It was a landmark occasion for Pakistan Air Force when it succeeded in manufacturing JF-17 Thunder indigenously, in 2003. This state-of-the-art aircraft is such a milestone that makes every Pakistani feel proud.
Previously Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was globally respected for producing finest Pilots in the history of civil and military aviation and now along with Pilots, It is producing excellent Fighter Aircraft (JF-17s), as well. Whether it is Dubai Air Show, Paris Air Show or various other reputed Air Shows, JF-17 is dazzling the spectators by displaying scintillating aerobatics. JF-17 Thunder has proven to be an addition of an elegant feather in the cap of Pakistan Air Force.
The maiden flight of JF-17 was completed in August 2003 and it entered service in March 2007. Now more than 86 Thunders (JF-17s) are roaring in the sky with the insignia of PAF. This warbird has engraved a fierce impression within the minds of enemies.
JF-17 is all-weather, supersonic, lightweight, multipurpose combat aircraft capable of striking deep within enemy territory with an operational radius of 1352 km. The JF-17 can fly at a maximum speed of 1,909km per hour. The range and a service ceiling of the aircraft are 2,037km and 55000 feet, respectively. It is capable of carrying latest weaponry.
Thunder can carry up to a 3,700kg payload. The aircraft is fitted with PL-12 or SD-10 radar homing medium-range air-to-air missile (MRAAM), unguided bombs, satellite-guided bombs, gravity bombs, anti-ship missiles, anti-radiation missiles, rocket launchers and a laser designator pod. The JF-17 is equipped with AIM-9L / M, PL-5E, PL-9C short-range air-to-air missiles on its wingtip hardpoints.
Successful testing of Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and Infra-red missiles by Thunder to shot down a slow speed target, this February, has achieved another milestone.
Up till now three blocks of JF-17 have been evolved jointly by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC) of China. Thunder is a fourth generation fighter aircraft. At present fifth generation aircraft are being developed and produced only by United States, Russia, and a few other technologically advanced countries. Besides these technological leaders of the world, only a small number of countries are producing fighter aircraft and Pakistan has joined the ranks of those countries by the courtesy of genius engineers of Pakistan Air Force.
JF-17’s adversary is considered Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) HAL Tejas. Its first flight was in 2001, while it entered service in 2015. It is reported that only six Tejas are part of Indian Air Force. Their performance is also questionable as compared with Thunders. In fact, Tejas has proved just a paper tiger till now. More than three decades have gone past in the development of Tejas and still, nobody knows that how many more years are required for its serial production similar to that of JF-17s. It seems as if cancellation of Tejas project has become a matter of Life or Death for Indian Air Force (IAF). IAF is implying all measures to keep Tejas flying but still, success has not loomed Tejas.
In this current era, when U.S. and France are unwilling to provide F-16s and Mirages to Pakistan, this agile warbird (JF-17) is a blessing for nation indeed, and in fact, it is a timely and high tech great replacement for aging Mirages and F-7s of PAF.
Now Pakistan has started receiving orders for JF-17 also. It will bring revenue for Pakistan and will open a new gateway to success for PAF.
JF-17 is literally a beginning of a glorious journey. With the passage of time, JF-17 would evolve into more and more advanced aircraft. Military experts predict that this little warbird may slide into fifth generation aircraft later because its technological advancements are snowballing, so, hopefully, sooner Thunder could become the replacement for F-16s also.