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JULY 2015 ISSUE

Force Magazine

Here Comes the Thunder

With JF-17, CATIC-PAC combine is eying air forces set to retire the Russian MiG-21s
 

Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retd) By Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retd)

The Chinese ‘designed for Pakistan’ fighter JF-17 ‘Thunder’ was showcased jointly by the Chinese CATIC and Pakistan’s PAC during the just concluded Paris Air Show. Three aircraft participated, and one was used for the aerial display to attract prospective buyers.

Earlier the aircraft had made its first appearance at Farnborough Air Show in 2010, attended Turkish Air Force centenary celebrations in 2011, Dubai Air Show 2011, and Zhuhai Air Show in 2012 and 2014. The world has been closely watching China’s emerging aircraft industry. China is the only country in the world to have two stealth fighter programmes running concurrently. China is also developing a medium lift turbo-prop transport aircraft of Airbus A400M class, an advanced large transport and many modern helicopters, making it a global aviation player. China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) employs over 4,00,000 engineers and workers.

Sino-Pak Cooperation
Sino-Pak relationship became very close after China-India war of 1962. To seek friendship and to counter balance India, Pakistan ceded 5,180 sqkm of land to China in Karakoram region of north Kashmir. Repeated US sanctions and regional geopolitics forced Pakistan to befriend and seek military help from China. China is today Pakistan’s largest arms supplier and third largest trading partner.

China has been supporting Pakistan build its aircraft industry, among others, in exchange for access to Gwadar port facilities close to the oil rich Middle-East. China has also committed USD 44 billion for an industrial corridor from Gwadar to central China. Military related technology, infrastructure and equipment continue to be the major portion of USD 9 billion trade between the two countries.

China started supplying Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-6 aircraft (Air Defence version of MiG-19) in 1965. This was followed by a squadron of Harbin H-5, a Chinese variant of Russian Ilyushin IL-28. China helped establish Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra, north of Islamabad in 1973. PAF received 55 A-5Cs (Chinese MiG-19 ground attack variants) and 186 Chengdu F-7s (Chinese MiG-21).

In 2007, as a part of a joint-venture project, China rolled-out JF-17 ‘Thunder’, also called FC-1 Fierce Dragon, as a specific for PAF’s light combat aircraft. Joint production and further development of the JF-17 multi-role fighter is still on. Work-share ratio is 58:42 per cent for Pakistan and China respectively. Currently PAF has 60 aircraft, and the same is likely to increase to 300 eventually. They are replacing the ageing A-5s, F-7P, Mirage III and Mirage V fighter-bombers. PAF has also placed orders for 36 Chengdu J-10 ‘Vigorous Dragon’ fighters (PAF designation FC-20). This tail-less delta wing with canards is being compared by the Chinese with Dassault Aviation’s Rafale. J-10 B will one day have the AESA radar, and be equipped with the improved version of the failed Chinese WS-10A engine which was a copy of Russian AL-31FN. PAF has inducted six ZDK-03 Chinese AWACS based on the Shaanxi Y-8 cargo aircraft. Chinese SD-10 air-to-air missiles will arm the JF-17 fleet.

JF-17 at static display with probable weapons load at the Paris Air Show 2015
JF-17 at static display with probable weapons load at the Paris Air Show 2015

 
 
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