Project AZM Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA)
In February 2022 Pakistan Aeronautical Complex signed a deal with Turkish Aerospace Industries in its T-FX fifth generation fighter aircraft program where Pakistan became an official partner. News of Pakistan joining TAI’s fifth generation fighter program was confirmed by the Chief Executive Officer of Turkish Aerospace to Pakistani media, saying the TF-X is now a “Turkish-Pakistani fighter” program. The T-FX fighter will be redesigned and modified by PAC, merged with Project Azm’s NGFA, to meet joint requirements of both countries’ air forces with a single platform. Development on the aircraft will be split between Pakistan and Turkey. This is intended to lower project costs, increase feasibility, increase capabilities of the fighter & shorten timelines. Final manufacturing of the TF-X/JF-XX will take place in both countries. Pakistan, China and Turkey are working on a joint unmanned drone program that features ‘Loyal Wingman’ UCAVs. These drones would be networked to fighters in the future, providing the ability to conduct ISTAR & neutralise aerial threats while keeping fighters at standoff distances. All 3 countries are developing components of the MUM-T (Manned-Unmanned Teaming) system together. The drones would be able to fly independently and in support of manned aircraft, as well as in swarms. The office of DG AvRID [Aviation Research, Indigenization & Development] was established to transform into reality the Air Staff vision with the long-term goal of developing a Pakistani fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).
The name for this project is a bit hazy. At time it is seen as "AZM" suggesting an acronym [though no expansion is offered], while at other times is is seen as "Azam" which is a slightly different word written very differently. The word "Azm" means determination/perseverance in both Urdu & Turkish. The Arabic word for great is “Azim”, while "Azam" means greater, prime, foremost, main, primary, chief, most important. A lot of words containing the e Azam / Al-Azam = greatest. [literally: the (even) greater] superlative form are found in Arabic, Urdu & Persian.
Development of FGFA would be a major national program that would entail massive amount of work; not all of which may possibly be carried out within Pakistan Aeronautical Complex [PAC], or even within Pakistan. Such large-scale development requires synergetic efforts from a number of industrial (public & private) and academic organizations to fulfill the enormous task. These efforts by themselves will enable development of technologies that will find applications in a number of other systems. The guiding motto will be “cooperation within, competition outside”.
Air Staff vision of Aviation City Kamra is all about changing this paradigm by establishing design and development institutes and bringing in academic institutes for creating a sustainable R&D ecosystem that will enable the Pakistani aviation industry to provide indigenous solutions to PAF, sister services and civil aviation, and facilitating it to become a global player.
In order to manage an engineering development program of this magnitude, an effective system covering the technical and management aspects needs to be put in place. A sound system engineering approach will have to be followed to ensure the technical health of the program backed by an equally sound project management effort to support it. As the development of FGFA is a major program, it will have to be divided into a number of projects, for which separate project teams will have to be formed. One team would be working on core capabilities development, another on aircraft development, one on avionics development, yet another on facilities development, one on human resource development and so on. There would be specialist teams for development of each system. Depending on the complexity of the systems, these teams would vary in the nature and extent of multi-disciplines. Some teams will be co-located while others would operate across different organizations. Similarly, certain functions will be performed by dedicated project teams while others by matrix teams.
An elaborate plan for development of FGFA and associated technological capabilities will be prepared by DG AvRID. The plan will have to define the different projects within the program and define project teams and their plans in consultation with specialist resource personnel and organizations. The office would be responsible to manage the resources, schedules, risks and stakeholders throughout the program. It would also be responsible for establishing formal system engineering, configuration management and quality assurance processes within the participating teams and organizations. In order to carry out these functions, Engineering Management & Support (EMS) activities will have to be appropriately organized within an EMS group in DG AvRID Secretariat and manned by qualified personnel:
- (a) Academia Industry Collaboration Office (AICO). For optimum utilization of resources available within academia and industry of the country and abroad.
- (b) Systems Engineering Processes Office (SEPO). For training and audit of systems engineering and configuration management processes within participating organizations.
- (c) Capability Development Office (CDO). For planning, assisting and tracking capability development encompassing facilities, technology and human resource.
- (d) Quality Assurance and Certification Office (QACO). For training and audit of quality assurance and certification standards within participating organizations.
- (e) Program Plans Office (PPO). For overall planning, budgeting and resource allocation.
- (f) Program Execution Office (PEO). For program execution.
The office of DG AvRID will pursue an active engagement with the public and private sector for expanding the industrial base of the country to meet aviation requirements of Pakistan and to venture into the global aviation market for sustainable technical and economic growth. It will foster international collaboration and linkages to address critical technological gaps. It will also pursue HEC and higher education institutes to ensure that training needs in technologies critical to aviation industry are adequately identified and addressed. It will work with CAE, AU, NUST, IST and other institutes for utilization of their researchers, students, labs and alumni for conducting R&D in appropriate areas. The office will carry out its tasks through the following elements that report to it directly. Additional elements may be added if and when required.
Project AZM - This project aims to develop a fifth-generation fighter aircraft as per ASR requirements. As mentioned earlier, this is a major undertaking that will require synergetic participation of a large number of organizations and stakeholders. A phased but aggressive approach will be followed to overcome technical challenges as soon as they are identified. A number of challenges like materials, propulsion, sensors, mission systems etc. are already known and risk mitigation plans are being worked out. The strategy is to keep focus of the FGFA team on aircraft development while other elements of AvRID focus on providing the required technologies and systems for project success.
Aviation Design Institute (AvDI) - This institute has been established to develop the core multidisciplinary technologies required for any advanced air vehicle. It is envisaged to bring together experts with varied backgrounds (Aero, Elects, Wpns) and specialties (both Aerospace & Avionics) to work on areas like aerodynamics, antennas, fly-by-wire, payloads, sensor fusion, stealth, structures, etc. The institute undertakes projects that provide solutions in the immediate and short term and in doing so contribute to developing technologies for medium and long-term product development projects like FGF.
Mission Electronics Design Institute (MEDI) - This institute will develop critical technologies like high performance computing boards, advanced avionics interfaces etc. The technologies will be used for design & development of mission computers, flight control computers, etc. Considering the fast pace of development in the field of electronics leading to early obsolescence and the huge amount of data crunching onboard the FGFA, considerable challenges will have to be overcome.
Aero Structures Design Institute (ASDI) - This institute will be responsible for design and analysis of aero structures, including Damage Tolerance Analysis (DTA). It will also interact with the local industry and academia for identifying and developing materials required for aerospace related applications.
Advanced Technologies Centre (ATC) - This Centre will form the PAF element of the Faculty of Aerospace and Aviation Campus AU Kamra and will focus on MS and PhD programs in Aerospace and Avionics disciplines. These programs, in coordination with CAE and other institutes will provide the necessary human resource for programs like FGFA. They will also assist in setting up labs in critical areas and carry out focused research. Short courses in relevant areas will also be arranged.
Flight Test Centre (FTC) - The capability to carry out flight testing of developed systems and platforms will be eventually consolidated into a dedicated flight test Centre. It will assist and coordinate flight testing activities with customers. It would develop the procedures and protocols for flight testing and certification in coordination with development teams and certification authorities, as applicable.
Pakistan’s Minister of Defense Production Rana Tanveer Hussain in an interview with PTV in August 2016 that Turkey had requested Islamabad to be part of the development program for its next-generation fighter aircraft. Turkey was separately evaluating proposals for purchasing training aircraft for the Turkish Air Force, and Pakistan’s Super Mushshak trainer aircraft was a leading contender. As for future collaboration, both countries were in discussions over possible cooperation on Turkey's first indigenous FX Fighter Jet program, Anadolu agency had quoted unnamed sources as saying in June 2016. But the TFX would be unlikely to be considered a truly independent and sanction-proof solution in as far as the PAF’s unique interests and realities were concerned.
In his speech 06 July 2017 for inaugurating the Kamra Aviation City initiative, the PAF Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Sohail Aman outlined the program objectives of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), the newly established Aviation Design Institute (AvDI) and Air University’s Aerospace and Aviation Campus. "Our engineering and operational staff have indigenized few core capabilities which are truly high-tech … [the] initiative of Project Azam was thus encouraged, which is the designing of the 5th-generation fighter aircraft... "
ACM Aman’s recent statements follow his earlier commitments to localizing the PAF’s supply channel – at least in terms of its 5th-generation fighter – by assigning a significant amount of the design, development and production work of the 5th-generation domestic sources. From the onset, PAC’s AvDI has been responsible for three marquee aviation programs under Project Azm: the 5th-generation fighter, a MALE UAV and munitions development.
AvDI’s long-term endeavor is clearly the 5th-generation fighter program (FGFA). In recent years, several factors emerged which would shape the PAF’s next-generation fighter pursuits, most notably the AVIC FC-31 Gyrfalcon. While the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) was progressing in developing the fighter, it was unclear if the PAF would pursue it. If not the FC-31, then realistically only two other alternate courses remained the TAI TFX and an original design.
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