JF-17 Thunder Update – 2014

Inducted in the PAF as a medium-tech combat aircraft in 2010, the JF-17 Thunder’s production has been gathering pace ever since the launch of the Block-2 standard aircraft on 18th Dec 2013. Significant improvements have been incorporated in the ‘Block-II’ variant such as a more powerful radar (KLJ-7 V2),  improved electronics package (EW pods and enhanced sensors), enhanced databus for launch of Precision-Guided-Munitions (PGM – also known as Laser-Guided-Bombs) and long range/stand-off weapons such as the Glide-guided-bomb (LS-6), strengthened wing roots to carry an additional load of up to 3000lbs and last but not the least, the only prominent external add-on; the air-to-air refueling probe (for increased range and loiter time for Combat Air Patrols).

In the recent edition of Zhuhai Air Show 2014, China, CATIC had displayed an array of new weaponry for the JF-17. As compared to the weapons package that was put on display in the previous edition, it seems clear that the PAF, which has invested a heavy capital and human resource over the last decade, wants to get ‘a lot more’ out of the Thunder Programme. The LS-6 Glide-guided-bomb, PL-5EII SRAAM, SD-10 BVRAAM, MAR-1 ARM and C-802 Anti-Ship missile, all have been tested and configured with the JF-17. Weapon testing of CM-400AKG; a 900kg Stand-Off-Missile (SOM) with an impressive range of 180 -250 km is already underway in China.

JF-17 at Zhuhai Air Show 2014, China, CATIC

JF-17 at Zhuhai Air Show 2014, China, CATIC

Weapons package of the JF-17 on display at Zhuhai Airshow 2014. Of prominence are C-802AK Anti-Ship missile (first picture – above ), GB-600 Stand-Off-Weapon (SOW) and C-102 Anti-Radiation Missile. CM-102 is a Anti-Radar Missile with range of 100km. It has high hit accuracy and a 80kg warhead. PAF has already inducted the Brazillian origin MAR-1 ARM for its JF-17 fleet.

-17 Block-II with in-flight refueling probe.

Artistic impression of JF-17 Block-II with in-flight refueling probe. The aircraft is equipped with GBU-12 LGBs and  WMD-7 Pod on centerline station with CCS marking.

Artistic impression of the JF-17 Block-II formation employing 500kg GB-6 SOW

Artistic impression of the JF-17 Block-II formation employing 500kg GB-6 SOW. GB-6 is a 500kg bomb guided with GPS/INS system. It can be used for large-scale ground targets such as vital enemy installations.

Extending the reach:

Among the only major external improvement in the Block-II standard JF-17 is the addition of an in-flight aerial refueling probe. Integration and testing work is underway at PAC (where the air-to-air refueling probe is being integrated on the starboard side of the fuselage just behind the canopy) with joint-collaboration from a South African company.  This modification shall help the JF-17 extend its range and increase its on-station time by air-air-refueling with IL-78 tankers, already in service with PAF.

Two JF-17s are being used as test beds for in-flight-refueling probes. The flight trials with IL-78 tanker are scheduled in the first half of 2015.

More Thunder inductions:

Since its formal induction in the PAF in February 2010, JF-17 has been extensively used in air-defence and fighter-training roles. As the aircraft is maturing into a potent platform with no outside ‘political strings’ attached, the PAF is at a leisure to phase-out its aging fleet of Mirage and F-7 aircraft.

PAF shall receive the long-awaited third squadron of JF-17s end of December. This time the Thunder will join the elite faculty of Combat Commanders School (CCS) where it will replace the F-7 CCS squadron. Formerly known as the Fighter Leaders School (FLS) in the late-1950s, with the expansion and modernization of the PAF there was a need felt to have a specialized institution where experienced fighter pilots could be trained not only as instructors to supervise the training programme of fighter squadrons but also to provide combat leadership in the air. In 1976 FLS was renamed Combat Commanders School (CCS) with a mission to go beyond the stated aims and objectives at the time.  Hence, the roadmap of providing fighter pilots with comprehensive courses in combat leadership and advanced fighter tactics got underway.

With two Thunder Squadron’s already operational (No.26 ‘Black Spiders’ and No.16 ‘Black Panthers’), having a CCS JF-17 Squadron as the third unit to equip the type makes sense and fits the bill for two reasons; Firstly, while the two operational squadrons can focus on ‘polishing’ their pilot skills in the air-to-air and air-to-ground arena, the advanced concepts and tactics which will be validated from the CCS’s Thunder Sqn can then be propagated professionally among the other Thunder Squadrons. Secondly, another major role of the CCS is of conducting weapons trials and surveys.

As the Chief of Air Staff ACM Tahir R Butt was quoted in Flight International (July 2014 issue – interviewed by a British military-aviation journalist Alan Warnes):

“I felt it was too much for a squadron to expect them to be operational, train pilots, visit air shows and do testing, so i split it.”

“These aircraft will bring us newer capabilities with different weapons,” Tahir says. Once the weapons testing parameters are achieved and become operationally ‘fit’ they will be incorporated into the PAF’s combat doctrine and thus help in ensuring the Thunder takes on the same role as that of the F-16, of becoming a true multi-role combat aircraft for the PAF.

CCS Mirage-III taking off from Mushaf AB

CCS Mirage-III taking off from Mushaf AB for Exercise Saffron Bandit (2013). CCS Mirages and F-7s wear high-visibility markings and have a sword painted below the canopy.

CCS bids farewell to F-6 aircraft.

CCS bids farewell to F-6 aircraft. F-7P with modern avionics and chaff/flares dispensers was inducted in the faculty in early 1993.

JF-17 Serial # 13-149 (the second last JF-17 built from first batch of 50 aircraft)

JF-17 Serial # 13-149 (the second last JF-17 built from first batch of 50 aircraft) departs Minhas Air Base for Functional Check Flight (FCF) in July 2013. The entire Block-1 production fleet of JF-17s will be upgraded in phases and brought on par with the Block-2 standard.

JF-17 leads a formation of Mirage-VEF, F-7PG, J-10 (PLAAF) and J-7E (PLAAF) aircraft in Exercise Shaheen-III

JF-17 leads a formation of Mirage-VEF, F-7PG, J-10 (PLAAF) and J-7E (PLAAF) aircraft in Exercise Shaheen-III at PAF Base Rafiqui, May 2014.

Pair of CCS F-7s prepare to taxi for Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) with No.11 Sqn F-16s.

Pair of CCS F-7s prepare to taxi for Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT)

Pair of CCS F-7s prepare to taxi for Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) with No.11 Sqn F-16s.

IDEAS 2014: report-2 Light Armoured & Personnel vehicles

During 8th edition of IDEAS International Defence Exhibition variety of Light Armoured & Personnel vehicles were displayed.  The vehicles were displayed by PAK Armouring, Land Rover/Sigma Motors and Streit group.

PAK armouring displayed Uqaab Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV), Toyota Prado & Land Cruiser SUVs with  improved protection against IED and 7.62x51mm assault rifle rounds (traditional B6 protection level).

PAK armouring Land cruiser comes with 6MM Ballistic Steel fitted in an inside doors as excess to original door panels. All original windows  are replaced with ballistic glass/polycarbonate 40MM matrix.  Vehicles original dashboard is replaced with armored panels whereas floor is replaced with  Flexible ballistic Kevlar offering protection to entire floor of the vehicle. The vehicle can absorb bomb and IED’s fragmentation.

PAK Armouring Uqaab LAV is designed to provide protection against high power rifles such as 762 x 39, 5.56 x 45, 7.62×51, M193 etc. Uqaab can support a wide range of military, police/counter-terrorism operations can perform in most difficult terrains. The vehicle provides its user protection against IED,anti-personnel mines and grenade blasts as well. The vehicle comes with roof turret, which can by utilised by employing 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine gun.

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Sigma motors Land rovers for army and grounds units

Various variants of Land Rover Defender 90 personnel carrier vehicles were showcased at IDEAS. The Defender 90 provides outstanding mobility and  all-terrain performance. The vehicles were displayed in hard-top, soft-top and pick-up variants and were marketed for law-enforcement / ground forces role.

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Streit Group showcased various vehicles for counter-terrorism/army/law-enforcement role and armour vehicles for VIP personnel. The vehicles include Toyota Parado, Land crusier, Vigo Champ and Corrola. These vehicles comes with 4mm ballistic steel on doors and front cabin armored, armour floor, Firewall protection for engine compartment etc.

Streit Group Spartan APC

Streit Group Spartan APC displayed at IDEAS’14.

Spartan 4×4 multi-functional LAV (Light Armored Vehicle)  designed to provide  Military,Police, and Tactical missions in most difficult terrains. The vehicle is based on the FORD F550 with fully re-designed and chassis. It can carry 7 – 12 personnel in armour protection and can withstand IED / ballistic attack. The vehicle can also be equipped with 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine gun or 40mm automatic grenade launcher on turret. The glass turret provides 360° view for the gunner’s position. Two small armoured windows with firing port on each side can also be employed to engage enemy.

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Range Rover Evoque

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Range Rover Evoque

IDEAS 2014 report: Part-1 – Armoured and Artillery Systems

Designation:                  SH1
Manufactured by:       NORINCO China North Industries Corp.
Country:                         China
Type:                                Armoured / Artillery system
Name:                             Self-propelled howitzer

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SH1 155mm self-propelled howitzer

SH1 155mm self-propelled howitzer, developed by China North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO) was shelved in model form at IDEAS’14. The 22 tonnes artillery system has a maximum road speed of 90km and firing range of 53 km. The SH1 is fitted with a computerized fire control system, navigation, positioning, targeting, and communications systems. It receives target information from artillery command vehicle and is complemented by meteorological radar system and 6×6 wheeled reconnaissance vehicles. For local defense against close air/ground targets, a secondary 12.7-mm machine gun is also mounted on top of the roof. SH-1 is believed to be in service with Pakistan Army and Myanmar Army.

Designation:                NORA-B52 K1
Manufactured by:       Serbian Defence Company YugoImport
Country:                       Serbia
Type:                             Armoured / Artillery system
Name:                           Self-propelled howitzer

Nora B-52K1 155mm 52 caliber self-propelled howitzer

Nora B-52K1 155mm 52 caliber self-propelled howitzer

Nora B-52K1 155mm 52 caliber self-propelled howitzer is an upgraded version of NORA-B52 KE artillery system. The system is based on 8×8 Serbian made high mobility truck with armour cabin and crew compartment and is modernised with reinforced cabin for ballistic protection. As compared to its predecessor (NORA-B52 KE system), B-52K1 comes with improved fully automatic turret (52mm artillery system), improved radar, target acquisition and communication system. In secondary role/self-protection a 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm can be mounted at the top of the crew cabin. NORA B-52K1 comes with smoke grenade launcher and automated fire-suspension system with maximum range of 41.2 km

Designation:                   T5-52
Manufactured by:         Denel Land Systems
Country:                           South Africa
Type:                                 Armoured / Artillery system
Name:                               Self-propelled howitzer

Denel Land Systems T5-52 truck mounted gun-howitzer

Denel Land Systems T5-52 truck mounted gun-howitzer

First revealed in 2002, Denel Land Systems T5-52 truck mounted gun-howitzer is capable of firing 3 rounds/minute. The artillery system has range of 41km with base bleed projectile and 55km with Velocity-enhanced Long-range Artillery Projectile (V-LAP). The system is compatible with standard NATO 155-mm ammunition. Projectiles are fed automatically onto the rammer tray from the magazine. Charge loading is semi-automatic. T5-52 can simultaneously fire up to six rounds. It is operated by 4-member crew while the loading and preparation of ammunition requires 4 additional crew members.

Designation:                  SH5
Manufactured by:        NORINCO China North Industries Corp.
Country:                          China
Type:                                 Armoured / Artillery system
Name:                               Self-propelled howitzer

SH-5 105mm self-propelled Artillery System

SH-5 105mm self-propelled Artillery System

SH-5 105mm self-propelled Artillery System is developed by NORINCO and is mounted on 6×6 truck. The truck has top speed of 100km/h and can reach over 800km. SH5 is armed with 105mm/37-calibre gun and with total capacity of carrying 40 rounds in ammunition containers. SH-5 comes with computerized fire-control system, communications system GPS navigation & targeting systems.

Designation:                  CS/SM2
Manufactured by:        NORINCO China North Industries Corp.
Country:                          China
Type:                                 Armoured / Artillery system
Name:                                self-propelled mortar (8×8 wheeled)

CS/SM2 120mm 8x8 wheeled self-propelled mortar

CS/SM2 120mm 8×8 wheeled self-propelled mortar

CS/SM2 120mm 8×8 wheeled self-propelled mortar developed by NORINCO. CS/SM2 provides quick reaction force to the battlegroup/command post/ground forces and is mainly used to support and compliment main battle tanks. In ordnance, CS/SM2 has 120mm gun-mortar, capable of firing 6-8 High Explosive rounds/min while employing its 360° moveable turret. The system only needs 4-persons crew and has cruising range of 600km. CS/SM2 mortar system can neutralise a target up to 9,500m with HE projectile and up to 8,500m with HE bomb.

Type:                               Armoured Vehicles
Designation:                  CS/SM1
Manufactured by:         NORINCO China North Industries Corp.
Country:                          China
Type:                                Armoured Vehicles
Name:                              self-propelled mortar (4×4 wheeled)

CS/SM1 is a 81mm self-propelled  rapid mortar system

CS/SM1 is a 81mm self-propelled rapid mortar system

CS/SM1 is a 81mm self-propelled  rapid mortar system developed for quick and rapid response operations. The system is mounted on 4×4 high mobility vehicle which complements the mortar system, which has high firing rate of 4 rounds / min. The vehicle has a cruising speed of 100 Km/hr and range of 6200 km/h. CS/SM1 is a lethal system for smaller battlefield primarily made to neutralise infantry troops, bunkers and enemy’s forward locations.

Designation:                        VN1A
Manufactured by:               NORINCO China North Industries Corp.
Country:                                China
Type:                                      Armoured Vehicles
Name:                                    Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carrier (8×8 wheeled)

VN1A infantry personnel carrier vehicle

VN1A infantry personnel carrier vehicle

VN1A (export name for ZBL-09 APC) is an infantry personnel carrier vehicle designed to transport infantry personnel to the battlefield. VN1, publically revealed in 2009, comes with 7.62-mm machine gun or 30mm cannon. It can also be fitted with NORINCO Red Arrow HJ-73D anti-tank guided weapon.  The vehicle has high armour steel protection  providing  effective protection  to vehicle and sitting infantry troops in general.  VN1 has maximum road speed of 100km/h and  maximum road range of up to 800km.

Designation:                        WMA301
Manufactured by:               NORINCO China North Industries Corp.
Country:                                China
Type:                                      Armoured Vehicles
Name:                                    Wheeled Tank destroying Vehicle (6×6 wheeled)

WMA301/PTL-02 Assaulter 105mm tank destroyer

WMA301/PTL-02 Assaulter 105mm tank destroyer

WMA301/PTL-02 Assaulter 105mm tank destroyer is a 6×6 wheeled vehicle designed to engage armoured vehicles, bunkers and other stationary or moving targets. The vehicle carries 60 rounds and targets while employing light spot fire control system with IR night vision and laser rangefinder input. In secondary / self protection role a 12.7mm/50-calibre anti-aircraft machinegun is mounted on the top.

Designation:                        VN-12
Manufactured by:               NORINCO China North Industries Corp.
Country:                                China
Type:                                      Armoured Vehicles
Name:                                    Tracked armoured infantry fighting vehicle

tracked armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)

tracked armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV)

NORINCO VN12 tracked armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) comes with strong armour protection, greater mobility and immense fire power. VN12  comes with one 30mm automatic cannon, one 7.62mm coaxial machine gun and two launchers for the Red Arrow 73D ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missile), one on each side of the turret. Six smoke grenade dischargers are mounted at the front of each side of turret. N12 IFV features excellent mobility and amphibious characteristics allowing it to perform in all types of terrains. N12 also has fire extinguishing/explosion suppression system, modern day navigation, positioning, electronic and laser warning sensors which enhance its battlefield survivability.

Designation:                        SR-5
Manufactured by:               NORINCO China North Industries Corp.
Country:                                China
Type:                                      Multiple launch rocket system
Name:                                    Truck mounted Multiple Rocket Launcher multiple System (MLRS)

Truck mounted Multiple Rocket Launcher multiple System (MLRS)

Truck mounted Multiple Rocket Launcher multiple System (MLRS)

NORINCO SR5 Truck-mounted Universal Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) employs two rocket pods on rear section. The SR5 can employ  220-mm and 122-mm rockets with different war heads (HE-FRAG, incendiary, smoke etc.). GPS guided rockets can also be employed for precision targeting. A standard 220-mm pod contains 6 rockets and has a range of up to 70 km. Whereas a 122-mm pod contains 20 rockets with range of up to 50 km. SR5 artillery system is a versatile combat ready system, which can employ 220-mm rocket pod and 122-mm rocket pods at same time.

Rocket pods reloading is done with the help of support crew available in nearby truck in combat zone. Each truck can carry 4 pods. Usually the unloading is carried out in place far from original firing position to avoid enemy fire.