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JF-17 Thunder - Program

The JF-17 Thunder project clearly envisaged co-production of the aircraft both in China and Pakistan. The objective of setting up of JF-17 production facilities at PAC Kamra was not only to enhance the PAF's operational capability at affordable price but also create employment opportunities for about 5000 people. Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) holds the exclusive rights of 58% of JF-17 airframe co-production work. A comprehensive infrastructure comprising state of the art machines and required skilled human resource has very quickly been developed at the Complex. The final assembly and flight testing of the aircraft was the first JF-17 co-production activity to start at PAC.

In February 1992, China and Pakistan decided to co-develop a multi-role, all-weather light fighter named “Super-7”. The big step forward for FC-1 came when the USA imposed military export sanctions in response to Pakistan’s nuclear program, and to Chinese-Pakistani transfers of ballistic missile components. With spares for its top-of-the-line F-16s in question, and additional F-16s removed as an option, Pakistan sought help from its Chinese ally. A joint development and production agreement was signed in June 1999, with China Aviation Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) and Pakistan each contributing 50% of the estimated $150 million in development costs.

The design was finalized in 2001, with initial prototype flights beginning in 2003. The first JF-17 prototype aircraft (called FC-1) was rolled out in May 2003. It made its first flight in August 2003. Later on, two more prototype aircraft were added for basic structure, flight qualities, performance and engine flight testing while two prototype aircraft were involved in comprehensive avionics flight testing. A JF-17 did not fly with its full avionics suite until 2006, but testing and development appear to have progressed smoothly. The basic flight testing was completed in 2007. 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."

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.

Following the delivery of two JF-17 aircraft from China in 2007, PAF received delivery of a further six which were undergoing tests & evaluation at PAC Kamra as of April 2008. The assembly of JF-17 aircrafts in Pakistan was formally launched on 22 January 2008 at PAC Kamra. In the first year (2008), eight to ten aircrafts will be assembled for the Pakistan Air Force. The assembly will gradually increase to 25 aircraft per year by 2011. It is reported that around 60% of the frame of the aircraft and 80% of the avionics to be fitted in the aircraft will be manufactured in Pakistan by 2010. PAF have a requirement of 150 aircraft in phase-I. The first 40 to 50 examples would have the Chinese avionics, thereafter the aircraft would be fitted will indigenously developed avionics.

A new JF-17 Thunder multi- role fighter plane, first of its kind made in Pakistan, is unveiled at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra of Pakistan on Monday, November 23, 2009. Representatives from the Chinese embassy, the Chinese companies involved in the project, the Pakistani three services and federal ministries were present at a ceremony held at the PAC in Kamra, some 60 kilometers northwest of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

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.

The 8th Aerospace Laureates awarding ceremony was held at Zhuhai Television at 19:30 on 12 November 2012. “Laurel Awards” is the most authoritative and influential prize in China’s aviation and aerospace industry. Over 400 high-level officials and elites from government, military forces, aviation industry and civil aviation attended the ceremony and watch the disclosure of eight awards together. CATIC and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) won the Working Together Award by the success of FC-1/JF-17 program. It takes fifteen years for CATIC and PAF to go from the negotiation of cooperative research and development in 1992 to FC-1/JF-17’s first flight in 2003 and finally to its delivery in 2007.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif paid a visit to Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra on 13 December 2013 for briefings on the exports of the Pakistan Air Force’s aircraft, the JF-17 Thunder. Nawaz was the guest of honor at the inauguration event for the roll out ceremony of the 50th JF-17 aircraft. The event was attended by delegates from China as well as the PAF. Speaking at the end of the inauguration, the premier appreciated China’s efforts to help Pakistan manufacture 50 JF-17s and also commended the bravery of the Pakistan Air Force.

The event also marked the launch of production work for Block-II JF-17 aircraft. The Prime Minister also signed a MoU regarding the co-production of Block-II of additional 50 JF-17 aircraft. The MoU also included the joint sales and marketing agreement with China Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC). The first 50 JF-17s were equipped with Chinese KLJ-10 radars and SD-10 and PL-8 missiles. However, PAC was 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.

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.

Beijing promised to deliver another 50 fighter jets to its southern neighbor over the next three years, a top Chinese official said 25 April 2015, according to the Express Tribute. China already delivered 60 fighter jets to Pakistan since the two countries signed a contract in 2007. After the delivery of another batch of 50 combat aircrafts from China, Pakistan will have a total of 110 JF-17 Thunder jets.

Pakistan's Rana Tanveer Hussain, minister of defense production, states in an article from Dawn.com: "We have nearly confirmed orders from seven countries for JF-17... The PAF has a requirement of 250 aircraft, but now we have decided that we'll sell some of the JF-17 Block-2 to international buyers besides fulfilling our local demand."

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