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 is being considered as a match for the Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which is 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 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 chief parried a question 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.
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 has 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, can contend with with now the advanced fighter aircraft, simultaneously has the low cost the characteristic, completely adapts the modern warfare request and the military airplane market demand.
The Pak Tribune reported on April 29, 2004 that the first eight of these aircraft would be delivered to the PLAAF in 2006.
Small batch production of the single-seat, single-engine JF-17, began in China in June 2006 for deliveries to Pakistan in 2007. The fourth prototype of JF-17 Thunder aircraft, equipped with exclusive avionics and weapons qualification systems, jointly manufactured by Pakistan and China completed its maiden test operational flight 10 May 2006, proving its creditability to meet the needs of both the countries. The 11 minutes flight at 1500 meters height with 500 kilometers speed per hour. It took off from People's Liberation Air force base, Chengdu and landed back on the same runway, reporting perfect performance. Chief of Pakistan Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed who was chief guest at the maiden flight ceremony congratulated the pilots, engineers and technicians of the two countries to make the JF-17 Thunder project successful.
Pakistan began domestic production of the JF-17 Thunder fighter in 2008, with its air force hoping to take delivery of up to 10 aircraft and form an operational squadron by the end of 2008. The Inaugural Ceremony to launch the manufacturing of JF-17 Thunder sub-Assemblies was held 22 January 2008 at PAC Kamra. Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force was the chief guest on this historical occasion. The ceremony commemorates yet another milestone in the Pakistan China Military Cooperation.
Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed, Chief of the Air Staff, speaking on the occasion said "I am committed to ensuring that PAC quickly gears up its resources to take up its share of co-production. I am looking forward to achieving, within one year, a capability of producing 15 JF-17 aircraft annually. This would then have to be enhanced to 20-25 aircraft in 2-3 years' time. I am also looking forward to the establishment of the first JF-17 Operational Conversion Unit in PAF by the end of this year." He also said, "I would like to remind every one _ especially, the personnel of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex_of the challenge and promise of success that lie ahead, as you embark upon the coveted goal of manufacturing. Not many people are afforded an opportunity to be part of the major and prestigious national programme such as the JF-17 Thunder aircraft. It is for you to seize the opportunity and make your nation proud. He further said, "I take pride in this joint venture between the People's Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan."
The JF-17 Thunder project clearly envisages co-production of the aircraft both in China and Pakistan. The objective of setting up of JF-17 production facilities at PAC Kamra is not only to enhance the PAF's operational capability at affordable price but also create employment opportunities for about 5000 people.
In line with the original plan, the manufacturing of sub-assemblies for the JF-17 Thunder was launched at PAC Kamra on 22 January, 2008. This would, indeed, be a red letter day in the history of PAC. The production of sub-assemblies would be, subsequently, expanded to encompass the parts manufacturing, final assembly and flight testing. Fighter aircraft manufacturing, which was once a closely guarded realm of developed countries only, is now well within our reach. The success, today, stands on the foundations of the perseverance of our pilots, engineers and technicians and their Chinese counterparts. The landmark achievement is not only a source of pride for the Pakistani nation but also a measure of rare distinction for the country to have joined a select group of nations having indigenous fighter aircraft production capability.
In order to speed up the development progress and facilitate maturity of the aircraft, two J-17 of the small batch production were received in Pakistan on 21 March 2007. Subsequently, these aircraft made their debut by participating in Pakistan Day Parade on 23 March 2007. Islamabad took delivery of six more from China in early February 2008 to test avionics and weapon systems.
The first 50 JF-17s will be equipped with Chinese KLJ-10 radars and SD-10 and PL-8 missiles. However, PAC is in talks with France's Thales to procure the RC-400 radar and with MBDA for Mica air-to-air missiles. the aircraft initially used Russian-made RD-93 engines - a move that raised India's ire - but will eventually be powered by China's developmental WS-13.
After 2010 the aircraft would be available for re-export through China and the share in the financial receipts would be paid to Pakistan. Thirteen countries have so far expressed interest in purchasing the JF-17 aircraft are Azerbaijan, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Algeria and Sudan.
The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) would be able to manufacture 15 fighters in 2008, with the rate increasing to 25 a year by 2011. Jointly developed with China, where it is designated the FC-1, about 60% of the airframe and 80% of the avionics would be indigenously produced by 2010, boosting Pakistan's budding manufacturing industry. Under the terms of its contract with Chengdu Aircraft, Pakistan will buy 150 domestically produced JF-17s to replace its Chengdu F-7Ps, but it could eventually procure 300 aircraft to reduce its dependence on US- and Russian-built fighters. The JF-17 will form the backbone of Pakistan to replace aging Pakistan's MiG-21-derived Chengdu F-7, Nanchang A-5 and Mirage III/V currently in service which are being crashed at an alarming rate.
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