JF-17 is the only modern day lightweight fighter providing world class performance at low operating expenditures. This advanced fighter will be poised as a lower budget alternative for countries gearing up for the 21st century Net Centric Warfare Environment, especially for those who cannot afford the massive price tags of other similarly performing fighters.
The fourth prototype saw major design upgrades, indicating that the capabilities required by the PAF for a baseline fighter had increased significantly. This prototype emerged as a potent BVR platform capable of undertaking precision strike, escort, interdiction, air patrol, reconnaissance and ant-ship roles. It can operate in dense, hostile electronic warfare environment thus ensuring the provision of deterrence against existing and future threats.
The JF-17 evolved into a fighter with advanced aerodynamic features such as diverter-less supersonic inlets (DSI). DSI improved the performance, reduced weight and cut down the frontal radar cross section (RCS) of the fighter. Large Leading edge extension provided higher angle of attack and more lift to the mid mounted wings. It has impressive instantaneous and sustained turn rates. The flight control surfaces are operated by a computerised flight control system (FCS).The fighter has digital quad-redundant Fly-by-wire (FBW) system in the pitch axis and dual-redundant FBW system in the roll and yaw axis
It’s enhanced man-machine interface, advanced cockpit layout and good all round field of view reduce the work load of the pilot thus providing greater operational effectiveness. The pilot can access vital cockpit functions and fly the fighter without having to remove his hands from throttle and flight control.
The cockpit has a smart Heads Up Display with a large field of vision and three large interchangeable smart Multifunctional displays. JF-17’s electronics use dual redundant MIL-STD-1553B, MIL-STD-1760 architecture. The dual redundant mission computers are integrated with the MFDs and control one databus each. The pilot also fields a helmet mounted system of speculated Chinese origin.
The KLJ-7 radar is a long range, multimode pulse doppler radar with look down shoot down capability. It can see forty targets, track ten of them and engage two simultaneously. An expanded electronic warfare equipment is accomodated in the tail fin. The JF-17 has a defensive aids system which incoporates various subsystems including a radar warning reciever, ECM aswell as a missile approach warning system.
The klimov RD93 with a maximum output of 96kN gives JF-17 a thrust to weight ratio of 1.It is equipped with Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC) system. . The engine provides the fighter with high acceleration and an instantaneous response while consuming less fuel. The engine can be replaced at the airbases within few hours with little logistical inconvenience.
High number of sorties can be generated due to the single point pressure refuelling system, which reduces turn around time. This aspect is particularly important as it allows an airforce with less aircrafts to continuously keep considerably more fighters in the air, when needed. Another key feature is the markedly low operating cost of JF-17 thus ensuring more flying hours on the machine for pilots to hone their skills.
JF-17 has the capability to operate from motorways, simple road bases and short improvised airfields thus giving another dimension for the PAF to exploit. The fighter can securely datalink to other fighters, ground centre and AWACS thus giving enhanced situational awareness which is of integral importance in modern day warfare.
JF-17 is in the process of integrating a long list of weapons systems and pods. PAF has shown great confidence in SD-10A and is using it in the frontline , side by side the state-of-the-art US AIM-120C5. Special importance is being given to the standoff precision strike capability.The fighter can effectively carry out it’s mission with an endurance of 3.5 hours, more than 4000kg of weapons load and an extended range of 3000km.
The production and incorporation of upgrades are occurring simultaneously, thanks to the modular design of the fighter. Another aspect often overlooked is the ability to upgrade the initial batches with new technology in the upcoming years to ensure their continued relevance in future conflicts. Full Operational Clearance may be achieved by the end of 2012.
Later blocks are aligned to be enhanced versions of the ‘already in service’ JF-17 block-1. Speculations exist about AESA radars; Forward looking infra red cameras along with Infra red search & track for detecting the target without revealing itself. Other features like In-flight refueling is on the cards for longer range, a modified frontal fuselage to further reduce RCS, more powerful mission computers, greater sensor fusion, improved RWR/ECM, satellite link, multiple launch rails, upgraded engine and a greater use of composites. These future blocks might share some core technology with the J-10b. A two seat trainer is also envisioned.
JF-17 , once considered as a third generation fighter for merely filling in the numbers , now boasts of state of the art capabilities causing serious concern for adversaries and competing vendors alike. The fighter’s substantial growth capability as well as the will and funding for its continued growth and enhancements are critical factors for choosing this weapons system from a historically reliable vendor, China.
JF-17 thus gives the pilot a non-shattering confidence in the face of its more expensive contemporaries and a unique pride to be one of the select few of the ”THUNDER RIDERS”.
*hioutong ” Its flight control includes a Type 634 quadruplex digital FBW in pitch axis and a duplex analog FBW in roll axis” Two enlarged F/A-18 style LERX are thought to offer higher AOA as wel”
The aircraft is powered by a reliable RD-93 engine which is equipped with Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC) system.
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