Counter-MMRCA Strategy of PAF

Indian Air Force (IAF) has finalised the long awaited deal of 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) with Dassault, a leading aviation industry of France. Dassault will deliver 126 Rafale MMRCA to India in the next decade. The first batch of 18 aircrafts will be delivered from France. The remaining aircraft will be built in India. The $11bn (£7bn) contract is the biggest ever procurement made by the IAF. The Rafale Multirole fighter/bomber aircraft can participate in air, ground and sea operations in both short and medium ranges. In an additional multi-billion weapons package for these 126 aircraft, India will buy air-to-air and air-to-ground Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) and Joint Stand Off Weapons (JSOW). With a top speed of Mach 1.8, service ceiling of 50,000 feet and a range of 3,700km, it is no doubt a potent weapon for IAF and a threat to both China and Pakistan.

India took around five years to decide the best bidder as a mainstay aircraft for its air force. During these years, IAF conducted flight trial of Mig-35, F-16, F-18, JAS-39, Eurofighter and Rafale on different locations in India. The purpose was to look out for the lowest bidder and the most favourable combat aircraft, which will replace the aging Mig-21 fleet. As India moved forward in search for MMRCA platform, Pakistan aimed to counter India’s plans by reassessing its military doctrines of airpower and assessed the shortcomings.

India’s conventional arms build-up threatens Pakistan. The MMRCA deal is especially threatening for Pakistan because it augments India’s air power and worsens the conventional arms asymmetry between the two arch-rivals. To counter India’s increasing air power, PAF has followed a multi-pronged strategy which involves: replacing aging fleet of fighter aircraft; modernizing its existing fleet; procurement of force multipliers like Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) systems and Multirole Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft; induction of F-16C/D Block52 aircraft; and, rapid indigenous production of JF-17 Thunder. The procurement of FC-20/J-10B Multirole combat aircraft from China is a long term solution to IAF’s increasing airpower. Meanwhile, PAF is also enhancing skills of its pilots and aircrew by regularly participating in national and multinational exercises.

A decade ago, when India initiated the MMRCA project, PAF operated 250-300 combat aircraft including Chinese Origin A-5 for ground support, F-7P/PG for air superiority role, French built Mirages for surface attack/naval support and night strike role and F-16 A/B tasked with multirole operations. The Cold War era airframes, A-5, F-7 and Mirage fleet were reaching the end of their service, albeit they were overhauled at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Kamra. The immediate solution at that time was to invest in the JF-17 Thunder project. JF-17 is believed to be the replacement of A-5, F-7 and Mirage fleet of PAF. Thus far, the situation was such that India was looking out to the skies while Pakistan was facing problems even in maintaining operational readiness of its air force.

JF-17 Thunder is one of the key solutions of PAF’s problems as it provides superb air-to-air and air-to-ground weapon carrying capability at an affordable cost. Pakistan has plans to induct 150 JF-17 Thunder till 2020. The first batch of 50 JF-17s named as Block-I will finish delivery by mid-2012.  Block-II of 50 JF-17s with better avionics and aerial refuelling probe will be delivered till 2016. The third batch of 50 JF-17s with state-of-the-art avionics, electronic warfare and a wide array of weaponry will be delivered till 2020. The first two batches of JF-17 were meant to be well-timed and well-equipped replacement aircraft for A-5, F-7P and Mirage fleet. The third batch will include the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) capability, Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) capability, Infra-Red Search & Track (IRST) capability and more use of composites to reduce the radar echo. No doubt, the third batch of JF-17 will be a punch to the enemy!

Pakistan also opted for acquisition of four Saab-2000 AEW&C systems from Sweden in 2007 and procurement of four IL-78 MRTT aircraft from Ukraine. Both of these projects were scheduled to finish in late 2011/early 2012. The need of an AEW&C was strongly felt by PAF ever since Kargil War in 1999. Such aircraft are a necessary requirement in any modern day air power campaign. Presence of an AEW&C system increases the situational awareness of the fighter and bomber aircraft and yields better results in any campaign. The procurement of IL-78 MRTT aircraft was to the allow Mirage and JF-17 to carry out deep strike missions inside the enemy territory and increase loiter time of these aircraft during Combat Air Patrol (CAP) missions. Furthermore, it enhances the strategic airlift capability of PAF. IL-78 strategic tanker and transport aircraft can also be used to carry large amount of fuel, ration and equipment to remote military bases.

PAF also modernized its air defence structure by acquisition of TPS-77 High Level Radar from U.S. It enhanced its Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities with purchase of Falco Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) from Italy. It improved its F-16 fleet with purchase of 14 F-16A/B Block-15 aircraft as Excess Defence Article (EDA) from U.S. The Command, Control, Computers, Communication and Intelligence (C4I) Systems were also enhanced by upgrading the air force bases inter-communication network.

PAF also placed an order for acquisition of 18 F-16 C/D Block52 aircraft from Lockheed Martin worth $1.5 billion and $650 Million worth air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. The quantum leap achieved in this deal was the purchase of 500 AIM-120C5 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and 200 AIM-9M Sidewinder Short-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (SRAAM), which was necessary to maintain the air superiority.  This was the first time that PAF has been given the opportunity to purchase AIM-120 Beyond Visual Range (BVR) weapons.  In a separate $1.5 billion worth contract, PAF placed an order for up-gradation of 45 F-16 A/B fleet to Mid Life Upgrade (MLU) standard. This contract meant extension of service life of these aircraft for another two decades. The first batch of these MLU F-16s will be handed over to PAF in early February 2012.

During the past five year period PAF has participated in various multinational exercises to assess the training standards and skills of Pakistani pilots and crew. Table 1 shows the name, location and year of these exercises:

Exercises Location Year
Anatolian Eagle Turkey 2006, 2007, 2008,2009, 2009
Advance Tactical Leadership Course UAE 2006 and 2011
Al-Saqoor Saudi Arabia 2006 and 2011
Brightstar Egypt 2009
Iron Eagle UAE 2009
Falcon Air Meet Jordan 2010
Red Flag United States 2010-4
Green Flag United States 2010-9
Indus Viper Pakistan 2008
Falcon Talon Pakistan 2005 and 2009
Saffron Bandit Pakistan 2009
High Mark Pakistan 2005 and 2010
Shaheen-I Pakistan 2011

Table 1: Exercises in which PAF participated since 2005.

In all these exercises PAF pilots have flown with the world’s highly advanced combat aircraft which include USAF’s F-15 & F-22, French Air Force’s Rafale, Italian Air Force’s Eurofighter-2000, UAEAF F-16 Block60 and Mirage-2000-9, RSAF F-15C, PLAAF Su-27SK and various blocks of F-16 from TUAF, RJAF and USAF. Apart from interaction with military aviation professionals, these exercises gave PAF the opportunity to learn from the experience of other fighting forces.

Exercise High Mark is the biggest national exercise conducted every five years to assess the operational readiness of PAF. In High Mark 2010, PAF not only demonstrated its network-centric capabilities but also conducted Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and Within Visual Range (WVR) air combat missions, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), close support, air-to-air refuelling and strategic airlift missions.

In late 2010, Pakistan acquired Electronic Warfare Tactical Training Range (EWTTR) from Turkey. This range located 31 miles (50kms) from Mushaf Airbase, Sargodha was made operational in early 2011. It has been used to monitor various fighter squadrons competing against each other in a simulated electronic warfare combat. This range provides much electronic warfare combat, anti-radar and radar-avoiding techniques to the pilots. Another range named Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) is also present at Sargodha, where pilots learn the lessons of modern day air combat and fly against aggressor units of Combat Commanders School (CCS). Both of these ranges complement each other by providing simulated air combat and electronic warfare training platform to pilots.

While the prices of fighter aircraft and necessary equipment from the West were going sky high, the only solution for PAF was to hold the Chinese helping hand. After analysing JS-39 Gripen, Rafale and Eurofighter, PAF decided to pick the Chinese card by going for J-10 Vanguard Multirole aircraft. The initial plan was to buy 36 J-10A and equip fighter squadrons as early as possible. As India delayed the results of MMRCA, PAF had no choice but to allow its adversary to decide first. During these years, Chengdu developed much proficient version of J-10 named J-10B. J-10B (named FC-20 for PAF) will provide deep strike capability, greater range and air combat capabilities to PAF. The aircraft will be equipped with IRST, modern day BVRs, Precision Guided Munitions (PGM), Anti-Shipping Missile (ASM) and Anti-Radar Missiles (ARM). Induction of up to 50 FC-20 will complement the JF-17, F-7PG, F-16 MLU and F-16 Block52 fleet. The deployment of IL-78 Airborne Aerial Refuelling (AAR) platform will enhance range and strike radius of both JF-17 and FC-20 aircraft.

The counter MMRCA strategy of PAF also includes up-gradation of network centric capabilities by the procurement of ZDK-03 and Saab-2000 AEW&C systems. One out of four ZDK-03 is already delivered to PAF while the other will be received in mid-2012. Three out of four Saab-2000 AEW&C are in service with PAF, the fourth and the last one will be received this year. These two types of AWACS will provide strategic edge to both Western and Chinese origin aircraft in PAF’s inventory.

Rafale will be the mainstay of IAF in future. To deny the Indian air superiority in the region, PAF has to remain vigilant and continue with its diligent efforts for impregnable defence of the country.

Looking at the aforementioned procurement and squadrons re-equipment plans it is evident that PAF has invested great time and effort in implementing the counter-MMRCA strategy. This will make an efficient and hard hitting air force…an air force that will augment the defence of Pakistan and make PAF second to none among the world’s best fighting forces.

This article was published in The Weekly Pulse, Islamabad on February 24, 2012.

JF-17 Thunder’s Aerodynamic Configuration

JF-17 Thunder – All round view                                         Chapter 2 : JF-17 Thunder’s Aerodynamic Configuration

Air Inlets Design:


The Divert-less Supersonic Inlets DSI’s relatively small size helps in reducing the radar cross section thus help in decreasing the radar cross section of the aircraft. Safety markings for ground crew are also visible on both sides of the intake.

A detailed view of JF-17 radome, antennas and air inlets.


JF-17 uses BUMP intake technology, which provides enhanced performance to the aircraft. The presence of various cooling points above the intake increases the airflow through the aircraft.

A close up of electronics bay cooling air inlet (present on the intake BUMP). The prominence area is ground cooling point. During ground testing aircraft is connected to ground cooling unit, which keeps the aircraft components from getting hot.

Leading Edge Root Extension (LERX) :

A close up of Leading Edge Root Extension (LERX) of the JF-17. LERX provides great lift to the aircraft and enhances the high Angle of Attack (AOA) maneuvering of the aircraft.

Forward ailerons and backward flaperons:

A view of forward ailerons of JF-17, when aircraft is on the ground these leading wing edges face few degrees downward. Just like LERX, they also provide more lift to the aircraft.

A complete view of JF-17’s wing, with PL-5E II missile on its tip.

JF-17 has fowler flaperons, which bend down to increase the amount of drag. They blend with the wing, forming one large surface hence increasing the lift.

A JF-17 photo with ailerons and flaperons labeled. A JF-17 piloted by Wing Commander Khalid Mehmood lifts off during the Zhuhai Air Show in 2010. The Chinese photographers did an outstanding job in capturing the Thunder.

Twin Ventral Fins:

Two ventral fins are located under the rear fuselage and flaps joint. These fins increase the maneuverability of the aircraft. During greater weapon load take off and loose handling, these fins serve as the last option to save the aircrafts rearward belly from hitting the ground. The area along the side of fuselage is coated with Radar Absorbing Material (RAM), which decreases the radar signature of the aircraft. JF-17 is one of the fewest aircraft with smaller visual/IR and radar signature.


JF-17 Thunder’s radome/nose design

JF-17 Thunder – All round view                                                           Chapter 1 : JF-17 Thunder’s radome/nose design


KLJ-7 radar is housed inside the cone of the aircraft. KLJ-7 is a multi-mode Pulse Doppler (PD) radar, with beyond visual range, close-air to air and ground surveillance modes. The radar can display 40 targets within its field of view and is capable of tracking up to 10 targets in the Track While Scan (TWS) mode. Two of them can be fired upon at the same time. KLJ-7 has five modes in Air-to-Air and six modes in Air-to-Surface, in the latter two dedicated modes for sea are also included.

A close view of KLJ-7 radar.

A radar compartment of JF-17, waiting in the assembly lines to receive a KJL-7.


The radome of JF-17 contains electricity closure, used to scatter electricity that could cause malfunction in working of KLJ-7 multi mode radar and other sensors. Radome is not painted, it has a special neoprene coating which reduces Radar cross section (RCS) and absorbs radar echo. During the service of an aircraft over the years, radome wears same grey colour coating and receives no paint unlike rest of the parts of the aircraft. The words ‘DO NOT PAINT’ or ‘NO PAINT’ are generally visible on it. Such words are meant for understanding of ground crew, responsible for maintenance of the aircraft.




A close up of electricity closure vanes present on the radome to scatter electricity. Six of such vanes are present on the radome which houses KLJ-7 radar.

AOA Antennas:

On the both sides of radome are the Angle of Attack (AOA) antennas, used to provide AOA values to aircraft’s computer. Based on these values, computer itself decides the direction and angle of aircraft’s cone under the set values of maximum high AOA maneuvering. Expressions like  ‘NO TOUCH’ or ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ are found near these antennas.


AOA antennas are present on both sides of radome.

DADS, AIFF, Radar altimeter and Navigational antennas:

Distributed Air Data System (DADS) antenna is present on the starboard side of aircraft, just ahead of the cockpit. It gives information about atmospheric pressure, temperature etc to the aircraft computer.

DADS antenna with ‘NO GRIP’ markings around it.


Seen above is the Advanced Identification of Friend or Foe (AIFF) antenna. AIFF reads signatures of aerial and ground targets and relays results to the computer, which display its findings as friend or foe to the pilot. The AIFF has full 360º Coverage and is can operate under 22km height.

Radar altimeter antenna is present on the both sides of the radome. It provides precise Air to Ground Level (AGL) information to the KLJ-7 radar housed inside aircraft’s cone.


Left photo: Close up of Radar altimeter antenna. Right photo: Both Air data and Radar altimeter antennas.


Two Ultra High Frequency / Very High Frequency  (UHF/VHF ) antennas are present under the AOA antennas and above the upper fuselage. Both these antennas are used in combination with UHF antenna present on the tail housing. Both these upper and lower antennas are used for radio communication between aircraft(s) and ground controller/air traffic controller.

GPS antenna and Navigational antennas are visible on the top of aircraft’s fuselage.

External canopy opening door:

Seen in above photo is an external canopy opening button with its operating procedure mentioned too. This button is present  under the cockpit’s port side.  The Rescue arrow points to the door containing canopy jettison cable.


JF-17 Thunder – All round view

JF-17 Thunder – All round view

JF-17 Thunder is the emerging Multirole fighter in the world. The dream of a multirole aircraft, was placed on paper more than two decades ago under the name of project Super Sabre-II. Later in 2003, it was renamed to Joint Fighter- 17(JF-17 Thunder). Since the first flight of its prototype in 2003, JF-17/FC-1 has surpassed 10,000 hrs marks recently in November 2011. 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.

A great number of articles and photos on JF-17 are present on internet. Countless writings are also uploaded. The purpose of writing this short book on JF-17, is to provide authentic and factual information about the capabilities offered in the JF-17. This book will provide detailed information about various sensors, avionics, cockpit, aerodynamic design and weapon carrying capability of JF-17.

This book will be uploaded in 8 chapters, following is their contents.

Chap :1 JF-17 Thunder’s radome/nose design

  • Radar
  • AoA Antennas
  • DADS, AIFF, Radar altimeter and Navigational antennas
  • External canopy opening door

Chap:2 Aerodynamic Configuration

  • Air inlets design
  •  Leading edge root extension (LERX)
  • Forward ailerons
  • Backward flaperons
  • Twin ventral Fins

Chap:3 Middle Fuselage

  • Fuel cells on fuselage
  • Gun
  • Navigational lights
  • Baggage compartment
  • Jet Fuel Starter (JFS) point

Chap:4 JF-17 Cockpit

  • Cockpit illustration
  • Stick & right aux control panel
  • Front instrumentation panel and Multi Functional Displays
  • Heads Up Display
  • HUD, Digital video recorder and Cockpit audio recorder
  • JF-17 simulator
  • Ejection seat

Chap:5 JF-17 avionics

  • JF-17’s Weapon and Mission Management Computer
  • Avionics tool kit (rugged laptop)
  • Avionics shelve

Chap:6 JF-17  Threat warning system, tail housing & drogue chute

  • Chaff/flare dispensers
  • Tail housing with MAWS, UHF and electrostatic energy dispensers
  • Drogue chute section, Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and tail navigational light

Chap:7 JF-17 Landing Gears, Engine, Air Brakes and Horizontal Stabilizers

  • Landing Gears
  • Air brakes
  • Horizontal stabilizers
  • RD-93 Engine
  • RD-93 Engine exhaust and its states

Chap:8 JF-17 Weapon load

  • Weapons Rails/hard points
  • External fuel stations
  • Load diagrams