Air Commodore Khalid Mahmood, Deputy Chief Project Director for pakistan's JF-17 [FC-1] induction programme, was quoted on this at the recently held Zhuhai Air Show in China.
The latest issue of 'Aviation Week & Space Technology' magazine has an article that explores the role and importance of the FC-1 for the Pakistan Air Force [PAF] & export potentials, if possible. China has developed this aircraft, for all practical purposes, to help maintain PAF's fleet strength with a low-tech, inexpensive, all-metal-bodied solution as replacement to its existing fleet, that the country can afford - act as a pressure point on India's Western flank. NOTE: China's own Air Force has not agreed to fly the aircraft in its service, its cheap price-point notwithstanding.
"Others aim to use the JF-17 to replace their second-and third-generation fighters, says Khalid, adding that the JF-17's capabilities put it between third and fourth generations."
The FC-1 made its maiden flight in 2003. For perspective, baseline models of some aircrafts considered fourth-generation, include the F-15 [maiden flight early 70s], the F-16 [early 70s vintage], MiG-29 [maiden flight late 70s] - all took to the air three decades earlier, in the previous millennium. Technology upgrades imparted to them, since, have upgraded their designation to 4++ generation.
The first acknowledged crash of the JF-17/FC-1 occurred in November 2011, the very year PAF raised its second 'Thunder' squadron - the 'Black Panthers'.