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JF-17: Abandoned by China and adopted by Pakistan


First revealed in 1995 as the successor of the cancelled Sino-US Super-7 project*, FC-1 is being developed by CAC/611 Institute with some technical assistance from Russian Mikoyan OKB as a "medium tech", light weight fighter/ground attack aircraft carrying a relatively cheap price tag (~$20m). 

As a fighter designed for export, its main customer is expected to be Pakistan who also shares 50% of the total cost (around $500m)*. It may also compete with second-hand F-16s to seize the market created by the retirement of Mig-21s, Mirage III and F-5s.

Currently powered by a Russian RD-93 turbofan (upgraded RD-33, rated 8,795kg with a/b), it may also be powered by a locally produced WS-13 Taishan once the engine is ready. The A-6 style "V" shaped air-intakes are believed to provide smooth air flow to the engine at high AoA. 


The fire control radar is thought to be a Chinese KLJ-7 X-band multi-functional PD radar (track 10 and engage 2 simultaneously, look-up range 75km, look-down range 45km for RCS=3m2). A European high performance radar (e.g. Italian Vixen 1000ES AESA) has been planned in later batches. 


Other electronics include an NVG compatible glass cockpit (EFIS) with three 8"x6" color MFDs, HOTAS, AIFF, 1553B data bus and INS/GPS. Weapon load includes both short (PL-5EII/PL-9C/AIM-9M) and medium-range AAMs (SD-10A). LGBs (LT-2/LT-3/GBU-16), GPS/INS guided bombs (LS-6), anti-radiation missiles (Brazilian MAR-1 or Chinese LD-10) and IRST/laser designation pod (WMD-7) can also be carried for ground attack missions. Up to 2 C-802AK AShMs can be carried for anti-ship missions. 


For high value fixed targets, the new CM-400AKG standoff supersonic ASM can be carried. For self-protection purpose a KG300G ECM pod can be carried. The development schedule of FC-1 was repeatedly delayed caused by various problems, such as lack of funding, the reluctance of western countries to supply advanced avionics, as well as the revised specifications set by PAF to counter the threat from India's LCAs. These specifications included a true BVR attack capability with active radar guided medium-range AAMs (SD-10). 


However, FC-1's prospect in the domestic market was not very promising, as PLAAF had largely committed to the more advanced J-10 as its new generation fighter along with J-11 and was reluctant to take a large number of FC-1s due to its less advanced design and a Russian engine. 

J-10B: An upgraded variant of the J-10 with new technologies
After lengthy negotiations, Pakistani government finally signed the contract with CATIC and CAC/611 in 1999 and gave the "go ahead" order to the much delayed project. The development was further accelerated after PAF recommitted the project and confirmed FC-1's technical specifications in detail in February 2001. 

A full-scale mock-up was quickly constructed. A total of 6 prototypes (01-06) would have been built at CAC. The 01 prototype rolled down the assembly line on May 31, 2003 with two small wing fences. Its maiden flight took place on August 25, 2003. The 03 prototype first flew on April 9, 2004 without the two small wing fences. 

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The 04 prototype was expected to fly by the end of 2005 with full suite of avionics but this was delayed until April 2006 due to several structural modifications. They include new diverterless supersonic inlets (DSI/Bump) similar to those of American F-35 to reduce weight and achieve better performance. 

A large rectangular-shaped fairing is installed on top of the vertical tailfin which may house ECM equipment. Its flight control includes a Type 634 quadruplex digital FBW in pitch axis and a duplex analog FBW in roll axis. A UV band MAWS has been installed at the root of the vertical tailfin to provide rear hemisphere coverage. 


The first flight of 04 prototype took place on April 28, 2006, and 06 prototype on September 10, 2006. The first two preproduction JF-17s (Joint Fighter-17, 00 batch/07-101 & 102) were delivered to Pakistan on March 2, 2007, with the nose-tip pitot tube removed. 

The 01 batch of 6 JF-17s (08-103 -- 08-108) were delivered between March and April 2008. The contract for PAF to acquire another 42 JF-17s assembled by PAC was singed on March 7, 2009. The first two (09-109 & 110) have been built by CAC. 

The first JF-17 (09-111) in the batch of 4 assembled by PAC rolled out on November 23, 2009. The production of the 50 Block I was expected to conclude by the end of 2013 with another 50 Block II to follow in 2014. Besides Pakistan, several Asian and African countries also expressed interest in FC-1, including Egypt, Bangladesh, Iran, Sri Lanka and Azerbaijan, but so far no firm order has been placed. 


FC-1 passed design appraisal in December 2009. The first taxi test of FC-1 powered by an indigenous WS-13 took place on March 18, 2010. A further upgraded variant (JF-17 Block II/JF-17A?) featuring an IFR probe, improved avionics (including secure datalink with ZDK-03) and precision-guided weapon capability (including SD-10 AAM & C-802K AShM) has been under development as well. It will be to be supported by the Il-78MP tanker. 

The Block II variant is expected to be followed by the Block III, which might feature a more powerful engine (WS-13?) and additional types of weapons. A tandem-seat trainer version (JF-17B?) was first unveiled at the 2013 Paris Airshow by CATIC, which has the electronic compartment removed from top of the vertical tailfin. However so far PAF has showed no commitment to this design.

Font: Chinese Military Aviation with informations from defence.pk 

Note: * Needing more fonts about total cost

Caution: Some pictures and creations of art in internet can confused the reader about JF17 design.



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