Pakistani pilot got pulses racing on social media on Monday after photos from the Paris Air Show reminded some of Top Gun star Tom Cruise.
Squadron Leader Yaser Mudasser became an unwitting Twitter star after shots circulated of him showing off Pakistan’s new JF-17 Thunder fighter jet to a diplomat.
But Mudasser was somewhat less cocky than Maverick, the cult hero played by Cruise in the 1980s hit film, when asked about the surprise attention.
“It’s funny. One never imagines that you’ll get this kind of attention when you’re training day-in day-out,” the pilot told AFP, laughing bashfully.
“It’s superb. It’s a treat to fly this aircraft. It’s so beautiful and user-friendly,” he gushed.
But it was his colleague, Wing Commander Usman Ali, also channeling his inner Maverick in a pair of aviator shades, who wowed the crowds on the first day of the world’s premier air show.
“It was an honor to fly the JF-17 over the skies of Paris. It was a moment of pride for all of us to exhibit this aircraft to the whole world,” said Ali.
Islamabad won the first-ever order for its JF-17 Thunder jet as the revamped plane dazzled crowds at the show.
Pakistan has been years without a buyer for its first home-made jet, which was designed with the help of close ally China.
Commodore Syed Muhammad Ali, spokesman for the Pakistan Air Force, confirmed an order for the plane had been finalized.
However, he declined to give any more details, citing sensitivities for not naming the client, the number of aircraft or the date of delivery.
The latest model, which is capable of Mach 2.0 (twice the speed of sound) with an operational ceiling of 55,000 feet, roared over the crowds on the first day of the Paris Air Show soon after the confirmation.
A report on the aviation website Flightglobal.com quoted another senior officer, Air Commodore Khalid Mahmood, as saying the sale had been made to an “Asian country” and the delivery would take place in 2017.
Pakistan’s large and well-funded military has long been a major importer of defense equipment, particularly from China.
But Pakistan is hoping the updated JF-17, along with Pakistani-made tanks and surveillance drones, will help increase military exports and bring in much-needed foreign exchange.