Thunderbird! Pakistan’s JF-17, Ten Years On

pankaj nema

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 1, 2009
Messages
6,355
Likes
11,529
Country flag
By Mihir Shah

In early 2007, when the first production JF-17 “Thunder” fighter was unveiled to the Pakistani public, it failed to make much of an impression outside the Indian subcontinent. And for good reason. As a twenty-first century fighter aircraft, it appeared rather unremarkable; pedestrian, almost. It boasted neither the sleek lines of the F-16, nor the raw power of the MiG-29. Its capabilities could best be described as middle-of-the-road.

Ten years on, the aircraft has acquired a history that belies its purported mediocrity. It has performed at air shows in Paris and Dubai; flown ground-attack sorties against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in Operation Rah-e-Nijat; and bid for export contracts to multiple nations, albeit unsuccessfully for the time being.

To the casual observer, these accomplishments might come across as modest. But given the backdrop of the jet’s humble origins and its troubled development, they stand out as anything but.

Imported Thunder
The popular narrative is that the JF-17 is a development of the 1980s-era Super 7 project—a collaborative effort between China’s Chengdu Aircraft Corporation and US-based Grumman Aerospace—aimed at equipping China’s air forces with a low-cost fighter outfitted with American avionics. The Super 7 was based on the J-7, which itself was a Chinese copy of the iconic MiG-21 interceptor. When the United States pulled out of the venture following the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, Chengdu pursued the programme on its own under the “Fighter China” label, swapping out its American components for Chinese and Russian ones.

However, there is also some reason to believe that it descended from a Soviet research initiative that never saw the light of day: the Izdeliye 33. The latter was conceived as an advanced single-engine counterpart to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and shared a limited degree of commonality with the twin-engine MiG-29. China is said to have purchased the design from Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and incorporated many of its elements into its Fighter China project. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. There is no denying the similarity in appearances between it and the Izdeliye 33. The Super 7 and J-7 lineage, too, is unmistakable.


In the mid-1990s, the design was offered to Pakistan as a “joint project”, although Pakistan’s contribution was limited to funding its development and then manufacturing the final product at a state-owned facility in Kamra. Russia’s Mikoyan Design Bureau was also roped in as a consultant. Designated the FC-1 “Xiaolong” by China and JF-17 “Thunder” by Pakistan, the aircraft was initially intended to be equipped with Western avionics, weapons, and displays. However, efforts to procure these subsystems fell through, and they were replaced with their Chinese counterparts instead. The initial prototype undertook its first flight in May 2003. The first production aircraft arrived in Pakistan in March 2007, and series production commenced in June 2009.

Practical, not Perfect
From a cursory look at its performance specifications, the JF-17 appears to be a mediocre aircraft. It doesn’t fly particularly fast, or exhibit a spectacular turn rate, or possess an outstanding thrust-to-weight ratio. The Russian-made Klimov RD-93 engine that powers it is notorious for its short life and lack of reliability. The avionics package and weapons suite are austere by modern standards. It lacks a fly-by-wire flight control system: a vital piece of technology that is present on practically every modern fighter. So lacklustre is its performance that the country that led its development—China—isn’t inducting a single unit of the type.

And paradoxically, this lack of sophistication is probably what makes the Thunder a useful component of Pakistani air power. It is not a world-beater, but a moderately capable platform that could occupy an important position within a larger warfighting framework. In today’s networked battlefield, a flight of JF-17s—armed with a mix of medium and short range missiles, supported by an airborne early warning and control platform, and protected by land-based air defences—could conceivably hold its own against most offensive sorties launched against Pakistani airspace. In the ground attack role, the aircraft’s ability to drop precision-guided bombs on weakly defended targets could free up Pakistan’s more capable F-16 fleet to tackle more challenging assignments, at the very least.

More importantly, the aircraft’s affordability and relative simplicity allow a cash-strapped Pakistan to procure it in numbers (more than eighty airframes are already in service). While it is a Chinese design, it does give Pakistan some experience in fighter manufacture; and without intellectual property considerations weighing down further development, Pakistani engineers are free to modify and upgrade it in any way they see fit.

Whither Tejas?
The Thunder’s unexceptional design, although more a product of circumstance than careful planning, does offer important lessons for India’s own aerospace development efforts. When its development appeared to be in trouble on account of the failure to procure avionics and weapons from Western suppliers, its managers quickly substituted them with their less-capable Chinese equivalents, even though immediate-term performance suffered. In doing so, they chose to prioritise what was truly important: low cost, reduced development risk, and the ability to quickly shore up numbers.

In contrast, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and scientific establishment took the opposite route with the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme. In chasing capability as an end in itself, they permitted the project scope to expand unchecked, thus transforming what started off as a modest, lightweight, point-defence interceptor into a fourth-generation multirole fighter. The Tejas is undoubtedly more capable than the Thunder, but it is also more complex, and that complexity has always been its Achilles Heel. The time and cost overruns born out of this complexity have brought the project under heavy criticism from government auditors, and inordinately delayed Final Operational Clearance—a crucial milestone that declares an aircraft fully ready for combat.

Thus, while the Tejas is yet to fully equip a single IAF unit, the Thunder has entered frontline service in Pakistan, equipping five operational squadrons. Chinese development agencies are also working on a slew of upgrades to enhance its combat potential. These include an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar to serve as its primary sensor, a helmet mounted sight to cue short-range missiles, and a sea-skimming anti-ship missile intended for use in the maritime strike role.


The Thunder’s success offers useful insight into what India’s military and scientific leadership could have achieved had it limited its ambitions with the LCA, or chosen not to short-sightedly terminate the HF-24 Marut programme. No doubt the Marut had its share of issues, but so did its replacement—the Anglo-French Jaguar. Unlike the Marut though, it has, over its long service life, been steadily upgraded in-house by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Its most recent upgrade package, featuring an Israeli AESA radar, makes it a formidable fighter-bomber in its own right. Had the same been done with a Marut derivative, the aircraft could conceivably have formed the backbone of the IAF’s fighter fleet, and conferred it with more capability than the MiG-21 Bison does today. Furthermore, the effort would have dovetailed perfectly with the LCA and AMCA programmes; in the process spawning a knowledge base and industrial ecosystem capable of reducing many of the risks associated with developing a complex aeronautical product from scratch.

Mihir Shah is a mechanical engineer who tracks military and aerospace issues closely. He contributes to to LiveFist, Pragati Magazine, and Bharat Rakshak’s Security Research Review.

https://www.livefistdefence.com/2017/06/thunderbird-pakistans-jf-17-ten-years-on.html
 

Hari Sud

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Messages
1,872
Likes
2,704
Country flag
By Mihir Shah

In early 2007, when the first production JF-17 “Thunder” fighter was unveiled to the Pakistani public, it failed to make much of an impression outside the Indian subcontinent. And for good reason. As a twenty-first century fighter aircraft, it appeared rather unremarkable; pedestrian, almost. It boasted neither the sleek lines of the F-16, nor the raw power of the MiG-29. Its capabilities could best be described as middle-of-the-road.

Ten years on, the aircraft has acquired a history that belies its purported mediocrity. It has performed at air shows in Paris and Dubai; flown ground-attack sorties against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in Operation Rah-e-Nijat; and bid for export contracts to multiple nations, albeit unsuccessfully for the time being.

To the casual observer, these accomplishments might come across as modest. But given the backdrop of the jet’s humble origins and its troubled development, they stand out as anything but.

Imported Thunder
The popular narrative is that the JF-17 is a development of the 1980s-era Super 7 project—a collaborative effort between China’s Chengdu Aircraft Corporation and US-based Grumman Aerospace—aimed at equipping China’s air forces with a low-cost fighter outfitted with American avionics. The Super 7 was based on the J-7, which itself was a Chinese copy of the iconic MiG-21 interceptor. When the United States pulled out of the venture following the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, Chengdu pursued the programme on its own under the “Fighter China” label, swapping out its American components for Chinese and Russian ones.

However, there is also some reason to believe that it descended from a Soviet research initiative that never saw the light of day: the Izdeliye 33. The latter was conceived as an advanced single-engine counterpart to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and shared a limited degree of commonality with the twin-engine MiG-29. China is said to have purchased the design from Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and incorporated many of its elements into its Fighter China project. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. There is no denying the similarity in appearances between it and the Izdeliye 33. The Super 7 and J-7 lineage, too, is unmistakable.


In the mid-1990s, the design was offered to Pakistan as a “joint project”, although Pakistan’s contribution was limited to funding its development and then manufacturing the final product at a state-owned facility in Kamra. Russia’s Mikoyan Design Bureau was also roped in as a consultant. Designated the FC-1 “Xiaolong” by China and JF-17 “Thunder” by Pakistan, the aircraft was initially intended to be equipped with Western avionics, weapons, and displays. However, efforts to procure these subsystems fell through, and they were replaced with their Chinese counterparts instead. The initial prototype undertook its first flight in May 2003. The first production aircraft arrived in Pakistan in March 2007, and series production commenced in June 2009.

Practical, not Perfect
From a cursory look at its performance specifications, the JF-17 appears to be a mediocre aircraft. It doesn’t fly particularly fast, or exhibit a spectacular turn rate, or possess an outstanding thrust-to-weight ratio. The Russian-made Klimov RD-93 engine that powers it is notorious for its short life and lack of reliability. The avionics package and weapons suite are austere by modern standards. It lacks a fly-by-wire flight control system: a vital piece of technology that is present on practically every modern fighter. So lacklustre is its performance that the country that led its development—China—isn’t inducting a single unit of the type.

And paradoxically, this lack of sophistication is probably what makes the Thunder a useful component of Pakistani air power. It is not a world-beater, but a moderately capable platform that could occupy an important position within a larger warfighting framework. In today’s networked battlefield, a flight of JF-17s—armed with a mix of medium and short range missiles, supported by an airborne early warning and control platform, and protected by land-based air defences—could conceivably hold its own against most offensive sorties launched against Pakistani airspace. In the ground attack role, the aircraft’s ability to drop precision-guided bombs on weakly defended targets could free up Pakistan’s more capable F-16 fleet to tackle more challenging assignments, at the very least.

More importantly, the aircraft’s affordability and relative simplicity allow a cash-strapped Pakistan to procure it in numbers (more than eighty airframes are already in service). While it is a Chinese design, it does give Pakistan some experience in fighter manufacture; and without intellectual property considerations weighing down further development, Pakistani engineers are free to modify and upgrade it in any way they see fit.

Whither Tejas?
The Thunder’s unexceptional design, although more a product of circumstance than careful planning, does offer important lessons for India’s own aerospace development efforts. When its development appeared to be in trouble on account of the failure to procure avionics and weapons from Western suppliers, its managers quickly substituted them with their less-capable Chinese equivalents, even though immediate-term performance suffered. In doing so, they chose to prioritise what was truly important: low cost, reduced development risk, and the ability to quickly shore up numbers.

In contrast, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and scientific establishment took the opposite route with the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme. In chasing capability as an end in itself, they permitted the project scope to expand unchecked, thus transforming what started off as a modest, lightweight, point-defence interceptor into a fourth-generation multirole fighter. The Tejas is undoubtedly more capable than the Thunder, but it is also more complex, and that complexity has always been its Achilles Heel. The time and cost overruns born out of this complexity have brought the project under heavy criticism from government auditors, and inordinately delayed Final Operational Clearance—a crucial milestone that declares an aircraft fully ready for combat.

Thus, while the Tejas is yet to fully equip a single IAF unit, the Thunder has entered frontline service in Pakistan, equipping five operational squadrons. Chinese development agencies are also working on a slew of upgrades to enhance its combat potential. These include an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar to serve as its primary sensor, a helmet mounted sight to cue short-range missiles, and a sea-skimming anti-ship missile intended for use in the maritime strike role.


The Thunder’s success offers useful insight into what India’s military and scientific leadership could have achieved had it limited its ambitions with the LCA, or chosen not to short-sightedly terminate the HF-24 Marut programme. No doubt the Marut had its share of issues, but so did its replacement—the Anglo-French Jaguar. Unlike the Marut though, it has, over its long service life, been steadily upgraded in-house by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Its most recent upgrade package, featuring an Israeli AESA radar, makes it a formidable fighter-bomber in its own right. Had the same been done with a Marut derivative, the aircraft could conceivably have formed the backbone of the IAF’s fighter fleet, and conferred it with more capability than the MiG-21 Bison does today. Furthermore, the effort would have dovetailed perfectly with the LCA and AMCA programmes; in the process spawning a knowledge base and industrial ecosystem capable of reducing many of the risks associated with developing a complex aeronautical product from scratch.

Mihir Shah is a mechanical engineer who tracks military and aerospace issues closely. He contributes to to LiveFist, Pragati Magazine, and Bharat Rakshak’s Security Research Review.

https://www.livefistdefence.com/2017/06/thunderbird-pakistans-jf-17-ten-years-on.html

I will not follow the suggestion that India should have gone for a mediocre fighter instead of fourth generation LCA. Why bother about Pakistani development strategy. They knew that do not have talent and development capability to build one, hence opted for a fighter much better suited 1990 era than today.
 

Flame Thrower

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2016
Messages
1,676
Likes
2,717
Pakistan's JF-17 has:

-its modern air frame
-advanced avionics and rapid upgrades
-procurement/service costs
-open architecture
-Fly-by-wire controls
-true BVR capability
-full glass cockpit
-complex aerial warfare system including strong jamming and EW capability
-4++ gen avionics including AESA
-low per hour cost
-low maintenance
-an all round weapons package including A2A, A2G, A2S weapon systems
-superior flight performance as exhibited in air shows

While The Tejas on the other hand sports a 30 year old french-aided mirage-based design that is based on early 4 gen fighters from 1980s. The tejas has fallen abundantly short on timeline. According to Indian Air Force it is "so late that it is obsolete" for induction.

Admiral J G Nadkarni (retd) on the sad tale of the Light Combat Aircraft


http://www.rediff.com/news/2001/jan/13nad.htm

What actually happened between 1983 and 2000? First, let us take the promise of indigenous development. In 1986 an agreement was quietly signed with the United States that permitted DRDO to work with four US Air force laboratories. The to-be-indigenously-developed engine for the LCA -- Kaveri -- was forgotten and the US made General Electric F-404 engine was substituted. Radar was sourced from Erricson Ferranti, carbon-fibre composite panels for wings from Alenia and fly-by-wire controls from Lockheed Martin. Design help was sought from British Aerospace, Avion Marcel Dassault and Deutsche Aerospace. Wind tunnel testing was done in the US, Russia and France. As for armaments -- missiles, guns, rockets and bombs -- every last item was to be imported.

And if the LCA is eventually inducted in 2015, what will the Indian Air Force get? It will get an aircraft at best comparable to first generation F-16s.
It can be said with certainty that the LCA will never become a frontline fighter with the Indian Air Force. The Mirage 2000s and the Mig-29s that the air force has been flying from the 1980s have superior capabilities to any LCA that might be inducted in 2015, 2020 or 2025. So the most prudent thing for the government would be to immediately terminate the LCA project. National and individual egos have been satisfied after the first flight.

INDIAN AIR FORCE TEJAS UNACCEPTABLE UNTIL AT LEAST 2019

http://airheadsfly.com/2015/05/10/indian-air-force-tejas-unacceptable-until-at-least-2019/
IAF's motto is good is always the enemy of best.

Coming to IAF, Tejas was always secondary fighter, yes it was supposed to replace MiG 21. IAF has the luxury of time(MiG 21 bison upgrade). Coming to crashes, IAF is known notorious for taking their birds past breaking point(our gnats got Sabre slayer title for a reason) . Also fresh pilots were given LIFT( Lead in fighter Pilot) training on MiG 21s. Once Hawks came, things started to change. Today even before FOC, Tejas is considered as one of the best in class, JF 17 after a decade is not.

Like I said, IAF's motto Good is always enemy of the Best.

Coming to crashes in late 90's and early 2000's one of our Air marshal said I'd rather loose a pilot during Peace time than during war.

Coming to JF 17, I'd rather not discuss with a fanboy who knows nothing about fighters.
 

airtel

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 25, 2015
Messages
3,413
Likes
7,711
Country flag
Pakistan's Chinese JF-17 has:

-its modern air frame (?? :pound::pound:)
-advanced avionics and rapid upgrades (?? :rofl::rofl::rofl:)
-procurement/service costs
-open architecture
-Fly-by-wire controls (?? :laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh:)
-true BVR capability(??:rofl::rofl::rofl:)
-full glass cockpit
-complex aerial warfare system including strong jamming and EW capability (? :rofl::rofl:)
-4++ gen avionics including AESA ( ?? ::blah::blah:)
-low per hour cost
-low maintenance ( ? :pound::pound::pound:)
-an all round weapons package including A2A, A2G, A2S weapon systems ( :rofl::rofl:)
-superior flight performance as exhibited in air shows :doh::doh:

Please Post such funny comments in appropriate thread :yo::yo: >>> jokes thread
 
Last edited:

Mikesingh

Professional
Joined
Sep 7, 2015
Messages
6,953
Likes
26,726
Country flag
! :tongue:
Pakistan's JF-17 has:

-its modern air frame
-advanced avionics and rapid upgrades
-procurement/service costs
-open architecture
-Fly-by-wire controls
-true BVR capability
-full glass cockpit
-complex aerial warfare system including strong jamming and EW capability
-4++ gen avionics including AESA
-low per hour cost
-low maintenance
-an all round weapons package including A2A, A2G, A2S weapon systems
-superior flight performance as exhibited in air shows

While The Tejas on the other hand sports a 30 year old french-aided mirage-based design that is based on early 4 gen fighters from 1980s. The tejas has fallen abundantly short on timeline. According to Indian Air Force it is "so late that it is obsolete" for induction.
The JF-17 Thunder Blunder is nothing but a frikkin upgrade of the Chinese FC-1 ie, the 80s vintage models of the Mig 21 that's being canned for the museums.

You can keep scrubbing (upgrading) a donkey but can never convert it into a horse! :tongue:
 

HariPrasad-1

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2016
Messages
7,027
Likes
12,342
Country flag
While, also read this @Mikesingh
“LCA Mark-I, which achieved Initial Operational Clearance in December 2013 has significant shortfalls as a result of which it will have reduced operational capabilities and reduced survivability, thereby limiting its operational employability when inducted into IAF squadrons. LCA Mark-I does not meet the standards. The deficiencies are now expected to be met in LCA Mark-II by December 2018,” according to a CAG report released this week. This will mean that combat readiness can be expected in January 2019 at the earliest.



One of the significant problems is the electronic self protection suite, like HAL not having been able yet to construct the jammer into the plane. Moreover, HAL needs to incorporate more foreign bought elements, since Indian industries failed to develop a well-functioning engine, radar and information display systems for the pilot.

Despite claims by HAL that the Tejas is functioning up to 70 percent of what it has been promised to do, the CAG puts that percentage on a mere 35 percent.

Problems with the Tejas have resulted in the Indian Air Force having to keep its aging fleets of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s, Mirage fighters and Jaguar attack jets longer in service, with an increasing cost for maintenance and overhaul. :biggrin2:
Tejas is improving. In 2017, All aerodynamic changes shall be made, in 2018, AESA and EW shall be incorporated and weight shall be reduced. MK1+ is going to rock. MK2 shall be absolutely top class fighter and if we can put EJ 230 engine in tejas, it shall be the No 1 fighter of its category and shall even outclass Gripen.
 

TheHurtLocker

Regular Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2017
Messages
260
Likes
754
Country flag

The FC 1 Shia-O-Long.(Mandarin for "The Shia Hunter"), The Pak Fizzleya which crashed lots of these and hid most of them, was said to be deeply unhappy with the aircraft.
Some of the issues identified by the Jehadi Air Force were:
IFF not working properly in the presence of other Jehadis.
Radar has a range of two hundred meters in clear skies.
All the controls are assbackwards. (From the Arabic influence?)
Every time the plane flew over a Girls' school, the plane would self destruct.
And weirdly enough, the Plane had been programmed to play the below video on each start up:
 

kamaal

Regular Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2016
Messages
268
Likes
493
Country flag
1. Pakistan got what they wanted in Jf-17.

2. We didn't get what we wanted in LCA.

Period.
 

kamaal

Regular Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2016
Messages
268
Likes
493
Country flag
More like Pakistan got the JF-17 and then decided that it was exactly what it wanted.
Can be true, they couldn't deny the deal as they were only getting jet like JFs from China. So called 'manufacturing' by Kamra is nothing more than assembling the already manufactured parts in China, so in short China gave them job for assembly coz that will be cheaper in pakistan.

Good job by China.

All in all one more fake ego created by PAF for their citizens.
 

amoy

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2010
Messages
5,982
Likes
1,844
Azerbaijan to buy JF-17 Blok II combat aircraft from Pakistan

2018 December 01 ( Saturday ) 12:40:17

Baku / 01.12.18 / Turan: Negotiations between Azerbaijan and Pakistan on the purchase of JF-17 Block II combat aircraft are coming to the end, the representative of the company "Pakistan Aeronautical Complex" (PAC) informed Azeri Defense at the international exhibition İDEAS-2018 in Karachi.

The source noted that all issues related to the export to Azerbaijan have already been resolved. Planes of JF-17 Blok II configuration requested by Azerbaijan passed the test.

Versions of the Blok II aircraft are already being used by Pakistani military aircraft and have proven themselves in practice. They have improved avionics and electronic security systems. They are equipped with AESA radar from China and Italy.

According to publicly available information, these aircraft can carry guided missiles and bombs of various types.

It is assumed that 24 such aircraft will be delivered to Azerbaijan, with a total value of $500 million.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Neo

HariPrasad-1

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2016
Messages
7,027
Likes
12,342
Country flag
Good for bombing militants. As Nawaz Sharif had said, advance to nahi hai lekin bomb gira sakta hai.
 

jat

Regular Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2009
Messages
244
Likes
197
There is no denying the similarity in appearances between it and the Izdeliye 33. The Super 7 and J-7 lineage, too, is unmistakable.
Been saying that for a while. Sadly the biggest mistake was not starting off with an advanced fly by wire instead they used it on a single axis. Thats both cheap and probably result in poor performance with new pilots in the mix.
1. Pakistan got what they wanted in Jf-17.

2. We didn't get what we wanted in LCA.

Period.
No they didn't. PAF complained to Musharaff back in the day about the FC-1 and the AK tank. Musharaff quickly got the PAF to shut up about FC-1 and made almost all comonents from China to reduce cost and the AK tank was saved thanks to Ukrainian engines and intervention but still lacking. They never got what they wanted which is a LCA. Even the mighty PLAAF never got their LCA. They got a J-10- a MCA and reluctantly inducted it.
Both the PAF and PLAAF wanted something with a reliable engine. None of them got that because the russians don't make reliable engines compared to Americans. This is exactly why PAF, PLAAF are going heavy into trainers/ and ground based training facilities. The engines on the Su-30 are known to go out in mid air, even the Mig-29 engines have had this issue. Novice pilots in these machines are a bad idea. Flying low, or long distance over water also bad. This is exactly why the J-10 and JF-17 are not going carrier born.
With the LCA atleast it is a LCA providing easy flight to new pilots with out risk and a high safety rating. LCA as it is would be an excellent LIFT if required with the F404.
 

Latest Replies

Global Defence

New threads

Articles

Top