IL-78 Strategic Tanker and Transport aircraft in photo

Recently PAF has taken the delivery of fourth and last Il-78 Multi-Role Tanker and Transport(MRTT) aircraft. These aircraft are capable of refueling two aircraft at a time, and can carry up to 85,720 kg(188,977 lb) of fuel.  The details of its role in PAF was discussed in the previous article, this post will focus on its photos only.

Following pictures were taken during Exercise High Mark 2010. In this exercise air-refueling flight trails of IL-78 and Mirage-III aircraft were successfully conducted.


JF-17 Thunder’s Threat warning system, tail housing & drogue chute

JF-17 Thunder – All round view                                         Chapter 6 : JF-17 Thunder’s Threat warning system, tail housing & drogue chute

Chaff and flare dispensers:

The chaffs are used against radar-guided threats, i.e. Surface to Air Missiles (SAM) or interceptor aircraft whereas the flares are for infrared threat and heat seeking missiles such as enemy aircraft or Man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS). In JF-17, the Chaff/flare dispensers are located under the ventral fins. Around 100 chaffs/flares can be carried at one time. The chaff/flare load out depends upon mission planning (mainly mission type/formation/load out etc). Using 5-10 chaffs/flares in one bundle will increase their usage to up to 10 times.

Chaff/flare dispensers are visible just after the air brakes and before the engine exhaust. Inside the cockpit the threat management system is located in the left auxiliary panel which directly manages its usage.

The JF-17s delivered to PAF till 2008 had no chaff/flare dispensers installed in them. Seen in above photos a specially marked JF-17 (Sr.# 07-101) flying during 23rd March parade 2007 with no chaffs/flares installed and an operational No.16 Sqn JF-17 at Dubai Air show 2011 with visible signs of chaffs/flares box installation.

Tail housing of JF-17 Thunder:

The top of the tail housing contains Missile air warning sensors (MAWS), a navigational light, Ultra High Frequency (UHF) communication antenna and two electrostatic energy dispensers. MAWS are a part of self-defense electronic countermeasure system of the aircraft and work in collaboration with other sensors present in the frontal section of nose. The navigational light blinks repeatedly during landing and takeoffs.

Two electrostatic energy dispensers are visible on to top and rear bottom position of tail housing. They are used to disperse unwanted electricity to the air, which can cause problem in communication and navigation. A total of four similar electricity dischargers are also present on flaperons and horizontal stabilizers. These electricity dischargers deflect any lightning strike, making aircraft invulnerable to such extreme weather situations.

Present under the squadron emblem is the flight control & communication antenna, used to record flight control information from rudder, horizontal stabilizers and VHF/UHF communication.

Drogue chute section:

The rear tail section contains a drogue chute section, Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and tail navigational light. Inset photo; the outward curved portion with a circular center houses the RWR system. The drogue chute section contains a breaking parachute used to decrease aircraft airspeed during landing. A landing without use of drogue chute is also possible, but it will require minimum amount of thrust, low airspeed, timely braking and equally good handling techniques.

The bottom portion of the drogue chute section contains a door lock, which is used to add/remove drogue chute in it. Necessary air crew related warning messages are also written on it.

A JF-17 moments after deploying drogue chute. Note the opened drogue chute section with hollow space.

Another close up of the empty drogue chute section with opened drogue chute door. The drogue chute is automatically disconnected from the aircraft and drops on the runway. An “all time standby” drogue chute collector team picks it up soon before any other aircraft lands at the runway.

JF-17 Thunder’s Landing Gears, Engine, Air Brakes and Horizontal Stabilizers

JF-17 Thunder – All round view                                         Chapter 7 : JF-17 Thunder’s Landing Gears, Engine, Air Brakes and Horizontal Stabilizers

JF-17 Landing Gears:


Pictures of front landing gear of JF-17, the design is flexible enough to sustain hard landing with immense weapon load. Two large lights mounted on its top, enhances the pilot’s field of view during takeoff and landings at night.

Top Left and Right: View of Rear landing gears

Bottom Left: Close up of both rear landing gears designed to carry additional weight and to become helpful in making safe landing with high configuration of weapon load.

Bottom Right: Notice the position of landing gear boxes & gear doors. They are exact behind the air inlets, hence making no hurdles in airflow.

Air brakes:

JF-17 air brakes are located on each side of the rear fuselage section. These highly responsive air brakes are capable of stopping the aircraft within 825m.

The petals of JF-17 air brakes open in outward position, increasing the amount of drag which helps in decreasing airspeed.  The air brakes are controlled by the hydraulics system of the aircraft, which also controls the landing gear boxes.

Horizontal Stabilizers:

A close up view of the horizontal stabilizers of JF-17. Electricity dischargers can be seen on edges of horizontal stabilizers on both sides.

RD-93 Engine & exhaust:

JF-17 Thunder has a modified RD-33 engine capable of producing 79-98kN of thrust.

The inside view of RD-93 engine’s exhaust.  Note the afterburner detail and the shades of fuel burning generated on the outward areas of the exhaust.

Engines exhaust states:

The exhaust at the idle state with no or less power.

The exhaust contracts with considerable amount of power applied to the engine.

JF-17 Thunder on the takeoff roll.  The exhaust is at the final afterburner state, with maximum power. RD-93 produces 8795 kg (19,391 lb) of thrust. Another engine WS-13 is undergoing flight trails at Chengdu, it has greater probability of becoming a part of JF-17 in future.


Role of strategic tanker in PAF

The Air-to-Air refuelling (AAR) became a norm in air operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. During air operations in recent Afghanistan/Iraq missions, the U.S. and its allies had continuous support of airborne air-to-air refuelling platforms and logistic support from U.S. bases in the Middle East. Logistics and supply challenges were not faced during mission planning and operations of these conflicts. But this is not the same case each time. War plans are made in the worst case scenarios—running out of gas, shortage of supply, unavailability of resources at the crucial time. These setbacks cause forces to change from offensive role to defensive.

The operations conducted by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in past six decades had been mostly against fixed and pre-planned targets. These pre-planned targets have a scheduled time-on-target depending upon the mission planning. The surface attack missions conducted on the Indian Air Force (IAF) bases during 1965 and 1971 wars are two such examples. During the precision air strike missions conducted in FATA/South Waziristan in recent times, ‘On-call’ targeting was achieved in time sensitive environments. In these operations, the Air Force conducted precision strikes on the request of ground forces operating in the area. These missions did not require the use of air borne AAR platforms.

Even in the past, the PAF felt the need to have longer on-station time for its fighter aircraft. To increase the operational range of these aircraft, the PAF in 1980s, improvised the design of F-6 (Mig-19) aircraft by the addition of Gondola fuel tank. It was mounted under the lower fuselage/centreline station of the aircraft.

For a fighter squadron, maintaining operational readiness of its aircraft during a long distance mission is an absolute necessity. If a formation of such aircraft runs out of fuel, their replacement is mandatory. Two things can be done to address this issue: one, availability of replaceable and operational aircraft from the nearest airbase; two, addition of external fuel stations, during weapon loading, to enhance the range of the aircraft. However, external fuel tanks add noticeable amount of drag in performance of the aircraft. The drag factor decreases the agility and performance during flight.

The aircraft in interceptor role, such as scrambled in case of an imminent threat aircraft—vectored to a nearest destination, requires little or no external fuel. On the other hand, the use of external fuel stations is mandatory for an aircraft on long-distance Combat Air Patrol (CAP) or long-distance training mission.

Limited fuel scenario of fighter aircraft:

Now consider a scenario of a fighter aircraft participating in an offensive/counter-offensive operation during a conflict: the aircraft has been in the air for a long period of time. Either it has to return to base, refuel and be airborne again or it has to ask for aerial refuelling.

Without getting refuelled, accomplishing desired objectives under a vulnerable airspace or over enemy territory is difficult to achieve. In case of any imminent threat from ground or air, the pilot has to jettison its external fuel stations to achieve a low-drag and agile configuration. If his aircraft is with smaller amount of fuel then returning home safely with appropriate fuel reserves is the only prayer a fighter pilot needs!

In present day air defence operations, fighter aircraft are flown to patrol both long and medium distance sectors. Their patrol is in collaboration with Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) systems and ground based air defence assets. The farther the patrolling position is from its operating base, the more will be the fuel requirements. To provide continuous air defence coverage, constant patrolling is required.

A solution to this ‘shorter leg’ patrol problem is deployment of an AAR tanker aircraft. Aircraft with good amount of available fuel can be vectored towards the patrolling fighter aircraft, which can continue combat patrol till their replacements arrive.

PAF current fleet & AAR needs:

Today PAF operates a mixture of U.S built F-16 Fighting Falcon, Chinese built F-7P/PG, Pak-China’s JF-17 and French built Mirage-III/V aircraft. Acquisition of two squadrons of FC-20/J-10 multirole fighter/bomber aircraft from China is also under discussion since past few years. According to the modernization doctrine of PAF, F-7P and most of Mirage-III/V aircraft will eventually be replaced by JF-17 Thunder till 2015/2016. F-7PG will be used in air superiority role, hence operating in the friendly skies with shorter legs most of the times. Two squadrons of ROSE-III upgraded Mirage-V aircraft will be the backbone of PAF in deep strike and night strike operations till the arrival of FC-20/J-10 aircraft.

IL-78 MRTT & its role in PAF:

In late 2009, PAF received first IL-78 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft from Ukraine. The fourth and last IL-78 was delivered to PAF in late 2011. The acquisition of these mid-air refuellers turned a new leaf in the PAF’s book of air operations. IL-78 MRTT has a hose drogue refuelling system with a capacity of carrying 85,720 kg(188,977 lb)fuel. It has four turbofan engines, each of which is capable of delivering 118 kN (26,500 lbs) thrust. It has the capability to refuel two aircraft at one time but aerial refuelling probe in the recipient aircraft is a pre-requisite. It can be used in both tanker and transport role too.

In 2010, PAF procured 30 refuelling probes from South Africa for its ROSE upgraded Mirage fleet. The flight trials of IL-78MP with Mirage aircraft were conducted in Exercise High Mark 2010. PAF has plans to integrate retractable aerial refuelling probe in the second block of JF-17 Thunder aircraft, whose production will commence from mid-2012.

PAF also operates a fleet of 63 F-16s. The Block-15 F-16 A/B fleet is undergoing modernization program known as Mid Life Update (MLU), which will enhance the service of these aircraft till next two decades. The acquisition of boom-type mid-air refueller for these aircraft came under discussion in the past, but it was declined in favour of F-16C/D Block52 aircraft with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT) and JF-17 aircraft. PAF F-16s have also conducted in-flight refuelling missions with USAF KC-135 and KC-10 tankers in various multi-national exercises, but procurement of an F-16 specific boom type refueller is currently not on the list.

The Pak-China JF-17 will be the mainstay aircraft in PAF for a very long time. It has loiter time of over 3 hours and strike range of 1,352km (730nm). For it to become a point defence fighter, addition of an aerial refuelling probe is a necessary requirement. Refuelling and continuing the mission will not only increase the on-station time of these aircraft, but it will also help PAF in maintaining its operational readiness level.

The induction of strategic tanker aircraft will enhance endurance and range of the fighter fleet, allowing these aircraft to patrol for much longer time or strike deep inside the enemy territory. Furthermore, it also enhances the strategic airlift capability of PAF. It can also be used as a Forward Air Refuelling Point (FARP), providing greater loiter time to the fighter aircraft. In-flight refuelling to a considerably large package will meet various operational needs of PAF. These aircraft can also be deployed to a remote base along with small number of fighter aircraft. Such deployment can itself operate as an autonomous fighting unit. IL-78 Strategic tanker and transport aircraft can also be used to carry large amount of fuel, ration and equipment to remote army stations. Their use for carrying military personnel, vehicles and tanks could prove to be a game changer in any situation. Such economy of effort, better performance and multi-mission profile under one package makes IL-78 as both strategic AAR and strategic airlift platform.

In 1980s, PAF improvised the design of F-6 (Mig-19) aircraft by the addition of under-belly Gondola fuel tank. The purpose was to increase range of these aircraft.

A ROSE-I upgraded Mirage-III formation and IL-78 MRTT during mid-air refuelling trials in Exercise High Mark 2010. PAF has procured four such mid-air refuelling platforms.

PAF F-16s en route to USA for participation in Exercise Red Flag 2010 is being refuelled by a USAF KC-135 tanker over Atlantic Ocean. The acquisition of boom-type mid-air refueller for these aircraft came under discussion in the past, but it was declined in favour of F-16C/D Block52 aircraft with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT) and JF-17 aircraft.

This article was published in The Weekly Pulse, Islamabad on April 06, 2012 .

Maintenance Programs of Pakistani Falcons

Pakistan Air Force (PAF) inducted F-16 Fighting Falcon in January 1983. This provided a quantum leap to the PAF. It was PAF’s first experience of handling such a modern day fighter aircraft. From 1986 to 1988 F-16s participated in air defence missions carried out in Afghan War (1979-1988). F-16s played a vital role in guarding the western borders of Pakistan from Soviet/Afghan intruding aircraft. During the war PAF flew a total of 10,939 sorties and logged 13,275 hours.
This extreme usage of F-16s in the start of its career raised serious questions about its service life in coming decades. PAF went for development of in-house facilities for maintenance and overhaul of F-16 components. A F-16 Upgrade Cell was established at Sargodha Air Base. This cell was capable of performing depot level structural and avionics related modifications in the F-16s. These modifications include Operational Capability Upgrade (OCU), 479 Bulk Head Replacement Module and Wing box modifications.
In 1989, Mirage Rebuild Factory (MRF) at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Kamra was assigned the task of overhauling the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbofan engine that powers the F-16 fleet in PAF service. The F-16’s structural modifications were made in engine, fuselage, ailerons and flaps. These structural modifications were a part of its type extension program. Reinforcement plates were also added on the fuselage to strengthen the structural integrity of the F-16s, thus extending its service life.
MRF has also upgraded the F100 engine from 200 to 220E configuration. The -220Econfiguration provides better performance and greater reliability. Up to 26 modifications were made in F-100 engines modules including fan, engine core, fuel nozzles, gearbox, high pressure turbine…etc
Improvement in the service life of various F-100 modules is as follows:

Fan Module 1800-4000 Hours
Core Module 4000 Hours
 Turbine 3500 Hours
Augmentor Module 4000 Hours
Gearbox Module 4000 Hours

The repair, up-gradation and overhaul of F-100 Engine, replacement of wing and fuselage fuel cells are also carried out by MRF. MRF has been certified for aircraft painting and de-painting as well.The F-16’s avionics, structuraland engine related modifications allowed the PAF to maintain a high level of readiness despite U.S. sanctions and arms embargo from the West and did not hamper the operational preparedness of the fighting force during both times of peace and war.
Over the years,F-16s have participated in various multinational exercises around the globe. The devoted ground crew has always ensured the combat ready status of these falcons. F-16s participation in counter insurgency operations in Global War on Terror are the recent example of their combat record.

In June 2009, PAF, Lockheed Martin and United States Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) signed a contract of Mid Life Update (MLU) of these F-16s. Under this program, TAI will upgrade 41 F-16 A/B Block-15E aircraft at the TAI facility in Ankara, Turkey. It will also provide training to PAF technicians and engineers on MLU F-16s. After getting the MLU, these aircraft will be a mainstay aircraft in PAF for at least two decades. PAF will use these modified F-16s as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen the defence of Pakistan.

A F-16B with structural reinforcement plate visible on its fuselage. Inset is close up of a structural reinforcement plate.

A F-16 fuselage without structural reinforcement plates.

F100-PW-220/-220E Cutaway View (Newest Configuration) [P&W graphic]

F-100 engine undergoing testing.

Engineers working on F-100 power plant at MRF facility. The F-100 modules repair/overhaul consists of Inlet Fan Module (IF), Fan Drive Turbine (FDT) Module, Core Module, Gearbox Module, and High Pressure Turbine Module (HPT).

F-16A undergoing painting at aircraft painting facility, MRF.

An example of neat paint job done.


JF-17 Thunder’s Avionics

JF-17 Thunder – All round view                                         Chapter 5 : JF-17 Thunder’s Avionics

JF-17’s Weapon and Mission Management Computer:

The creation of Weapon and Mission Management Computer (WMMC) was a critical task. The design have to be made in such a way that will allow the pilot to bring the aircraft to its limits with a complete confidence of getting the control back from the aircraft at his will.

JF-17 has Type 634 quadruplex  digital Fly-By-Wire (FBW) for pitch axis and duplex analog FBW in roll axis. The maximum G and maximum Angle-of-Attack (AOA) values are set at limited values for different levels of flight. During a deep stall, 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.

At higher speeds the pitch rate is automatically limited to avoid overstressing the airframe. Similarly, value for maximum G is also set to 8.5g. The aircraft uses MIL-STD-1553 bus for Data transfer an MIL-STD-1760 for weapon interface.

Its basically one main Weapon and Mission Management Computer (WMMC). It has sub modules like Fire Control Computer (FCC), Environment Control System (ECS), threat  management system etc. JF-17 has Type  quadruplex digital Fly-By-Wire (FBW) for pitch axis and duplex analog FBW in roll axis. Means one is automatic and other is manual.

JF-17’s cockpit modules including Radar Warning Receiever (RWR), Optical Electronic Self Protection (OESP) system, Inertial Navigation System (INS), Identification of Friend or Foe (IFF), Stores Management System (SMS), Weapon and Mission Management Computer (WMMC).

Avionics tool kit (rugged laptop):

Seen above is a rugged laptop used as a portable maintenance aid to maintain avionics of the aircraft. The maintenance aid provides e-manuals , data analysis tool kit and aircraft configuration information. The technicians views graphical representations of weapon configuration before clearing the aircraft for flight. Depending upon each mission, operational needs can be visualized before loading the aircraft. Errors and discrepancies between observed values and actual values are displayed in it as well. This toolkit provides efficient means of locating cause of Malfunction (MAL) messages during loading the aircraft.

JF-17 Test and Evaluation (T&E) team analyzing the aircraft data in multiple rugged laptops connected to the avionics compartment of the aircraft.

Avionics shelve:

JF-17 crew working on the avionics shelve above the starboard air intake. The yellow wires are attached to the avionics data unit, which are downloaded in a rugged laptop for further analysis.

JF-17 Thunder’s Cockpit

JF-17 Thunder – All round view                                         Chapter 4 : JF-17 Thunder’s Cockpit

JF-17 Cockpit:

The man-machine interface of JF-17 Thunder is kept very simple and flexible at the same time too. The cockpit consists of three Multi functional displays (MFDs) supported by a smart Heads Up Display (HUD). The symbology and functionality of the controls is kept very much similar to SAAB’s Gripen aircraft – an aircraft evaluated by PAF in the past. Implementation of HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) is visible in the design. The commonalty of the cockpit helps in decreasing time and training costs thus making a speedy fighter conversion to the aircraft.

Cockpit illustration:

A detailed labeled illustration of JF-17 cockpit.

Stick & right auxiliary control panel:

JF-17’s stick with buttons for weapon release (red one), missile override (top right), display management (top-left), countermeasures management (front bottom). Options included on the other side of stick are communication switch, air-to-ground mode selection, trigger, cursor control etc.

The right auxiliary control panel includes various types of sensors information including secondary voice communication panel, avionics power management, aircraft data storage and transfer management, cockpit lights management and HUD management options.

A labeled picture of JF-17’s Integrated Control Panel (ICP), data entry display and Multi Functional Displays (MFD). JF-17’s cockpit has three 6X8 inch wide MFDs. The information displayed on all these MFDs is interchangeable and pilot can easily switch information among them.

JF-17’s Man Machine Interface (MMI) with three MFDs, throttle and stick.

Heads Up Display:

A labeled picture of JF-17’s Heads Up Display (HUD). The symbology and functionality of the controls is kept very much similar to SAAB’s Gripen aircraft.

HUD, Digital video recorder and Cockpit audio recorder:

A close up of front instrumentation panel that includes Smart Heads Up Display(S-HUD), cockpit audio recorder and Airborne Video Tape Recorder (AVTR). The elevated design of this panel also helps in decreasing the sun flare from entering the cockpit.

An AVTR camera is located in the front of the instrumentation panel. AVTR includes a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) which has four video channels and one audio channel. DVR receives videos from MFD, Targeting/Navigation pod and stores it all in a data cartridge capable of storing upto 64GB of data. Later in mission debriefs, this data is discussed and analyzed for further mission planning.

JF-17 simulator:

In present day, simulator based training have been widely used around the globe. It not only saves time but also provide much training opportunities to trainee pilots in a simulated real world scenario. In past eight years of JF-17 program, all pilots have used simulator for conversion onto this aircraft. The development of dual seat fighter/trainer version of JF-17 is under discussion too.

A good simulator has to be realistic as much as it can be done. In different stages of pilot training they are asked to wear helmet, oxygen mask, gloves, g-suit etc. Various real life flight emergencies, false alarms on radar and threats are simulated during his training flights. The final stage is the real combat scenario, where he faces enemy, leads a formation, fulfills given objectives in specified time and handles in flight emergencies too.

All of the above mentioned scenarios are performed by the student with no help from the instructor. If he is eligible enough he gets a flight in the real aircraft or his deficiencies are specified, improvements are suggested and he is given another chance to fly simulator again. Failing to meet up with the defined standards means any end of student’s conversion on JF-17 Thunder.

The good thing in JF-17 programme, is that the people who have involved in building the airplane have also documented its operating procedures, lessons and testing procedures too.

Ejection seat:

JF-17 uses a zero/zero Martin Baker PK-16LE ejection seat. In early 2008, PAF signed a contract with Martin Baker for accusation of 50 PK16LE MK16 zero/zero ejection seats. The Chinese  ejection seats (TY-6)  of earlier SBP examples (07-101 to 108) were also replaced with PK16LE seats. The response of PK-16LE ejection even at various altitude and immense angles has saved lots of precious lives. In the past, PAF had installed Martin Baker ejection seats in F-6, Mirage, F-7P and F-7PG aircraft as well.

PK-16LE MK16 ejection seat also has an ejection sequencer, which manages the separation time of ejection seat and parachute of the ejectee pilot. The main features of PL-16LE MK16 are the rearward firing headbox, leg restraints and enhanced cushions. Beneath the seat cushions are the pilot’s survival kit which includes a rescue flares, small boat, medicine, food and some other accessories.

The 30 degree inclined seat, gives a 1G tolerance to the pilot. Seen on both sides of ejection seat are the warning notes for the aircraft crew. Words like ‘DANGER – DONOT PULL HANDLE’ are often found on it. Located in its rear are the oxygen cylinders and under it are the rockets that propel the ejection of seat in the air.


JF-17 Thunder’s Middle Fuselage

JF-17 Thunder – All round view                                         Chapter 3 : JF-17 Thunder’s Middle Fuselage

Fuel Cells:

Fuel cells are visible on the fuselage of a specially painted JF-17.

Another close up of fuel sections on JF-17 fuselage. The aircraft can carry a total of 2330 kg (5,130 lb)of fuel in fuselage and wings. To enhance more range, an 800 litre droptank can be mounted on the aircraft’s center line station and two 800 or 1100 litre droptanks can also be mounted on the two inboard under-wing pylons.


JF-17 has one multi barreled 20mm GSU-23 gun, mounted under the port air inlet. The ammo box present adjacent to the gun, which is capable of holding up to 250 20mm bullets.

The side view of JF-17’s gun. Note various points to keep the barrel cool during rapid use.

Navigation lights:


Navigation lights are present on both sides of intakes near the RESCUE marking. Similar lights are also present on both sides of the wing too.

A JF-17 moments after takeoff, four navigational lights are visible on intake and wings.

Baggage compartment :

Each year different fighter squadrons are deputed to remote air fields/airbases as a part of their operational readiness training. During such deployments 4-6 aircraft are flown, with a bunch of air crew and aircraft spares  in supporting transport aircraft. In such out of station deployments, transportation of related equipment is mandatory. Some necessary pilot related luggage (including ration, electronic equipment, maps and rescue items) are carried by the same fighter aircraft itself. For e.g. F-16s around the globe use MXU-648 baggage pod to carry such items. MXU-648 occupies one pylon, it could be pylon 3/7 or centerline pylon 5. Baggage pods are also used in air ferry missions, air show and exercises deployments.

In JF-17, a baggage section is made behind the port side intake. Air crew inserts luggage in this dedicated compartment and then close it by tightening the screws. After reaching the desired location, air crew opens the same section and extracts the baggage. Such salient feature s embedded in its design will allow attachment of more weapons on either side of the wing. Needless to say a free pylon can also become useful in war time deployments too.

JF-17 crew placing luggage in the specialized baggage compartment. In the last photo, two members of ground crew are finalizing this work.

The baggage section is located just before the landing gear door on the port side of the aircraft. The components in similar section on starboard side is the Jet Fuel Starter (JFS).

This picture shows the direction of air flow via intake. The green arrows represent the areas left above and under the luggage section, to continue the rapid flow of air through the aircraft.

Jet Fuel Starter (JFS) point:

JFS is a ground based electric power unit, that runs the aircraft engine when aircraft is not on its own power. JFS is a military version of Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) present in the airliners to start their engines. In JF-17 the JFS cable is inserted inside the aircraft’s power unit located behind the starboard air intake.

A 60KVA power JFS mounted on a mini truck, that power the JF-17 engine. A JFS can start engine in less than 3 minutes. Note the cable leaving JFS and going inside the aircraft’s power section.

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.