JF-17 Thunder: A Customized Multirole fighter

International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) 2012 has recently ended at Expo Centre, Karachi. This 7th edition of the exhibition is held after a delay of four years. Many new investors have made their way to this exhibition. Weapons, ammunition, C4ISR systems, engineering, logistics and naval equipment are categorized in nine different categories.

IDEAS give an ideal platform to manufactures of weapon systems, ammunition, logistics to present their systems to their potential customers and Pakistani defence organizations at large. This five-day event has showcased military related equipment from 209 firms; including 135 foreign and 74 Pakistani firms. Delegations from over 80 countries around the world have participated in this exhibition.

Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAC) joint venture JF-17 Thunder is also displayed at IDEAS 2012 along with Super-Mushshak primary trainer and K-8 Advance Jet Trainer.
JF-17 Thunder is displayed with an array of air-to-ground weapons, successfully integrated and in operational service with PAF. Brazilian origin MAR-1 Anti-Radiation Missile, Chinese PL-5E Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (SRAAM), Hafr Runway Penetration Bomb (RPB) (Pakistani variant of MBDA Durandal) and U.S.-Origin Mk-82/84 General purpose bombs are also displayed in IDEAS 2012.

MAR-1 missile was integrated with JF-17 in the first half of 2011 and it was made operational in 2012. PL-5E II Air-to-Air missile, MK-82/84 bombs and Hafr RPB were also successfully integrated in 2010. Numerous bombing practice missions have also been conducted in past couple of years.

Unlike previous public appearances of JF-17 on air shows and defence exhibitions; this time no SD-10 Medium Range BVR missile, C-802 Anti-Shipping missile, WMD-7 Electro-Optic/IR targeting pod, KG-300 Electronic Warfare pod or LS-6 glide guided are displayed. One of the reasons is that Zhuahi Air Show 2012; which will be held from 13 to 18 November 2012 in China will be featuring the Chinese-origin air, land and sea attack weapons for JF-17 Thunder.

Over the years JF-17 has matured enough to form the backbone of PAF. Integration of various classes of weapons systems from different origins has increased its potential to multi-folds. The low-operating cost and smaller price tag gives JF-17 a significant edge of other fighters of its class; which deliver similar performance at a hefty price tag.

It is pertinent to mention here that JF-17 is a customized Multi-Role fighter for PAF. The weapons displayed and integrated with it so far are subjected to PAF’s Air Staff Requirements (ASR). There are many Western and Chinese origin weapons which are in process of integration or queued up for integration (if required by any customer). FC-1; the export version of JF-17 will incorporate Chinese origin avionics, Electronic Warfare suite and GPS/navigation technology. Modifications to meet any western origin aircraft design can be made; including integration of US origin AIM-9L Sidewinder missile, British origin Martin Baker Zero-Zero ejection seats and western origin GPS/navigation technology as well. Some of these aforementioned western origin changes are already done in PAF JF-17s.

As mentioned before, an array of weapons are queued up for integration with JF-17.
These weapons include Chinese origin CM-802 Stand-Off Weapon (SOW); land attack derivate of the C-802 (YJ-82) anti-ship missile with a range of 230km, Chinese origin CM-400 SOW; a super-sonic SOW with lethal penetration and fire-and-forget capability, South African Origin H-2 SOW (already in service with PAF Mirages since mid1990s) and Pakistani Hatf-VIII Ra’ad Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) capable of carrying both conventional and non-conventional warheads and possibly Chinese origin TL-500 SOW; newly showcased 500 kg SOW at Zhuhai Air Show 2012. Various classes of 250kg and 500kg glide guided bombs are also available for integration with JF-17. These include LT-3 (500kg glide bomb with foldable wings), LS-6 (500kg/250kg/100kg/50kg glide bomb) etc. Satellite/inertial guidance kits are also available for addition with 250kg/500kg general purpose bombs making them lethal precision guided bombs (similar to US JDAM) for a target of up to 60kms. FT-1/FT-2 guidance kits can be embarked upon 500kg/1,000lb bombs whereas FT-3/FT-4 satellite/inertial guidance kits can be employed on 250kg/500lb class general purpose bombs. These guidance tail kits are available in strap on folding wing kits and planar wing kits. Low drag bomb casing and steel penetrator warhead (for deep penetration in concrete structures like Hardened Air Shelters (HAS)) can also be employed.

A part from the aforementioned avionics and weapon load customization options available with JF-17 Thunder, there is one significant portion left un-discussed i.e.range and endurance of the aircraft. The first batch of 50 JF-17s for PAF has a combat radius of 1300km, which will be enhanced by introduction of Air-to-Air refuelling probe in the second batch. The take-off distance of 2,000ft (610m) and landing distance of 2,700ft (823m) makes JF-17 favourable aircraft for shorter-runway or road-landing operations.
China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) are marketing JF-17 as “cutting edge technology at an affordable cost” to small budget air forces operating Mig-21/J-7/Mig-29 and Mirage-III/V aircraft. No doubt that JF-17 delivers a hard hitting and complete solution with smaller operating cost and greater flexibility.

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JF-17 Thunders lined up after arrival in China to participate in Zhuhai air show 2012.[Photo: www.chinanews.com]

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JF-17 Thunder Serial no 09-111; the first JF-17 locally assembled in Pakistan, taking off from Peshawar Air Base. Over 40 of such aircraft are operational in service with PAF. PAF JF-17s are powered with RD-93 engine, capable of producing 79-98kN of thrust. WS-13; another potent engine undergoing flight trails at Chengdu flight center, China. WS-13 will be available for export version FC-1 aircraft in near future.

500 kg LT-3 precision guided bomb

500 kg LT-3 precision guided bomb with an effective range of up to 24km. It employs modular laser sensor kit similar to US origin GBU-54/55/56 Laser JDAM (LJDAM) weapons. [Photo: Air Power Australia, www.ausairpower.net]

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Brochure of Chinese origin CM-400 SOW; a super-sonic SOW with lethal penetration and fire-and-forget capability displayed at Zhuhai air show 2012. The weapon is cited as one of the potential SOW for FC-1/JF-17 Thunder aircraft. [Photo: China.com, www.china.com]

cm-802akg_stand_off_weapon_china

Brochure of Chinese origin Chinese origin CM-802 Stand-Off Weapon (SOW); land attack derivate of the C-802 (YJ-82) anti-ship missile with a range of 230km displayed at Zhuhai air show 2012. According to Janes[i] PAF has shown interest in procuring this weapon for JF-17 Thunder. [Photo: China.com, www.china.com]

jf-17_thunder_sd-10_bvr_mssile_ls-6_bomb

SD-10A Medium Range Air to Air Missiles on multi-ejector racks and LS-6, 500kg glide bomb. LS-6 has a Circular Error Probable (CEP) of less than 15m. [Photo: Chinese Internet]

This article was published in The Frontier Post on November 13, 2012.

 

 

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.