JF-17 Thunder continues to make buzz at Paris air show

JF-17 Thunder Paris

Guest Post by Abdus Samad Khan

The JF-17 Thunder, Pakistan’s first multirole fighter jointly developed with China by the collaboration of respective state-owned aircraft manufacturers, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC) is attracting a lot of interest at the PAS 2015.

Local and foreign media is giving surprisingly detailed coverage of the single-seat fighter and even its handsome “Tom Cruise” lookalike flight crew. It seems that PAC/CAC believe it’s the right time to come out of the shadows and aggressively market the Thunder at one of the biggest air shows in Europe.

Since confirming the first export deal for the JF-17 earlier in the week, many exciting things have been revealed about the jet.

Our earlier story: JF-17 Thunder strikes first deal at Le Bourget 2015

Below is the collection of some of the more interesting aspects about the Thunder’s future developments.

Export potential:

It is being suggested that the first export deal for the JF-17 may just be the catalyst leading to more export orders in the near future. As many as 300 aircraft are predicted to be sold in the coming decade in addition to the 250+ required by Pakistan Air Force (PAF).

Fighter aircraft deals are sometimes dictated more by politics and influence rather than costs and capability so it will be interesting to see which deals the JF-17 can lock-on and where it will lose-out. A dual-seat fighter/trainer version for the JF-17 is also in the works to ease training needs of the countries adopting the new aircraft.

At the moment the Thunder is powered by a single Klimov RD-93 turbofan. The Russian engine is cost effective and easy to maintain but as a result the JF-17 may not be able to participate in contracts where Russian Aircraft manufacturers are also competing. This minor hitch may soon be addressed.

New Chinese engine:

The JF-17 was always supposed to be powered by a Chinese engine and the WS-13 turbofan has long been talked about as the engine to power the Thunder. Delays to the development of the indigenous engine lead to the Program adopting the RD-93.

Now, however, it seems that the Chinese may finally have found the answer to replace the RD-93 and PAC/CAC officials at PAS 2015 have revealed that the flight tests with the new WS-13 turbofan engine are already underway. Maturity of a Chinese engine for the JF-17 can prove to be a game changer for future exports.

JF-17 Thunder

Complete package:

As the Aerial and Static displays at the PAS 2015 indicate, the JF-17 is being mooted as the complete package. A wide variety of advanced Chinese Air-to-Air (A2A), Air-to-Ground (A2G) weapons are on display with the JF-17.

The main A2A Beyond Visual Range (BVR) weapon integrated with the JF-17 is the PL-12/SD-10B which is a Chinese equivalent of the American AIM-120A/B AMRAAM. Future upgrades as promised will integrate AESA Radar, Infrared Search and Tracking (IRST) and Electronic Countermeasures making the JF-17 the most affordable All-Weather Day/Night BVR platform.

A wide variety of Chinese A2G precision weapons can be carried by the Thunder which include Laser Guided Bombs (LGB), Anti-Radiation Missiles for Wild Weasel roles and Anti-Ship missiles of which the most notable is the hypersonic CM-400AKG dubbed the “Carrier Killer”.

Integration of the mentioned weapon systems takes the JF-17 beyond multi-role and making it an Omni-Role fighter which few in this price bracket can match.

With these developments in mind, the future indeed looks bright for the JF-17 to win export orders around the world.

Abdus Samad Khan has grown up playing video games at home, cricket on the streets and watching Swat Kats on TV. Is a complete snob when it comes to his preferences in Aviation, Technology, Movies and Music. He has strong political views and avidly follows all the “nazuk morrs” this great country has taken over the last 20 years. His day job is that of an HR-Professional/ Trainer/ Educator spanning over six years in Private/Public sectors.

Also by Abdus Samad Khan:

JF-17 Thunder strikes first deal at Le Bourget 2015

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