FC1 / JF-17 Thunder Fighter Jet
The FC-1 (Fighter China-1) Xiaolong is the result of a joint Sino-Pakistani development programme that started in 1999, with each side contributing 50% of the total development cost.
Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China is the prime contractor for aircraft development and manufacture, while Pakistani Aeronautical Complex (PAC) is the main partner responsible for post-sale service and maintenance, as well as the production of some parts for the aircraft in Pakistan. The aircraft was designed by Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (611 Institute). Russia supplied its Klimov RD-93 turbofan jet engine for the aircraft.
The initial order was from the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) for eight aircraft, which were delivered in 2007~08. A further order for 42 aircraft worth about US$800 million was signed in March 2009. The aircraft is currently being built by CAC at a rate of 15 aircraft per annum, and this will increase to 30 aircraft per annum later. The total number required by the PAF could be as many as 250, worth US$3~5 billion.
Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC), formerly known as "State 132 factory", was founded in 1958, and is engaged in design, development and production of aeronautical systems and non-aeronautical products. Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Company Limited was formed as a group in 1998. In the aviation industry it is important for design, development and mass production of modern fighter aircraft. Chengdu Aircraft Industry Company, based in Sichuan Province, is China's second-largest fighter production base. Its output share is about 1/3 of the total output of China Aviation Industry Corporation I. It has total assets of more than 5 billion Yuan.
The FC-1 traces its origin to the Super-7 fighter programme, a joint Chengdu-Grumman development project worth US$500 million to upgrade the Chinese J-7 (MiG-21) fighter. Proposed upgrades included removing the fighter's nose air intake and replacing it with a ‘solid’ nose with two lateral air intakes, as well as upgrading the fighter with Western-made avionics and engine. The development agreement was signed in 1986, but the programme was cancelled in 1990, in the wake of the cooling political relations between China and the West, as well as in response to a 40% increase in the cost of the project.
Chengdu continued the Super-7 project independently and re-branded the design as FC-1. In 1999, China and Pakistan concluded a joint development and production agreement to co-develop the FC-1 fighter.
Under the agreement, the programme was to be jointly funded by the China Aviation Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) and Pakistan, each with 50% stake of the joint venture. The total cost of the development programme was estimated to be US$150 million. Russian Mikoyan Aero-Science Production Group (MASPG) reportedly provided some assistance in the development of the aircraft
The first prototype of the FC-1 rolled out on 31 May 2003, and the aircraft made its maiden flight successfully on 25 August. A total of three flying prototypes were developed, along with a static prototype. Flight trial of the aircraft completed in 2005 and the aircraft entered production in June 2006.
In March 2007, CAC delivered two JF-17 fighters (#101, #102) to the PAF on 12 March 2007. They made their debut on 23 March during a fly-past as part of the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad. A further six aircraft were delivered to the PAF in 2008. Under the joint development agreement, the PAF will acquire up to 250 examples of the fighter in several batches, with the avionics systems gradually upgraded in later batches. Some production will also be carried out by PAC in Pakistan, including the manufacture of the aircraft’s wings and fin.
CAC and CATIC are also actively marketing the FC-1 to other developing countries as a low-cost replacement for the Northrop F-5 Tiger, Dassault Mirage III/5, Shenyang J-6, MiG-21/F-7 Fishbed, and Nanchang Q-5. Potential customers could include Bangladesh, Iran, Egypt and Nigeria.
The FC-1 adopts a rather conventional aerodynamic layout, with mid-mounted wings, lateral air intakes, single-frame bubble cockpit canopy, and two under-belly stabilising fins. The drag chute bay is located at the root of the rudder. An electronic equipment pod is mounted on the tip of the rudder. The formal production variant of the FC-1 features a diffuser supersonic inlet (DSI) similar to those of the U.S. F-35 fighter for better air-intake efficiency.
The JF-17s in service with the PAF are fitted with an Italian Grifo S-7 multi-track, multi-mode, pulse Doppler radar radar. The radar has 25 working modes and a non-break-down time of 200 hours, and is capable of “look-down, shoot-down”, as well as for ground strike abilities. Alternatively, the aircraft can be fitted with the Thales RC400, GEC Marconi Blue Hawk, Russian Phazotron Zemchug/Kopyo, and Chinese indigenous KLJ-7 developed by Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET).
Cockpit and Avionics Systems
The FC-1’s avionics architecture is supported by two mission computers based on Multi-Bus System (MIL-STD-1553B). The heart of the system is a 32-bit Weapon and Mission management Computer (WMMC) which performs mission computations, flight management, reconfiguration / redundancy management and in-flight system self-test.
Fixed weapon includes a GSh-23 dual-barrel 23mm cannon. Alternatively the aircraft can be fitted with a GSh-30 dual-30mm cannon. There are 7 stores stations, including one under the fuselage, 4 under the wings, and 2 wingtip mounted, with up to 3,700kg weapon payload.
The aircraft is callable of ‘beyond-visual-range’ (BVR) attack capability with the PL-12/SD-10 active radar-homing medium-range air-to-air missile (MRAAM) developed by China Leihua Electronic Technology Research Institute (LETRI, also known as 607 Institute). The aircraft also carries two short-range AAMs on its wingtip-mounted launch rails. The options include U.S. AIM-9P and Chinese PL-7, PL-8, and PL-9.
The aircraft can carry a special pod allowing day/night delivery of laser-guided weapons. In addition, it can also carry unguided weapons such as low-drag general-purpose (LDGP) bombs and unguided rocket launchers.
July 2011, Pakistan has taken delivery of the Brazilian MAR-1 anti-radiation missile and is integrating the weapon on its PAC JF-17 Thunder multirole combat aircraft as well as upgraded Dassault Mirage III and V ROSE fighters.
In 2008 a MAR-1 order from Pakistan for 100 missiles valued at EUR85 million (USD126 million) was announced by the Brazilian government, which provided export credit support for the deal. Reports from Pakistan suggested that deliveries started in 2009.
Mectron would not comment on the MAR-1 programme except to say that "we have an export client and we have delivered missiles to that client". However, during the April 2011 Latin American Aerospace and Defence (LAAD) show in Rio de Janeiro, learnt that an active integration effort is now underway for both the ROSE Mirage and JF-17 in Pakistan Air Force (PAF) service.
This confirms statements made during the 2010 Farnborough Airshow by the PAF's JF-17 Programme Manager, Air Vice Marshall Mohammad Arif, who identified the MAR-1 as a future JF-17 weapon.
The JF-17 is a co-development project between Pakistan and China. It is now in full production at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Kamra, where about 30 aircraft have been assembled. In April 2011 the PAF stood up its second JF-17 unit (No 26 Squadron) and a third unit (No.4 Squadron) will follow later this year.
Integration of the MAR-1 with the JF-17 shows that Pakistan has a well-structured programme to expand the capability of the aircraft beyond its Chinese roots. The MAR-1 is the second non-Chinese weapon that the JF-17 is known to be adopting after the Hafr runway penetration bomb. Pakistan has also explored the possibility of adding French avionics (including radar) and weapons (including the Mica air-to-air missile) to the aircraft, but PAF JF-17 programme officials told that those options have been shelved in favour of "less politically complicated projects".
The FC-1/JF-17 is powered by a Russian-made Klimov RD-93 turbofan jet engine rated 49.4kN dry or 84.4kN with afterburning. The RD-93 is a derivation of the RD-33 used by the MiG-29 fighter. In 2007, China signed a contract with Russia to supply 150 RD-93 engines for the JF-17 production.
Liyang Aero Engine Corporation in Guizhou is reportedly developing an indigenous turbofan engine designated WS-13 (or Tianshan-21) as an alterative powerplant option for the FC-1. The engine was said to have been based on the RD-93 design with some modifications.
JF-17 Thunder was spotted with an unknown Pod. There are no details available yet. This could be a targetting pod, ECM or even an IRST pod. During the flight, the JF-17 was being used as a chase-plane for China's 5th generation stealth aircraft J-20, so it might just have been a camera.
FARNBOROUGH (PTI): China and Pakistan have reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the stealth version of a light-weight fighter aircraft being jointly produced by them to match the MiG-21 warplane, a work horse of the Indian Air Force.
The JF-17 Thunder, also known as FC-1, being jointly built by Kamra-based Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chengdu Aerospace Company (CAC), on Monday made its first appearance at the Farnborough international air show having flown in here after making refueling stops in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
The plane, which has been in development in one form or another since 1991, is a symbol of cooperation between China and Pakistan and the first assembled version brought out by the Kamra plant, was delivered in November last year, according to ‘Show News,’ a special issue of defence journal Aviation Week for the Farnborough Air Show.
“The two (countries) have also reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a stealth variant of the JF-17 Thunder,” it said.
The journal said that Pakistan Air Force (PAK) is expected to acquire around 250 JF-17s, but this may be a split of 100 in the JF-17 configuration, being displayed at the air show here, and 150 of the stealth multi-role combat aircraft (MCRA) between 2015 and 2025.
The plane is powered by a Russian-built Klimov RD-93 engine – a specialised single-engine fighter variant of the Mig 29’s RS-33 powerplant. The first prototype of the warplane flew in 2003 and the first two Chinese-made versions were handed over to the PAF in March 2007.
Show organisers said that the two JF-17 fighter planes will not fly as part of the air show. “The aircraft has not completed its full release to service in Pakistan,” the journal said, quoting a member of the flight control committee.
“Although that full release is only month away, the PAF is also today in what is for them new territory.
Farnborough is their very first event of this kind ever,” it said.