JF-17 Thunder…From dream to reality

JF-17 Thunder…From dream to reality – YouTube

Posted above is a pictorial slideshow of project JF-17 Thunder from its inception to the current day. The dream which was placed on paper more than two decades ago under the name of project Super Sabre-II transformed to JF-17 Thunder in 2003. Since the first flight of its prototype in 2003, JF-17/FC-1 has surpassed 10,000 hrs marks recently this November. Over the years Thunder has transformed into a lethal fighting machine and a true Multirole fighter, with various types of state-of-the-art air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons integrated/undergoing integration with it.

JF-17 is capable of performing anti-radar, anti-ship, electronic warfare and precision targeting missions too. Having a lethal anti-jamming and electronic warfare suite, it has the capability to take on any mission anywhere.

As of today, some 40 JF-17s have been delivered to PAF in two operational squadrons and a third one to be re-equipped in the start of 2012. Pakistan’s plans of replacing aging A-5 III has been accomplished in April 2011, entire replacement of Mirage-III/V and F-7P aircraft will be completed by 2015.

After integration of ZDK-03 and Saab-2000 AEW&C aircraft with JF-17, it will be able to perform all weather missions in varied conditions.

It won’t be wrong to conclude that this is what the PAF had dreamed of more than two decades ago – a lethal state-of-the-art Multirole fighter at an affordable cost.

ATLIS on the F-16

The Thomson-CSF ATLIS II (Automatic Tracking and Laser Integration System) is a French laser/electro-optical targeting pod developed in late 1970s. Initially it was developed for French Air Force SEPECAT Jaguar and Mirage-2000 aircraft. Later it was integrated with Mirage F-1 and US-built F-16 aircraft.

ATLIS-II is a laser targeting system which includes a laser spot tracker/range finder bore-sighted with a television camera. It also has a video tape recorder and sensors for steering optical line of sight.
ATLIS-II has a dual mode(Visible/Infra-Red) TV tracker and laser spot tracking system, which provides battlefield assessment and point tracking features to the operator. Information about low-signature moving and stationary targets can be obtained by it as well.

The pilot uses cross-hairs to mark a target, which is automatically locked by the laser-designator system. The laser beam is focused on it marking any movement of the target. Later when laser guided bombs are dropped, they are directed to the same target using inertial-guidance system. ATLIS decreases the pilot’s workload by enabling him to attack the targets of opportunity.

In 1985, Pakistan Air Force selected ATLIS-II for its F-16 aircraft, making it the first non-European operator of this system. ATLIS-II pod is carried on the 5L intake station on the F-16.
First public demonstration of dropping Laser Guided Bombs (LGB)with ALTIS-II was seen in Exercise High Mark 1989. Since then, ALTIS-II has been a key element of PAF’ s precision strike capability. Over the years precision targeting has been a distinct phenomenon over-viewed regularly in PAF’ s operational exercises.

In the recent PAF operations in Global War on Terrorism, precision targeting was a game changer. During close air support missions for Pak Army from late 2008 to mid-2009, PAF conducted more than 5,500 bombing missions and dropped 10,600 bombs in northwest tribal areas. More than 80% of the dropped munitions were LGB.PAF achieved direct hits at the militant hideouts without doing collateral damage to the civilian population.

By using laser spot tracker, the accuracy level of LGBs was increased. Without it, the pilot has to visually confirm the target or real time information has to be provided by UAV or ground forces with laser spot tracker. The latter not available to Pakistan Army, all reliance was on the training and skills of F-16 pilots/crew. During the debrief ATLIS footage was analyzed and all short comings were addressed.

ATLIS-II allows the sharing of target information among multiple aircraft participating in a mission.In aforementioned operations modified C-130E with Star Safire III forward-looking infrared sensor was used to illuminate the targets to the F-16s.The precision strikes in such time-boxed environment proved the mettle of Pakistani air crew.
Later in Exercises Red Flag(2010-4) and Green Flag (2010-9) six F-16B of No.9 Sqn participated in interdiction role. These realistic combat training exercises saw PAF F-16s delivering using ATLIS-II as the primary weapon to delivering LGBs.
Today after 26 years of service, ATLIS is still the standard weapon of Pakistani falcons. Even after Mid Life Update (MLU) of F-16 A/B fleet of PAF, ATLIS remain mainstay weapon in PAF.

ATLIS equipped No.11 Sqn F-16B deploying air brakes after a successful training mission. Note the empty multi-ejector racks, used to carry LGBs.

A F-16 taking off with one GBU-12 LGB and ATLIS pod for a training mission.

No.9 Sqn F-16B during Exercises Red Flag 2010-4. ATLIS-II pod is visible on 5L intake station.

Air Marshal (Retd.) Nur Khan (22nd Feb, 1923 – 15th Dec 2011)

Today Pakistan Air Force (PAF) lost a great visionary leader, a superb commander, devoted soldier and a brilliant mind. Air Marshal Malik Nur Khan was born on 22nd Feb, 1923. He joined Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) in Jan, 1941. During a career that spanned over 28 years, he commanded PAF Bases Risalpur, Chaklala, Peshawar and Mauripur. He also served as Assistance Chief of Air Staff Operations (ACAS Ops).
During his tenure as Managing Director of PIA(1959-1965), he made PIA as Asia’s best airline. Long distance flights and induction of first jet engine airliner, Boeing-707 were also achieved in his time.At the prime of his career as 6th Chief of PAF (23 Jul 1965- 31 Aug 1969) Nur Khan was given the best opportunity to lead PAF in its most crucial times. During 1965 war, he personally visited PAF bases and airfields which were participating in the combat in an F-86 Sabre fighter/bomber aircraft flown by him. Making vital decisions with the Squadron commanders on the field was his biggest quality. It was his visionary leadership that made PAF able to counter all threats from three times bigger enemy.
After the 1965 war, US cut the spares and training to India and Pakistan. This decision was not much hurtful to India, which relied more on Russian arms. For Pakistan, this meant an end to most of its fleet including F-104 and F-86E/F Sabre fighter/bomber aircraft, B-57/RB-57 Bombers, T-37 and Harvad Trainer aircraft and C-130 transport aircraft. Nur Khan and his predecessor Asghar Khan began a new chapter in history of PAF by going to China for the solution. As a result of which, first batch of six F-6 fighter/bomber aircraft were inducted in PAF in December 1965. F-6 remained a mainstay aircraft in PAF for a long time.
It was also Nur Khan who decided to bring a non-US delta winged Mirage fighter/bomber aircraft in PAF. The first batch of six Mirages was delivered to PAF in 1967. Mirage is still a regular member of PAF fleet even after more than 44 years of service. Nur Khan was appointed as MD PIA for the second time in 1973. He also served as Governor of West Pakistan, President of Pakistan Hockey Federation, Pakistan Cricket Board and member of National Assembly from 1985-1988.
Even after his retirement from PAF, Nur Khan was invited to many PAF gatherings and events. He always shared words of wisdom during his lectures and discussions with young officers.
Nur Khan’s legacy will not end with his death. Whole Pakistani nation and especially PAF will always remember this great soldier that played a vital role in making PAF a formidable fighting force.
May Allah bless his soul. Amen!

AM Nur Khan sitting in F-104 Starfighter aircraft. He did a fighter conversion to this aircraft after becoming air chief of PAF.

Smiling AM Nur Khan watches Sqn Ldr M.M Alam as Field Marshal congratulate him for shooting down five Indian Air Force Hunters in one flight. (Photo was taken at Sargodha during 1965 war.)

AM Nr Khan and Wng Cdr Merven L Middlecoat (Officer Commanding No.9 Sqn) moments before a flight in F-104 aircraft.

AM Nur Khan inspecting a Mirage-IIIEP aircraft.

AM Nur Khan and AVM Zahid Anis, Air Officer Commanding Southern Air Command at PAF Base Faisal – September 1996.

AM Nur Khan (3rd from Left) along with other Ex-CAS PAF on the occasion of 50th Jubilee Celebrations of No.14 Sqn – November 1998.