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FC-1 "Chao Qi" / JF-17 Thunder

JF-17 Thunder is an advanced, light-weight, all weather, day / night multi-role fighter aircraft. The JF-17 was basically designed and developed by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China and is jointly manufactured by Pakistan and China. Hence the term JF which stands for "Joint Fighter" was given to the fighter jet. It was developed as a joint venture between Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Kamra and Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC) of China.

By 2004 the FC-1 (Fighter China 1) multi-role fighter had been redesignated the Xialon (Fierce Dragon), and for Pakistan as JF-17 "Thunder". It might be designated J-9 if it became operational in Chinese service, but as of 2015 this did not appear to be in the works.

The aircraft is of conventional configuration with single seat, single engine, bifurcated air intakes, full span leading-edge maneuvering flap and fuselage strake. The JF-17 is a single engine fighter and its intake system is side-mounted embodiment. Two ducts on each side merge into one and connect the entry of the engine by a straight isolator. The max flight mach number is 1.7 and the throat mach number is around 0.7. The JF-17 air intake design uses a diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI), scrapping the diverter structure used around the air intakes, as well as the air bleed and air bypass structures of most conventional supersonic aircraft. Through use of a three-dimensional compression surface to divert the boundary layer airflow at high subsonic and supersonic speeds, there is no longer a need for supplementary air inlets or bleed doors. This has the effect of lightening the structure, reducing drag and radar return. The air inlets are forward sweeping in a ramp formation, which reduces wave drag or surface interference.

The upstream flow compress and slow down after passing a conical wave shock and a normal shock. Therefore, it is available to design the two wave shocks. Essentially, the bump inlet is still a 2 wave shock supersonic inlet. However, unlike the conventional inlet, the oblique shock is replaced by an conical shock.

The RD-93 engine is a variant of the RD-33 developed specifically for the Xiaolong, the main changes being repositioning the gearbox along the bottom of the engine casing and its mechanical turbine control. It employs a four-stage fan and nine high pressure stage compressor, with military thrust of 50 kiloNewtons (kN) and 81.3 kN thrust with afterburner, an augmented thrust ratio of 1.628, an overall pressure ratio of 21:1, a bypass ratio of 0.48:1, a normal gross takeoff weight of 9.1 tons and a thrust-to-weight ratio of 1, which gives it a longer range and better flying and propulsion capabilities.

The JF-17 has taken the stealth requirement of new generation fighters into consideration. The advanced composite materials used in Chengdu FC-1 not only reduce the body weight, but also increase the stealth performance. Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) may also use the home-made latest turbojet engine to substitute the RD-93 engine made by Russia. Such extensive upgrading can be conducted so long as there are a sufficient number of potential buyers.

The JF-17 fighter can accomplish both air-air and air-surface missions day/night. It possesses the capability of launching MRAAM and accurate air-surface attack. 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.

Pakistan says it possesses excellent air-to-air and air-to-surface combat capabilities. The state-of-the art avionics, optimally integrated sub-systems, computerized flight controls and capability to employ latest weapons provides decisive advantage to JF-17 over adversaries of same class. This all weather, multi-role light combat fighter has remarkable high combat manuverability at medium and low altitudes. With effective firepower, agility and combat survivability, the aircraft is likely to emerge as a potent platform for any air force.

Not everyone agrees. Sidharth K Menon argues that China " ... probably forced Pakistan to accept its avionics to offset some its development costs. Chinese who are known for their self reliance first and quality next, are further downgrading JF-17s capabilities with their poorly copy-pirated avionics. Along with their dubious weapons, any chance of JF-17 maintaining BVR edge over its adversary’s front-line combatants, for the most part, is unlikely. Even in close combat JF-17 lacks what it takes to win the fight. Its spine, & wings bearing resemblance(in wing twist & wing area) to a fighter which china knows inside out, the J-7, doesn’t have wing twist nor does it have enough area to provide a low wing loading.... The next Achilles heal is JF-17’s speed. For a good interception, speed is an important criteria. However JF-17’s max speed is Mach 1.6 which is claimed by PAC. This indicates that JF-17 is draggier. When compared, their F-7s(Reverse engineered Mig-21s) have higher speed of mach 2+ with a lower thrust engine. The IAF fighters which it is going to face, all have speeds greater than the Thunder."

Both Tejas and JF-17 uses PESA multi-mode radars. The JF-17 uses KLJ-7 radar which has a detection range of 130km for 5m2 size aircraft and 75 km for 3m2 size aircraft (Chinese claim). Generally detection and tracking range is always given for 5m2 size aircraft. The JF-17s official website claims it has a 105 km for 5m2. India's LCA Tejas uses EL/M-2032 radar which has detection and tracking range of 150 km. LCA's primary BVR missiles are R-77 and Derby while the JF-17 uses the SD-10, a variant of Chinese PL-12. Both misile have similar performance - India's R-77 has range of 80 km while Pakistan's SD-10 has a range of 70 km. The range of the missile may matter less than that of the radar, with Tejas being able to detect the enemy first it will o have the advantage to fire first.

The Angle of Attack [AoA] of Tejas is 24 degrees while JF-17 claims 26 degree [the F-16 has an AoA of 28 degrees]. The TWR (thrust to weight ratio) of Tejas is 1.07 and the JF-17 is 0.95. The inferior AoA of Tejas is copsated for by its better TWR. The JF-17 would definitely have an advantage during the first few turns in a dogfight, but if Tejas survived this period, then the would JF-17 face a disadvantage due loss of speed. Given the fact that the JF-17 has smokey RD-93 engines, there is possibility for Tejas to survive by having the JF-17 in sight because of smoke trail left by its engine.

The service ceiling of the LCA is 15250m while that of the JF-17 16500m. The JF-17 can climb above the service ceiling of Tejas to avoid a dog-fight. But the difference of barely 1250m will not keep the JF-17 safe from the missiles loaded on the LCA Tejas.

In BVR combat, Tejas has a clear edge over the JF-17 with lower RCS and longer range Radar. The JF-17 is on par with Tejas in the close combat scenario. The JF-17 has an advantage playing hide and seek, flying above the Tejas service ceiling, waiting for it to loose fuel and then engage. In conventional air warfare, at an altitude of around 8,000 meters and a speed of Mach 0.8-1.2, the JF-17 Xiaolong performs better in terms of acceleration, climb, stability and other combat capabilities. The Tejas' advantage lies in its low wing aspect ratio and its relatively low wave drag, which makes it superior to the Xiaolong in supersonic conditions.

The JF-17 Xiaolong is highly efficient and reliable, with the advantages of lower price and lower cost for service and maintenance than other existing light fighters. Consequently, it should have good sales prospects for second-tier air forces around the world, and as the low element in an airforce with a high-low mix.


An advanced version of the China-developed new-generation fighter plane, the Xiaolong/FC-4, succeeded in its first flight on 28 April 2006 in southwest China's Sichuan Province. Based on previous models, the Xiaolong/FC-1 and FC-3, the FC-4 is equipped with advanced electronics and weapons systems, which improve its combat capabilities, say experts. The FC-4 is able to carry about 200 kilograms of fuel more than its earlier models. The success of the 16-minute test flight marks a significant step in China's aviation industry, and makes mass production possible.

The Xiaolong series is a multipurpose light fighter aircraft developed by the China Aviation Industry Corporation I (CAIC-I), the Chengdu Aircraft Group Corp. and China Aero Technology Import and Export Corporation. With advanced design and manufacturing technology, this export-oriented fighter plane is small, low in cost and suitable for modern warfare and the demands of military fighters.

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