed to us their strong intention of introducing the aircraft, and they have performed comprehensive assessments of the plane," Liu Yu, deputy head of AVIC's military aircraft trade wing, was quoted in the statement as saying at a news conference in Dubai.

About 1,100 exhibitors from more than 60 countries are attending the ongoing 14th Dubai Airshow, which opened on Sunday in the United Arab Emirates. "This plane is an ideal replacement for second-and third-generation fighter jets still in service with many militaries. The JF-17 has good capabilities in air combat and air-to-ground strikes, and a high cost-performance ratio," he said.

This is the first time an AVIC official has confirmed the new JF-17 contract. Air Vice-Marshal Arshad Malik, vice-chairman of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, said at Monday's news conference that the aircraft demonstrated strong combat capability through various drills.

Forty F-17 will be delivered to the Pakistan Air Force in the near future, he said.

According to Western military observers, China and Pakistan have been actively promoting the JF-17 to the international market. However, no deals were made despite reports often emerging saying some militaries were close to inking a contract.

Nevertheless, the China-Pakistan sales team remains optimistic as they still stick to the prediction that in next 20 years, at least 300 JF-17 will be sold globally.