Saturday, May 16, 2015

JF-17 Thunder

The PAC JF-17 Thunder is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and theChengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. The JF-17 can be used for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack and aircraft interception. Its designation "JF-17" by Pakistan is short for "Joint Fighter-17", while the designation and name "FC-1 Xiaolong" by China means "Fighter China-1 Fierce Dragon".

The JF-17 can deploy diverse ordnance, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrelautocannon. Powered by a RD-93 afterburning turbofan it has a top speed of Mach 1.6. The JF-17 is to become the backbone of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), complementing the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. The PAF inducted its first JF-17 squadron in February 2010 and four years later 49 units were in service (one lost in a crash), and 110 units were on order. 

Background

The JF-17 was primarily developed to meet the PAF's requirement for an affordable, modern, multi-role combat aircraft as a replacement for its large fleet of Dassault Mirage III/5 fighters, Nanchang A-5 bombers, and Chengdu F-7 interceptors, with a cost of US$500 million, divided equally between China and Pakistan. The aircraft was also intended to have export potential as a cost-effective and competitive alternative to more expensive Western fighters.

By 1989, because of economic sanctions by the US, Pakistan had abandoned Project Sabre II, a design study involving US aircraft manufacturer Grumman and China, and had decided to redesign and upgrade the Chengdu F-7.[6] In the same year, China and Grumman started a new design study to develop the Super 7, another redesigned Chengdu F-7.[7] Grumman left the project when sanctions were placed on China following the political fallout from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. After Grumman left the Chengdu Super 7 project, the Fighter China project was launched in 1991.[8] In 1995, Pakistan and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for joint design and development of a new fighter, and over the next few years worked out the project details.[9] In June 1995, Mikoyan had joined the project to provide "design support", this also involved the secondment of several engineers by CAC.

Production

On 2 March 2007, the first consignment of two small-batch-production (SBP) aircraft arrived in a dismantled state in Pakistan. They flew for the first time on 10 March 2007 and took part in a public aerial demonstration during a Pakistan Day parade on 23 March 2007. The PAF intended to induct 200 JF-17 by 2015 to replace all its Chengdu F-7, Nanchang A-5, and Dassault Mirage III/5 aircraft. In preparation for the in-flight refuelling of JF-17s, the PAF has upgraded several Mirage IIIs with IFR probes for training purposes. A dual-seat, combat-capable trainer was originally scheduled to begin flight testing in 2006; in 2009 Pakistan reportedly decided to develop the training model into a specialised attack variant.

In November 2007, the PAF and PAC conducted flight evaluations of aircraft fitted with a variant of the NRIET KLJ-10 radar developed by China's Nanjing Research Institute for Electronic Technology (NRIET), and the LETRI SD-10 active radar homing AAM. In 2005, PAC began manufacturing JF-17 components; production of sub-assemblies commenced on 22 January 2008. The PAF was to receive a further six pre-production aircraft in 2005, for a total of 8 out of an initial production run of 16 aircraft. Initial operating capability was to be achieved by the end of 2008. Final assembly of the JF-17 in Pakistan began on 30 June 2009; PAC expected to complete production of four to six aircraft that year. They planned to produce twelve aircraft in 2010 and fifteen to sixteen aircraft per year from 2011; this could increase to twenty-five aircraft per year.

Russia signed an agreement in August 2007 for reexport of 150 RD-93 engines from China to Pakistan for the JF-17. In 2008, the PAF was reportedly not fully satisfied with the RD-93 engine and that it would only power the first 50 aircraft; it was alleged that arrangements for a new engine, reportedly the Snecma M53-P2, may have been made. Mikhail Pogosyan, head of the MiG and Sukhoi design bureaus, recommended the Russian defence export agency Rosoboronexport block RD-92 engine sales to China to prevent export competition from the JF-17 against the MiG-29. At the 2010 Farnborough Airshow, the JF-17 was displayed internationally for the first time; aerial displays at the show were intended but were cancelled due to a late attendance decision as well as license and insurance costs. According to a Rosoboronexport official at the Airshow China 2010, held on November 16–21, 2005 in Zhuhai, China, Russia and China had signed a contract worth $238 million for 100 RD-93 engines with options for another 400 engines developed for the FC-1.