JF-17 Thunder, FC-1 Fierce Dragon (CAC / PAC)


Joint Fighter-17 (JF-17) Thunder / Fighter China-1 (FC-1) Fierce Dragon
The Joint Fighter-17 (JF-17) Thunder, also known as the Fighter China-1 (FC-1) Fierce Dragon (Xiaolong) in China (initially known as Super-7), is a single-seat multirole fighter aircraft co-developed by China and Pakistan. Currently four prototypes are flying. A joint venture between CAC and Pakistani Aeronautical Complex (PAC) will begin initial production of 16 aircraft in 2006. The designation of the aircraft in the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) is Joint Fighter-17 (JF-17) Thunder. It is still not clear whether the Pakistan Air Force (PLA) Air Force will eventually acquire any of this aircraft. If they do introduction can be as soon as 2007.

Overview

The JF-17 is designed to meet the tactical and strategic needs of the Pakistani Air Force with a minimal reliance on imports from other countries. In addition, the requirement was for the aircraft to have sufficient space for future upgrades and/or equipment specified by export buyers. The JF-17 is considered to be in the "mid-high-tech class" of fighter aircraft.

Project

The JF-17 is being built by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC), and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAIC) is expected to license produce it at a later stage. Initial reports claimed that the aircraft was based on the design of the MiG-33, a proposed single-engined version of the MiG-29, which was rejected by the Soviet Air Force. However, the FC-1/JF-17 is instead derived from the "Super Seven" project, not the Project 33 (not to be confused with the MiG-33) or the failed Chengdu J-9. Indications are that MiG assisted the program by contributing their light fighter design as well as providing additional design & development assistance.

The project is expected to cost about $500 million (USD), divided equally between China and Pakistan, while each individual aircraft is expected to have a fly-away cost of $15-20 million. Pakistan has announced that it will procure 150 planes by 2015, which will replace the MiG-21 derived Chengdu F-7. Other countries which have expressed interest in purchasing the JF-17 are Egypt, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Burma, Zimbabwe, Morocco and Algeria.

History

In 1986, China signed an agreement with Grumman to develop an upgrade/replacement for the J-7 known as the "Super 7". The program was cancelled in 1990, primarily due to worsening relations with the US following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. However, CAC kept the program alive by providing low-level funding from its own resources. After US sanctions were imposed on Pakistan in 1990, Pakistan also became interested in the project. In June 1999, Pakistan and China made an agreement to restart the program with Pakistan paying about 50% of the development costs. The project became known as JF-17 in Pakistan and FC-1 in China.

The first prototype was rolled out on 31 May 2003, conducted its first taxi trials on 1 July, and made its first flight on 24 August of the same year. The prototype 03 made its first flight in April 2004. On April 28 2006, the prototype 04 made its first flight with fully operational avionics. Serial production was expected to begin in June 2006 and the first 16 aircraft would be rolled out in early 2007. Serial production from 2007-2008 will be at an annual 10-15 planes per year while in 2008+ it will be at 25-30 planes per year.

President Of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf has declared in the Independence day speech on 14th August 2006 that the aircraft will be flying in the Pakistani sky on the 23rd March 2007.

SPECIFICATIONS JF-17 / FC-1
Role Multi-role fighter
Crew 1
First Flight September 3, 2003
Enter Service 2006-2007
Manufacturer (CAC) China & Pakistan Aeronautical Complex
Engine 1 x RD-93 turbofan (Russian-made), rated 49.4kN dry / 81.4kN with afterburning.
Length 14.00 m
Wingspan 9.00 m
Height 5.10 m
Empty Weight 6,321 kg
Normal take-off weight 9,100 kg
Max take-off 12,700 kg;
Maximum Weapon Load 3,600 kg
Maximum Speed Mach 1.6 (ProtoType-1,2 and 3)
Ferry range 3,000 km
Operational Radius 1352 km
Service Ceiling 16500 m
Maximum Climb Rate N/A
G-Limits +8.5
Weapons 3,800 kg payload



The JF-17 / FC-1 in detail

Programme

In 1986 China signed a US$550 million agreement with Grumman to modernise its J-7 (Chinese copy of the MiG-21 Fishbed) fighter aircraft under the "Super-7" upgrade project. Western companies from the US and Britain were competing to provide the engine and avionics. The project was cancelled in early 1990, in the wake of the cooling of political relations with the West, as well as in response to a 40% increase in the cost of the project. However, Chengdu managed to continue the programme with its own resources and the project was re-branded as FC-1 (Fighter China-1).

Following the 1993 US sanction against China and Pakistan on the transfer of ballistic missile components and technology, problems of acquiring Western technology has driven Pakistan to seek helps from its Chinese ally. Beijing and Islamabad concluded a joint development and production agreement in June 1999 to co-develop the FC-1 fighter aircraft. According to the agreement, China Aviation Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) and Pakistan each contribute 50% of the development costs, which was estimated as about US$150 million. Chengdu was chosen to be the primary contractor, with Russian Mikoyan Aero-Science Production Group (MASPG) providing assistance in some design work as well as its RD-93 turbofan engine to power the aircraft.

The first FC-1 rolled out from the assembly line on 31 May 2003, and its 15-minute maiden flight took place on 24 August 2003. So far four prototypes have been built, with the second for static tests and the rest in flying tests. The initial production of 16 aircraft is expected to start in mid-2006, and the PAF has a requirement for 150 aircraft under the designation of the JF-17 to replace its Chengdu F-7P fighters in current service. Pakistani aviation industry will also be involved in the production of some avionics for the aircraft.

The FC-1 is mainly targeting the international market as a potential replacement for the second-generation fighters such as the Northrop F-5 Tiger, Dassault Mirage III/5, Shenyang J-6, MiG-21/F-7 Fishbed, and Nanchang Q-5 aircraft. CATIC and CAC are trying to persuade the PLAAF to acquire additional FC-1s to reduce the unit price, but a firm contract has yet been reached. In addition, CATIC/CAC is also trying to promote the aircraft to other potential customers including Bangladesh, Egypt and Nigeria.

Design

The FC-1/Super-7 was originally defined as a low-cost third-generation air-superiority fighter aircraft to replace the MiG-21/F-7 Fishbed and Northrop F-5 series in service with many developing countries. With the participation of MASPG, the aircraft was re-branded as a lightweight, high-performance, multirole attack fighter aircraft featuring fly-by-wire (FBW) flight-control, beyond-vision-range (BVR) combat capability and much improved aerodynamic performance. These has also steered the unit price of the aircraft up by 50%, from the original US$10 million to US$15 million.

The aircraft has delta wings and a conventional tail, and might be capable of aerial refuelling without significant modifications. The aircraft can be tailored to meet the different customers with various operational and budgetary requirements from low-cost options fitted with Chinese indigenously designed avionics to higher-performance options incorporated with Western developed weapons and avionics.

Weapons

The aircraft has 7 stores stations, including one under the fuselage, 4 under the wings, and 2 wingtip mounted, with up to 3,800kg weapon payload. 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 iron bomb and unguided rocket launchers.

The JF-17 / FC-1 has beyond-vision-range (BVR) attack capability with the SD-10 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-6, PL-8, and PL-9.

Avionics

The avionics suite onboard the FC-1/JF-17 is said to be Chinese design, comprising a head-up display (HUD), infra-red search-and-track system, night-vision goggle capability and ring-laser gyro inertial navigation system with GPS input. To achieve better aerodynamic performance, the FC-1/Super-7 is also equipped with a digital dual fly-by-wire (FBW).

* Fire-control radar Italian FIAR Grifo S-7 on Pakistani built export versions. The Radar for Pakistan Airforce's JF-17 is not yet decided. However, early PAF JF-17s will most probably be equipped with Chinese radar which PLAAF will also be using. The JF-17 Thunder fighters in service with the PAF will be fitted with the Italian Grifo S-7 fire-control radar, which has 25 working modes and a non-break-down time of 200 hours. The radar is capable of look-down, shoot-down, as well as for ground strike, but lacks multi-targets tracing and attacking capability. SD-10 medium-range air-to-air missile
* Navigation system : Global Positioning System
* Head up display (HUD), infra-red search-and-track system, night-vision goggle capability and a digital dual Fly by wire (FBW).

Powerplant

One Russian-made RD-93 turbofans, rated 49.4kN dry or 81.4kN with afterburning. China has reportedly imported five RD-93s from Russia to power the prototypes, but agreement of further purchase and re-export of the engine in together with the fighter aircraft has yet been reached. China may seek to power the aircraft with an indigenously-developed powerplant.
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