The JF-17 Thunder or also known as the CAC FC-1 Xiaolong meaning the Fierce Dragon is a lightweight, single-engine multirole combat aircraft that has been manufactured after the joint efforts of the PAC (Pakistan Aeronautical Complex) and the CAC (Chengdu Aircraft Corporation) of China.
The primary roles of the JF-17 Thunder are to be used for the following mission types.
- Aerial reconnaissance
- Ground attack
- Aircraft interception
The aircraft has been named as JF-17; JF standing for the Joint Fighter-17’ by Pakistan. As for its Chinese designation FC-1 Xiaolong, it means ‘Fighter China-1 Fierce Dragon”.
The JF-17 is equipped with both air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles as well as a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin barrel Autocannon. The JF-17 Thunder is powered by either one Guizhou WS-13 or Klimov RD-93 afterburning turbofan engine that allows it to have a max speed of Mach 1.62. The JF-17 Thunder since its inclusion in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has become the backbone of the aerial force as it complements the features of the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon at half the operating costs.
The first squadron of the JF-17 Thunder was included in PAF’s service back in February of 2010 and in 2015, Pakistan manufactured another 16 JF-17 Thunders to add in their aerial force. According to the reports of PAF, Pakistan is steadily adding at least 25 of the JF-17 Thunders on yearly basis since 2015. 58 percent of the airframe is Pakistani while the remaining 48 percent is Chinese or of Russian origin.
Pakistan has currently 103 operating JF-17 Thunders in active duty with 70 being sued for Block 1 Type while the remaining 33 being used for Block 2 type. There is also news that Pakistan is planning to introduce a two-seater variant with designation JF-17B for their enhanced aerial fighting capabilities as well as for training purposes. The aircraft since its inclusion in PAF has completed a total of 19000 operational flight hours. The aircraft saw a substantial combat action from Pakistan in the “War in North-West Pakistan”.
Pakistan is also going to export a fleet of JF-17 Thunders to Nigerian Air Force who will use it for military operations against the militant forces operating in Northern Nigeria.
For our readers today, we have gathered a bunch of amazing facts about the JF-17 Thunder which are as follows.
The development of the JF-17 Thunder started with the development of the Super-7 aircraft design by China for a 500 million dollars contract back in 19866. However, the development program was canceled due to financial and political reasons.
The devolvement of the aircraft started once again in 1991 in China under the project name “Fighter China”. Pakistan and China jointly stated this program and signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) back in 1995 to manufacture this aircraft. The preliminary design of the aircraft was ready by 2001 while the first original prototype was completed back in September of 2002.
The production of the aircraft in masses started by 2003 after the design flaws were detected during the first test flight back in May of 2003.
Two seat variant:-
Pakistan is currently working jointly with CAC (Chengdu Aircraft Complex) on manufacturing a two-seater brain that will not only enhance the fighter capabilities of the aircraft but will also be used for training purposes. The pans to manufacture this two-seater variant “JF-17B Thunder” was announced back in February of 2012.
The cockpit of the JF-17 Thunder is made of glass with a specially designed canopy that comes with the following features.
- three multifunction displays (MFD)
- head-up display (HUD)
- 32-bit weapon
- mission management computer (WMMC)
- a hands-on throttle and stick
in between the MFD and HUD, there is also a UFCP (Up-Front Control Panel) to overcome the fog-up error that usually occurs in the humid, subtropical and tropical environments.
To provide the pilot with all-round clear visibility; an acrylic canopy is installed to cover the cockpit.
The following avionics have been installed in the JF-17 Thunder for ease of control.
- electronic flight instrumentation system (EFIS)
- a flight control system (FCS)
- health and usage monitoring system (HUMS)
- automatic test equipment
- UHF / VHF communication radios
- simpatico data links
- inertial navigation system (INS)
- an identification friend-or-foe (IFF) transponder
The JF-17 Thunder is equipped with a countermeasure system named DAS (Defensive Aids System) that also comes with the following systems as well.
- radar warning system (RWS)
- missile approach and warning system (MAWS)
- a countermeasure dispensing system
- a self-protection radar jamming pod
The initial fleet of 42 JF-17s of Pakistan was equipped with NRIET KLJ-7 radars. The NRIET KLJ-7 radar is able to detect simultaneously ten targets through its track-while-scan mode that are located BVR (Beyond Visual Range).
The JF-17 Thunder is equipped with either the Klimov RD-93 or Guizhou WS-13 turbofan engine. The Klimov RD-93 I able to produce a maximum dry thrust of 49.4 kN and an afterburner thrust of 84.4 kN.
As for the Guizhou WS-13 turbofan engine, it produces an afterburner thrust of up to 86.36 kN.
The fuel system of the JF-17 Thunder is an internal one which makes it able to carry internal fuel tanks with a maximum capacity of 2330 kilograms. These tanks are fueled by the single-point-of-pressure refueling system and are also equipped for IFR (In-flight Refueling).
Speed and Range:-
The maximum speed of the JF-17 Thunder is Mach 1.6 or 1909 kmph while the range of the aircraft is measured to be 2037 kilometers or 15240 meters with an operational radius measuring to be 1352 kilometers.
Since 2010, when the first fleet of JF-17 Thunder was presented for active duty in the PAF, the aircraft has completed 19000 operational flight hours and has been a great help to suppress the militant and terrorist forces in the “War in North West Pakistan”.