Analysis of Thunder’s performance at Dubai Air show 2011

At this year’s Dubai Air Show 2011, PAC sent three JF-17 Thunder aircraft to participate in the event. All aircraft belonging to No.16 Sqn “Black Panthers” of the Pakistan Air Force took off from their home base at Minhas AB, Kamra on 10th Nov 2011. The fourth aircraft being a reserve aircraft was part of the formation which returned from Masroor AB, Karachi after the display team left Pak airspace.

Two aircraft from the trio performed at the air display, where as the third was at the static display for up-close viewing for the officials and general attendees. Most of the state-of-the-art weaponry in JF-17’s arsenal were also up on show at the static display, which included PL-5E Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (SRAAM), SD-10A Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Air-to-Air Missile, 1000lbs LS-6 Extended-range glide guided bomb, 1000lbs LT-2 Laser Guided Bomb (LGB), C-802AK Air Launched Anti-shipping Missile, WMD-7 Day/Night detection and targeting pod.

On Nov 13, a JF-17 put on a decent air display in front on large crowd. In some eight and a half minutes air show, the pilot demonstrated the strength and potential of the aircraft. Starting on with a slight 10 alpha turn to the left, followed an aileron roll the pilot completed a Cuban-8 maneuver. In the next part of the show, the pilot took the aircraft to its limits, displaying its agility under different altitude of flight. The performance of the aircraft was very impressive, high-G turns, inverted flying, vertical climb and deep dives were all that were expected from Pakistani team which have showed their talent in the past.

From PAF’s performance at Zhuahi, Izmir and now Dubai it is certain that a lot of high-maneuvering and deep stall testing has been done on JF-17s. During the course of such testing they multiple weapon configurations with different center of gravity (CG) are tried. The worst case is tested when centerline tanks or centerline pods are intact. Getting in a deep stall with a 50-60 deg Angel-of-Attack (AOA) and then recovering within minimum cycles is all that is needed. JF-17’s computer compares values of pitch, Angle-of-Attack, speed and attitude with default values of normal stall. Based on its instincts it decides to recover automatically.
The big reason why F-16 and Mirage pilots are selected for JF-17 program is that they have too much expertise in maneuvering training (both normal and high AOA maneuvering), which is a per-requisite for test and evaluation. Getting knowledge about aircraft’s aerodynamics, flight characteristics, recovery techniques and handling procedures is all that is required before going in the air.
From the Nov 13th, JF-17’s performance it was also worth noting that during the landing approach the pilot positioned itself in the landing bracket from a high AOA to a 13 deg landing in a very small time. Needless to say, the landing was also ‘smooth as silk’…an example for young pilots too!
What is even more interesting is that, during the landing the pilot exhibits professionalism in managing the back pressure and speed. He is also seen managing horizontal stabilizers extensively to complete his perfect landing. Albeit JF-17 requires drogue chute to land under 850m runway, but this air display is enough evidence to disprove it.
During Exercise High Mark 2010, PAF Mirage-VEL and F-7PG aircraft participated in road landings at Motorway. JF-17’s landing (823m) and takeoff distance (610m) allows it to be deployed to any small air strip of road at the time of need, thus fulfilling the needs of a true Multirole fighter.

Youtube PAF JF-17’s performance at Dubai – Nov 13, 2011

Thunder’s Next Squadron!

PAF’s plan to acquire 150 JF-17s is fast becoming a reality as progress continues in the joint Pakistan-China defense venture. Ever since the roll out ceremony of JF-17 Thunder in Nov 2009, the assembly lines of PAC, Kamra are going ahead of their projected milestones.

By mid April 2011, JF-17 was flying in the No.16 and No.26 Sqn from Kamra and Peshawar, respectively. Since Thunder is operating in different roles in both these units, one may expect different levels of evaluations of JF-17 being done within these units.
No.16 Sqn serves as Test & Evaluation Flight wing. It is responsible for conducting T&E of each and every aircraft that leaves the assembly lines. They start with statically running the engine and then conducting ground runs of aircraft before clearing it for flight. In the later stages more tests are added in the T&E process, depending upon the performance of each aircraft at different levels of flight. After successfully completing the defined T&E flight hours, the aircraft is cleared for operational use.
No.26 Sqn is tasked with Multi Role assessment of JF-17 Thunder. Apart from conducting next stage T&E flights, the unit also performs air defence role. Its pilots and ground crew have been pre-occupied in carrying out pilot training, operational, test and evaluation duties.

At least 33 examples of JF-17 Thunder have been delivered to PAF. With a rate of two aircraft per month rolling off the production lines, it is evident that a third squadron of JF-17s will be set up, soon.
Which unit will form the third JF-17 squadron remains shrouded in mystery. But is seems very likely that it will be either one of the ageing F-7P and Mirage-III/V squadrons.

F-7 in PAF:
F-7P is a modified version of F-7MP aircraft developed by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation. After conducting test and evaluations in both Pakistan and China, PAF received first batch of 20 F-7P aircraft in early 1989. All these aircraft were modified to meet PAF’s requirements, which included Martin Baker Mk10L ejection seat, Macroni Type226 Skyranger radar and ability to carry Aim-9 sidewinder missiles. Navigation and communication system was also updated.
By 1993 160+ F-7s were flying in various squadrons of PAF. In early 2000s, F-7s original Skyranger radar was replaced by Italian FIAR Grifo 7 fire-control radar, which had a range of more than 55km. This upgradation was done at Kamra Avionics and Repair Factory (KARF- now Avionics Production Factory (APF)) at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC).

Today F-7P equips the Combat Commanders School, No.2, 14, 18 and 19 Squadron.
Mainwali AB based No.18 and No.19 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) are tasked with initial fighter training of young pilots which have recently passed out from No.1 Fighter Conversion Unit (FCU). With basic and intermediate level knowledge about aircraft radars and its performance in various modes of operation, formation flying and combat training these young ‘rookies’ are taught in both Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground missions. For this purpose these units operate single and dual seat F-7P aircraft.
Both F-7 units will perform operational conversion duties with current F-7P aircraft for at least another five years which will later be replaced by double-delta winged F-7PG aircraft.

No.2 and No.14 Air Superiority Squadrons operate from Masroor AB, Karachi and Minhas AB, Kamra. Both are tasked with defending southern and northern region of Pakistan, respectively.
No.2 Sqn received F-7P in 1990. Some more FT-7s were added to their inventory in 1993. Over the years No.2 Sqn has taken part in various exercises including Sea Spark exercises with Pak Navy, Inspired Alert exercises with the US Navy, Saffron Bandit and High Mark. It has also participated in close air support role in Pak Army’s exercises too.
Being a unit that operates on sea and coastal areas, its aircraft is configured with corrosion resistant WP-7C engines. For JF-17 to be added to this unit, PAC/CAC will most likely make the necessary changes to the engine for it to be better suited for routine training and patrol missions over the Arabian Sea.

No.14 Sqn ‘Shaheens’ received F-7P in September 1993 when it relinquished its F-16s (which were evenly distributed in the remaining F-16 squadrons) due to sanctions faced by the country. 14 Sqn is playing an important role in maintaining routine combat air patrols over Northern region of Pakistan, including the capital Islamabad. During Nuclear ADA (1998), Operational Sentinel 2001/02 and tensions with India 2008, 14 Sqn was deployed to Chaklala for air maintaining round-the-clock air defence patrols. The Sqn also routinely deploys to Skardu for keeping a check on activities up North.

No.14 Sqn has the honour of being PAF’s third oldest and second fighter squadron to be made after independence in 1947. Over the past six decades Shaheens have made their name in all the battles of Pakistan. It will not be surprising to see induction of JF-17 in this squadron. Inclusion of JF-17 in 14 Squadron will boost the air defence of northern sector of Pakistan.
Pakistan Air Force’s Combat Commanders School (CCS) is composed of a Mirage and F-7 Squadron. The purpose of CCS Mirage and F-7 squadrons is to sharpen the skills of pilots who are proficient in Mirage and F-7 aircraft. The advanced tactics are taught in multiple air-to-air, air-to-ground attack and network centric warfare.
For this purpose Air Combat Manoeuvering Instrumentation Range (ACMI) and Electronic Warfare Test and Training Range (EWTTR) are also used for tactical training in real-world combat scenarios.

CCS F-7 squadron is flying F-7P since 1993, whereas CCS Mirage is flying Mirage-IIIEA since 2003. All the pilots that join these squadrons have an extensive experience of the aforementioned types. It is too early to speculate about induction of JF-17 in CCS, before re-equipment of JF-17 in other squadrons and extensive operational experience on the type is gained.

Mirages in PAF:
Pakistan Air Force’s association with Mirages’ started after the 1965 war when the then PAF leadership decided to look elsewhere for combat aircraft. The initial procurement included 24 Mirage-III aircraft received in 1967/68. PAF’s thirst for more Mirages continued to increase in coming decades. The past 44 years have seen Pakistan buying over 200 Mirage-III/V aircraft and related equipment from France, Australia, Libya, Lebanon and Spain. All the procurements that subsequently took place were made with two main objectives; condition and hours on the airframe. Mirage Rebuild Factory (MRF), PAC Kamra has always provided a helping hand in keeping old air frame operational. Over past few decades MRF have overhauled and delivered 150+ Mirages to PAF.
Mirages have been the workhorse of PAF for over four decades. The structural life of several old Mirages has reached its end and in June 2010, No.5 Sqn Mirages were re-equipped with F-16 Block52 aircraft. Despite its age, Mirage equips half a dozen operational squadrons in the PAF which include No.7, 8, 15, 22, 25 and 27 Squadron.
Masroor AB based No.32 Wing operates three Mirage squadrons; No.7, No.8 and No.22 Sqn, whereby each unit having been assigned its own dedicated role.

No.7 tactical attack squadron is equipped with Mirage-IIIEA aircraft. All these Ex-RAAF Mirages had undergone ROSE-1 upgrade in Mirage Rebuild Factory, PAC Kamra in 1996 which added some 12 years of life to them. No.7 Sqn is a specialist in all-weather deep strike and tactical attack missions. Over the past decade No.7 Sqn has participated in various national and multi-national exercises which include High Mark (2005, 2010), Al-Saqoor-I (2006), Falcon Talon (2005 and 2009), Bright Star (2009) and Falcon Air Meet (2010).
No.7 Squadron pilots have also conducted the test of Air Launched Cruise Missile Ra’ad in 2007 and flight trails of in-flight refueling with IL-78 tanker in Exercise High Mark 2010. This squadron is expected to continue to operate in the tactical attack role in the foreseeable future.

No.8 Squadron is PAF’s only tactical and maritime support squadron. The unit operates Mirage-VPA2/3 aircraft. Having no combat aircraft in Pakistan Navy, No.8 Sqn takes on the responsibility for carrying out naval support missions. The unit’s Mirage-VPA3 aircraft are equipped with AM-39 Exocet anti-shipping missile capable of striking targets and enemy vessels from a range of 70 kms (35 miles). No.8 Sqn has been operating Mirages since almost three decades, several of which were upgraded at PAC in 2004/05.
For JF-17 to be a replacement of this naval support unit, it has to have the capability of anti-shipping strike. Albeit flight trails of JF-17’s anti-shipping missile C-802/803 are scheduled to start in near future, till then No.8 Sqn will continue to defend naval and aerial frontiers of Pakistan.

No.15 Sqn has been operating Mirage-VPA aircraft since 2002 from Rafiqui AB. Most of these aircraft have earlier served in two or three different squadron over more than past 3 decades.
No.15 Sqn being a Tactical Attack Squadron has also conducted various tests of Joint Stand-Off Weapons (JSOW) such as the H-weapon (H-2/4). Today, this unit also operates reconnaissance pods, which it received from re-distribution of No.5 squadron’s equipment. Being a user ‘old timers’, No.15 Sqn has can be considered as the next potential squadron to receive Thunders. 15 Sqn is located in the Southern region of Pakistan. Such strategic placement of Thunders will boost PAF’s round-the-clock vigilance of Pakistan’s territorial borders.
PAF Base Rafiqui also operates F-7PG and ROSE-III upgraded Mirage-VEF aircraft. Having both air-to-air and air-to-ground radar modes, state-of-the-art avionics, an effective countermeasures and electronic warfare suite, Thunder will be a good a competitor against other resident units at Rafiqui.

No.22 Sqn is the third Mirage squadron based at Masroor. Unlike its other counter parts (No.7 and No.8) it is not a tactical attack squadron, rather it’s an operational conversion unit (OCU). No.22 OCU is tasked with conversion of pilots onto Mirage aircraft. No.22 OCU has been flying Mirage-IIIEE/EL aircraft since 2004, all of which were subsequently upgraded to ROSE standard in 2003/2004.
With Forward Looking Infra-red (FLIR) placed under the cockpit, No.22 OCU conducts both day and night training missions. The role of this dedicated Mirage conversion unit holds a very important position in PAF and is expected to do till 2015.
No.25 and No.27 Sqn are equipped with ROSE-III upgraded Mirage-VEF and Mirage-VDD aircraft. Both units have a tactical night attack role, which is performed by using Night Vision Goggles (NVG) and Forward Looking Infra-red (FLIR) capability.
No.25 Sqn currently operates from Shahbaz, Jocababad, where as No.27 Sqn operates from Rafiqui, Shorkot. These units also operate from remote forward bases, maintaining round the clock air defence of the aerial frontiers in routine exercises and deployments. But it is the night strike and surgical strike capability that makes them superior over other version of the type!
As a rapidly evolving program, the planned modifications in JF-17 include integration of Helmet Mounted System, addition of re-tractable air-to-air refueling probe, WS-13 engine, integration of modern-day air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-sea weapons and Infra Red Search and Track (IRST).

Besides the above mentioned capability enhancements, PAF also plans to integrate JSOW and Pakistan’s own Ra’ad cruise missile in future as well. Such an integration will make it an all weather multi-role aircraft able to counter multifarious and multidimensional threats.

With the crucial phase of JF-17s weapons testing and trials well under way and once fully operational, the Thunder will provide the PAF with a true offensive punch both qualitatively and will form the backbone of the PAF well into the 21st Century.

Delta Legacy

Pakistan Air Forces association with Mirages started after 1965 war when PAF air chief Nur Khan decided to induct a non-US delta winged fighter aircraft. Even after 44 years, PAF’ s adventure with Mirages is still on going. Following research article is written to shed some light about the contracts, types and current status of Mirages in PAF. The factors related to such long service will later be discussed in some other article.

Major Contracts:
• Blue Flash-I 1967/1968 :24 aircraft comprising 18 Mirage-IIIEP , 3 Mirage-IIIRP, 3 Mirage-IIIDP
• Blue Flash-II 1970 : 30 aircraft comprising 28 Mirage-VPA , 2 Mirage-IIIDP
• Blue Flash-III 1977 : 10 Mirage-IIIRP
• Blue Flash-IV 1978 : 32 aircraft comprising 30 Mirage-V PA2/3, 2 Mirage-VDPA2
• Blue Flash-V 1990 : 50 aircraft comprising 42 Mirage-IIIEA, 8 Mirage-IIIDA
• Blue Flash-VI 1996 : 39 aircraft comprising 33 Mirage-VEF, 6 Mirage-IIIDF

More contracts:
• In 2001/02, PAF acquired 10 Mirage-IIIs(9 Mirage-IIIEE and 1 Mirage-IIIDL) from Lebanon, which were stored since 1980s. All these aircraft have flown 300-600hrs and were the best option of PAF.

• In 2003, PAF purchased 12 Mirage-IIIEE and 1 Mirage-IIIDE from Spain. All of them were bought as spares for the operational Mirage fleet. None of them was made operational

• In 2004 PAF purchased good number of Mirages from Libya, which were stored for past 15 years. These aircraft have 400-600 hrs on the airframe, and were in pretty good condition.

PAF’ s shopping list included 4 Mirage-VDR ,6 Mirage-VDD, ,12 Mirage-VD and 25 Mirage-VDE. Only 14 of them were put into service after being overhauled at MRF, PAC Kamra. More Ex-Libyan Mirages were also sold to PAF in late 2007, all these were used as spare cannibalization.

Mirage Serial numbers:
The first two left digits in Serial number denote the fiscal year ordered in which aircraft was ordered.
i.e 96-785 means aircraft serial 785 ordered in year 1995
100 series – Mirage IIIEP (18 aircraft ordered 1967/1968 )
200 series – Mirage IIIRP (Ordered in 2 batches, 3 in 1968 and 10 in 1977)
300 series – Mirage IIID and Mirage VD (3 ordered in 1968, 3 in 1970 , 2 in 1979)
400 series – Mirage V (28 Mirage VPA in 1970, 30 Mirage VPA2/3 in 1979)
500 series – Ex-RAAF Mirage IIIO designated as Mirage-IIIEA (1990)
600 series – Ex-French AF Mirage-IIIDA (1968)
700 series – Ex-French AF Mirage VEF (ordered in 1996)
800 series – Ex-RAAF Mirage IIIDF
900 series – Ex-Lebanese 9 Mirage-IIIEL, 1 Mirage-IIIDL (2001/02)
000 series – Ex-Libyan 14 Mirage-VDD

Current operational units:
No.7 Sqn ‘Bandits’ – Masroor AB, Karachi
No.8 Sqn ‘Haiders’ – Masroor AB, Karachi
No.15 Sqn ‘Cobras’ – Rafiqui AB, Shorkot
No.22 Sqn ‘Ghazis’ – Masroor AB, Karachi
No.25 Sqn ‘Eagles’ –Shahbaz AB, Jacobabad
No.27 Sqn ‘Zarrars’ – Rafiqui AB, Shorkot
CCS Mirage – Mushaf AB, Sargodha

Reserve units:
No.5 Sqn ‘Falcons’ – Rafiqui AB, Shorkot
In June, 2010 No.5 Sqn’s Mirages were withdrawn from service after induction of F-16 Block-52 aircraft. Fewer Mirages which still have less hours on the airframe were allotted to other squadrons whereas most of them were kept in stores as reserves. No.5 Squadron’s Tactical Attack and Reconnaissance related equipment was also distributed among other operational squadrons.

Mirages – operational status:
In the course of this research I have made a list of operational status of Mirage-III/V aircraft in PAF inventory. The list might not be 100% accurate, but it’s definitely gives a very close look of Mirages.

Question mark ‘?’ denotes an assumption that these aircraft might be a part of squadron inventory.
No.5 Sqn ( retired)
Following list is based upon the last known strength of No.5 Sqn before retirement.
Mirage-IIIRP 67-(202 203 204)? 206 210 211
Mirage-IIIDA 67-608 611 612
Mirage-IIIEA 90-511 581 587 596
Mirage-VDR 903
Mirage-IIIEP 104 105 106 107 108 114 115 116
Earlier retired Mirage-IIIEP aircraft
• 67-101 (placed at MRF, Kamra – pattern aircraft for GV-III)
• 67-112 placed outside Rafiqui AB.
• 67-112 113 117 118 are removed from service before getting 2nd overhaul
• 67-119 gifted to China, placed in museum

No.7 Sqn
No.7 Sqn operates 16-18 Mirages in Tactical Attack role. All Mirages are upgraded to ROSE-I standard at PAC Kamra and are used for deep penetration and interdiction missions also.
Mirage-IIIDP 73-301( PAC) 302
Ex-Libyan Mirage-VDD 00-005
Ex-RAAF Mirage-IIIO(F) – designated as Mirage-IIIEA after ROSE upgrade in 1996
90- 510 512(CCS) 513 515 519 525 531 533 535 538 560 565 584 583(probe – PAC) 586 588
• Mirage-IIIEA 90-512 loaned by CCS Mirage Sqn
• Mirage-IIIEA 90-583 used by MRF for flight trails of air-air refueling
• Mirage-IIIDP 73-301 used by MRF for flight trails of air-air refueling

No.8 Sqn
No.8 Sqn operates Mirage-VPA2 and Mirage-VPA3 aircraft for both ground and maritime attack role. The unit’s Mirage-VPA3 aircraft are equipped with AM-39 anti shipping missile (range 35 miles/55kms) and are used for naval support, where as Mirage-VPA2 are used for tactical attack role.
Mirage-V PA2/PA3 79-433 434 437 440 441 442? 443 445 447 449 450 451 454 455 456 457
Mirage-VDPA2 73-307
Mirage-VDP 70-305? 308 ?

No.15 Sqn
No.15 Sqn mainly operates Mirage-VPA for tactical attack role. It also operates some some Ex-Libyan Mirage-VDD examples for fighter conversion, exact details of which aren’t available.
Mirage-VPA 70-401 404 406 408 411 412 432
Mirage-IIIDA 67- 601 604 672
Mirage-VDD 04-010

No.22 Sqn
No.22 Sqn being an Operational Conversion Unit(OCU) is tasked with new pilots training and conversion on Mirage aircraft.
Ex-Lebanese Mirage-IIIEL/DL 90-904 905 906 907 908 909 910 911
Mirage-IIIDF 96-861 867 874 875 876

No.25 Sqn
No.25 Sqn is tasked with tactical and night attack role. Following list only contains the available details of Mirages in No.25 Sqn. It may be possible the some of the following Mirage-VEF aircraft are currently serving in No.27 Sqn.
Mirage-IIIDP 73-303
Mirage-VDD 00-002
Mirage-VEF 96-702(loaned by CCS) 707 711 717 718 719 725 736 740 741 743 755 758

No.27 Sqn
In April 2007, second ROSE-III Mirages squadron No.27 Sqn stood up at Rafiqui. Some No.25 Sqn Mirage-VEF aircraft were also allotted to this squadron. Following list is incomplete as this squadron operates at least 10 Mirage-VEF aircraft. No.27 Sqn is tasked with tactical and night attack role.
Mirage-VEF 96-728 745 746 747 752 757
Mirage-VDD 04-001 004

CCS Mirage Sqn:
CCS Mirage operates 12-14 aircraft, few aircraft are loaned from other operational squadrons also.
In CCS Mirage Sqn, advance lessons on combat readiness and air-combat is given to pilots. Following list is in-complete as this unit operates 12-14 examples of Mirage-IIIEA aircraft, which joined unit in 1996.
Mirage-IIIEA 90-522 527 552 553 554 599

Un-categorized aircraft:
Ex Libyan Mirage-VDD 04-003 005 006 007 008 009 (Serving in 7,15,25,27 Squadrons)
Ex-French AF Mirage-VEF Serving in No.25 and No.27 Squadrons
96- 722 732 734 738 746 743 739 748 749 754 750

Ex-French AF Mirage-VPA, some of the following are still serving in No.15 Sqn where as other have been withdrawn from service and used as spares for other similar examples. Following aircraft are also not part of above posted squadron inventory.
70-402 408 407 409 415 418 417 420 422 429 430 422 427 432 435
• 70-405 (crashed)
• 70-424 Placed at PAF museum

Following ex-RAAF Mirages were inducted in Nov 1990, after being overhauled in 1996 they were brought to service again. Some of the following are serving in CCS Mirage Sqn, where as others are used as spares cannibalization.
Mirage-IIIO(F) – RAAF designation A3-2 ( PAF designation 90-502)
Mirage-IIIEA 90-502 505 506 509 511 517 521 523 524 525 534 539 544 556 562 568 571 573 584 586 593
Mirage-IIIDA 67-603 613

Understanding JF-17’s cockpit

In the following attached inside cockpit pictures, i have explained the layout details and man-machine interface of JF-17 Thunder.

Remaining annotations will be done once more information becomes available on this mysterious jet from the East:D

Following are
1. Integrated Control Panel (ICP) & Data Entry Display
2. Heads Up Display (HUD)
3. Cockpit Layout