JF-17 Thunder aircraft is an advanced multi-role light combat aircraft jointly developed by Chengdu and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex under a strategic collaboration project. The aircraft is designed to be cost-effective and can meet the tactical and strategic needs of the Pakistan Air Force, and various other air forces. The first prototype made its first test flight in 2003. The letters "J & F" included as title of the aircraft denoting "Joint Fighter". Pakistan renamed Super-7 as JF-17 (Joint Fighter) Thunder in 2003.
The JF-17 Thunder, whose performance is matched only by F-16s in the Pakistan Air Force's current inventory, would be replacing the aging fleet of Mirage, F-7s and A-5s. The aircraft was considered as a match for the Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which was expected to form the backbone of the Indian Air Force in future. There are, however, some features like advanced and futuristic avionics and cost effectiveness that give the JF-17 an edge over the LCA.
The JF-17 is a light weight, all weather, multi-role aircraft having a capability to fly at a speed of Mach 1.6 and a high thrust to weight ratio. The aircraft has the ability to engage targets at all speeds and altitudes within the conventional flying envelope. In the surface attack and interdiction role, the aircraft can strike at long distances. The combat jet has been installed with an advanced flight control system, which is a mix of conventional and fly-by-wire controls, making it highly agile and maneuverable.
The design itself is fairly conventional, resembling a somewhat boxy F-20. A drag chute can be installed at the base of the rudder, in order to make landings easier and shorter. Power will be provided by the RD-93 derivative of the MiG-29’s RD-33, giving the aircraft an engine that is reliable and widely used, but known to leave smoke trails. Future models may see the engine replaced with China’s WS-13, an RD-93 copy with some modifications. Avionics involve a modern “glass” cockpit of digital screens, using Chinese technologies, commercial processors, and reports that software coding was done in the commercial C++ language rather than a military language like Ada.
The aircraft is fitted with modern Stores Management System incorporating accurate weapon delivery modes and solutions involving minimum pilot workload. The aircraft is capable of carrying some of the most modern as well as conventional weapons. The aircraft would be capable of carrying short-range, beyond visual range, anti-ship as well as anti-radiation missiles. Additionally, the carriage of high and low drag bombs, laser guided bombs, run away penetration bombs and cluster bombs would be catered for. However, the air forces parried questions regarding the aircraft's ability to carry nukes.
This machines has prominent maneuver cabability, greater range, airborne period and combat radius, fine short distance take off and landing characteristic and stronger weapon carrying capacity. The prominent center low altitude and the high subsonic maneuver operational capacity, has a better interception and to the place attack capability, all-weather, single shot, single-seat. This machine uses nearby the medium aspect ratio the strip wing normal arrangement, entire machine has 7 outside viewpoints, may be hanging many kinds of empty, the open area weapon, and may outside hang 3 auxiliary oil tanks, outside hangs the ability 3,600 kilograms.
The avionics suite makes the JF-17 an effective weapon platform. The glass cockpit and hands on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controls reduce pilot workload. Accurate navigation and weapon aiming information on the head up display help the pilot achieve his mission effectively. The multifunction displays provide information on engine, fuel, hydraulics, electrical, flight control and environmental control system on a need-to-know basis along with basic flight and tactical information. The capability has been built around highly modern state-of-the-art avionics equipment.
This machine has used the advanced air operated contour and the big thrust force, the low consumption turbofan engine, as well as the advanced digital fax flies controls the system, the integrated aviation electron and the armament system, has in the launch to be apart from the ball, to realize the multi- goals beyond line of sight attack ability, has many kinds of advanced precise function and so on navigation, battlefield situation sensation, target detection and recognition, operational attack as well as electronic warfare.
Because it used the contemporary advanced design and the manufacture technology, the Owlet Dragon/FC-1 airplane had achieved the third generation fighter aircraft synthesis fighting efficiency, and could contend with with now the advanced fighter aircraft, simultaneously had the low cost the characteristic, completely adapted the modern warfare request and the military airplane market demand.
On 19 February 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with visiting Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain in Beijing. After a welcoming ceremony, the two leaders held talks about deepening bilateral ties. They spoke about the long-standing friendship between China and Pakistan, adding that the two sides will seek to develop it further. In March 2014 President Mamnoon Hussain described his visit to China as successful. Pakistani President said that Chinese side had agreed to induct FC-1/JF-17 Thunder fighter jets into its Air Force. This will help in bringing the per unit price down and increase the chances of export orders. He also added that China will continue to cooperate on the JF-17 project.
The newer JF-17 Block-II variant — the upgrade version of the JF-17 Thunder or Xiaolong fighter jet — has more advanced weapons systems and avionics. The new variant features Air to Air refuling capability, providing it a long battle and flight time; improved avionics, creating an advantage over opponents in a dog fight; enhanced load capacity; making it capable of making more weapons and ammunition; and enhanced Data Link and electronic warfare, providing more resistance towards electronic warfare like jamming.
The deliveries of the Block II JF-17 Thunder to Pakistan Air Force were scheduled to start from the second half of the 2012 and will continue till 2015. Pakistan launched production of the JF-17 Block-II at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in 2013. The Kamra production facility was reconfigured for the production of the new version. Production of JF-17 Thunder Block 2 was expected to continue till 2016 after which manufacture of JF-17 Thunder Block 3 was planned, which may have a new engine and different weaponry. The JF-17 Block-II is likely to be a very popular combat aircraft among developing nations. The aircraft costs around $20-25 million a piece, compared to JF-17 Thunder Block I1 which costs about $15m. Three JF-17 Thunder Block 2 aircraft can be purchased in price of one F-16. The country hoped to begin exporting the aircraft in 2014, but these hopes were premature.
From 2016, JF-17 Thunder Block III would enter into production.
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