Today’s GVS News Analysis traces the origins of PAC JF-17 Thunder and its contribution to upgrade Pakistan’s defense system. The PAC JF-17 Thunder is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China.
According to the available reports, it was designed to replace the A-5C, F-7P/PG, Mirage III, and Mirage V combat aircraft in the Pakistan Air Force. Experts are of the view that the JF-17 can be used for multiple roles, including interception, ground attack, anti-ship, and aerial reconnaissance. 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”.
Maryam Nawaz, vice-President Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has said than on more than one occasions that the JF-17 Thunder was the result of an agreement signed by her father Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister was disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan for not being honest and truthful.
JF-17 thunder, a result of agreement signed between Pakistan and China in 1997 during previous tenure of PM NS. pic.twitter.com/PRpE49XkUt
— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) December 19, 2013
However, some analysts are of the view that she is not right. They argue that the program was practically launched by the former military dictator, Pervez Musharraf.
“JF-17’s origin remains controversial”
Sabtain Ahmed Dar, a Lahore-based academic and security analyst, spoke to GVS to explain the origin of the JF-17 Thunder. “The true origin of JF-17 remains controversial even today. It has always been a subject to politics by the civil and military administrations, however it is a fact that it is part of an evolution that started from Project Saber II or Project Super 7, technically both projects were meant to upgrade the Chinese J-7 tailored to meet PAF’s requirements but when we see the evolved JF-17 of today it is way more sophisticated and advanced to the latter,” he said.
He explained that: “The foundational work of modern JF-17 started in the late 1990s. The airframe design was freeze in 2001 due to lack of R&D funds however the first prototype took to air in 2003. A total of 6 prototypes have been made after production started. As of 2020 PAF has 120+ operational units in service. There are two blocks (Block I and Block II) and the work on Block III is in progress which is near to its completion. Block II also has a Dual seat variant.”
Why is JF-17 important?
Mr. Dar also explained the importance of the JF-17. “It not only is unique in technology and maneuverability,” pointed out Mr. Dar, “but also it has given self-reliance to Pakistan. Currently, many parts from components of the external airframe to internal systems such as RADAR, MFDs, harnesses, and many other avionics components are being manufactured in Pakistan”.
“Pakistan has full control over the technology it can integrate any weapon and has the freedom to play around and adopt many military equipment,” he added.
Moreover, he elaborated that “while Jf-17 Block III is expected to be a 4.5 Generation fighter, Jf-17 has the vastest variety of Air to ground weapons in PAF’s inventory. It’s a true multirole fighter of the 4th Generation category.”
JF 17’s role in taking IAF’s fighter jets
Mr. Dar explained that currently it has SD-10(PL12) and PL-5EII as it’s primary air to air weapons and a variety of precision bombs, laser-guided bombs, air to ground missiles, anti-radiation missiles, and in marine time role it carries deadly CM-400 AKG carrier killer missile. Additionally, C-802 anti-ship missiles are also part of Jf-17’s arsenal.
“Jf-17 block III will be introduced with more advanced weapons systems including PL1-15 long-range BVR missiles and High Off boresight missile which can elevate it to the level of Rafael to much extent. Its nose will house an AESA Radar and many avionics components and EW capabilities will be improved as the learning curve on JF-17 block III improves,” he added.
He also explained that “Jf-17 has played a very important role on 27th February, 2019. Jf-17 was part of the strike package of PAF which targeted six different points inside Indian Occupied Kashmir. It displayed an excellent stand of range and jamming capabilities. After PAF’s retaliatory strikes to punish Indian misadventures, Jf-17 served on the front line on combat air patrol missions. It has always been one of PAF’s front line and reliable assets since it’s induction in 2010.”