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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Native air warriors: JF-17 vs HAL Teja

Najam ul Hassan |

An arms race between Pakistan and India is in full swings now. Both nations are locked in a seemingly endless struggle to enhance their military capabilities and gain superiority over the other. In this article, the fighting capabilities of the air forces of these two countries will be compared with a primary focus on the HAL Tejas and The JF-17s.

The JF-17

JF-17 Thunder jet fighter is a shining example of Pakistan-China collaboration in the aviation sector. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and China Air Force (CAF) made joint efforts to develop the original JF-17. Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) jointly collaborated on behalf of their respective countries to make the JF-17 fighter plane a reality. The jet fighter’s dual seat variant, JF-17B, has successfully undertaken its first test flight in China. It is expected to significantly bolster the training capabilities for the JF-17 series of jet fighters.

“As a fighter, sensor suite and strike capability is the force multiplier. We will focus on improving the JF-17 in terms of information perception, system integration capabilities and weaponry, making it a better third generation aircraft.”-Yang (developer of the JF 17)

The new JF-17B comes with three axes fly-by-wire flight control system and active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar.  JF-17B comes with commercially available Electronic Warfare (EW) jamming pods and advanced targeting pods. These could potentially be used for strikes or stand-off EW platform.


“The JF-17 itself is not a full stealth aircraft, but the design is considered low observable because of such factors as a front edge of the wing sweep angle, S-bend inlet, etc., which are better for stealth. In addition, the JF-17 among third generation aircraft, in the head is relatively small, whose stealth is good. The future will take low-cost stealth measures to further improve the stealth ability.” -Yang

PAF also inducted JF-17 Block-II variant into its fleet. It was capable of in-flight refueling. It was announced that PAF has successfully integrated a stand-off weapon system into the JF-17. The JF-17 block II is equipped with the KLJ-7 mechanically-steered pulse-Doppler radar (developed by the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronic Technology or NRIET). The KLJ-7 can track targets from 75km (at 3m2 RCS – i.e. radar cross-section, an object’s detectability on radar) to 85km (at 5m2 RCS). The KLJ-7 can track up to 10 targets at beyond visual range, and simultaneously engage two with active-radar air-to-air missiles, such as the SD-10. The SD-10 is an active radar-guided BVRAAM with an approximate range of at least 70km. Specific performance parameters are difficult to come by, but some have been willing to compare it to the AIM-120

“The engine of the JF-17 fighter and other major national engine developments is going according to plan and has made considerable achievements.”- Yang

While analyzing the JF-17’s air-to-surface munitions suite, one must recognize that the PAF has yet to disclose exactly how it intends to arm the platform. However, CATIC is marketing the JF-17 with a whole host of precision-strike weapons in the form of the LT-2, LS-3, LS-6, C-802A, and CM-400AKG.

Pakistan Airforce is now looking ahead towards a better and improved Block III to be inducted in its fleet.

The HAL Teja

The home-grown Teja fighter aircraft and has been designed keeping every little aspect in mind, including maneuverability, ability to carry weapons the weight of the aircraft, among other things. It also has features that make it easier for the pilot to operate the aircraft.

“Tejas jets produced after 2018 will be up to the Mark-IA standards,” 

The Tejas aircraft is unique for its aerodynamically unstable tailless compound delta-wing configuration, optimized primarily for maneuverability and agility. In simple terms, this means it can be maneuvered in any direction regardless of pure aerodynamic principles. It is designed to meet the tactical requirements of a modern air force and is a multi-role aircraft capable of comprehensive air superiority and air defense roles.

“It will operate from a dedicated HAL hanger, with designers and manufacturers being close by to resolve teething problems. The squadron will shift to its earmarked airbase at Sulur after a year,” 

The aircraft can be armed with air-to-air, air-to-ground and anti-ship missiles, precision-guided munitions, rockets, and bombs. Electronic warfare, targeting, surveillance, reconnaissance or training pods can be carried. In October 2007, the aircraft successfully test-fired the R-73 air-to-air missile. The Indian Government purchased beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVR-AAM) from Rafael Advanced Defence Systems to incorporate on 200 aircraft.

“It is my first sortie in Tejas, it is a good aircraft for induction into IAF operations,” Mr. Raha 

Electronics Research and Development Establishment and HAL have jointly developed the aircraft’s multimode radar. The radar has multiple target search and track-while-scan and ground-mapping modes of operation. It includes pulse Doppler radar with Doppler beam shaping, moving target indication and look-up/look-down capability. The radar is mounted in a Kevlar radome. The IAF wants future modified versions of Tejas to have Active Electrically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Unified Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite, and advanced beyond the vision range missiles.


Nothing can be said for sure about the two air forces or even the two aircraft for this matter as both are still developing further and are neck to neck in this race for air superiority. Both are 4th to 5th generation fighters, looking forward to being sold to other countries and very capable of matching one another in a dog fight.