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JF-17 Thunder Pride of Pakistan

The Chinese got their weapons from Russia during the cold war. The two superpowers USSR and US were supplying weapons to their respective allies. In the 70’s and 80’s China had a vision to make China an economically strong nation in the coming 25-30 years they needed a strategy that would put China on a progressive track to become one of the biggest economies of the world.

JF-17

This vision was achieved by the communist Chinese leadership who invested in the available resources of China and because the biggest resource with China was its largest population in the world of 1.4 billion people. The Chinese were able to capitalize its human resource factor and by shifting focus on mass production and cost minimization China become the hub for global mass production nearly all European, US, Japanese and German brands started investing in China by shifting their production plants in China and they started offshore outsourcing for all electronics, automobile and telecommunication equipment inside China with one objective to maximize their profits and remain competitive to the competition as every company was trying to take the market share from each other European’s against Japanese against US and vice versa.

Soon the world’s total production shifted to China and it had a tremendous double digit GDP growth. In the early 90’s China did not have enough accumulated wealth to invest in defense budgets or buy the latest weaponry from around the world. But they also knew that a large economy will not be easy to survive unless China invests on its defense budget to have a sustainable economic growth and protect its own self-interest.

The mission was to make China a global economic power and build a strongest defensive system and do all technological advancement in the next 20-30 years. The defense of any country is like a lifeline for any nation and helps mitigate any possible internal or external threats.

The mission was to move ahead in a dignified way and not to take any political sides or become part of any bigger political game and focus on the economy of China and keep peaceful ties with the rest of the world, only talk business.

China is now among the second biggest economies of the world. They knew super powers will not let China move ahead once its economy reaches at par and will cross the superpowers of the world it is that reason China had to plan ahead and therefore had a plan that was started in silence and was kept secret for quite a long time as they did not want to give any signal or grab attention of global superpowers.

China invested in its defense budget to an extent that it was able to produce all weapons needed for the changing needs and not only deter the eternal threats but can go for an offensive tactic if needed. All the technological advancements were done to make China one of the strongest armies in the world. Russia also wanted China to succeed and become the biggest economy of the world after the USSR lost against the US and was divided into Russia and other smaller states in 1992.

China looked at this opportunity and started investing in Russian weaponry and Russian exports to China currently is US$57.32 Billion. China contributes 18% of the total export mix of Russian defense related sales. All contracts were made for acquiring Russian technology and working on Russian armament and platforms so they bought Mig 21 and created F-7P Chinese version, bought SU-27 and created J-11/16 Chinese version, SU30 and SU 35 were also purchased from Russia. China soon started making its own fighter planes of 4th generation and 5th generation which includes J-10 (4th Gen) and J21 (5th Gen) Stealth inside China. It was all achieved by reverse engineering of the US and Russian technology as Russian assisted them in every way so did Pakistan and Turkey to transfer American technology to the extent they could contribute.

They were making contracts based on technology sharing basis with Russia because they wanted to make their own weapons for future needs and wanted to cut dependency and reliance on others for the future.

This is where Pakistan and China became allies for a common interest to leave dependency and build a strong army with dominance in the region with not only deterrent strategy but offensive approach. The US had put sanctions on Pakistan through Pressler amendment specifically prohibiting U.S. assistance or military sales to Pakistan in year 1985 and after becoming nuclear power the deal for getting latest F-16 Block-52 was also canceled for which payment was already done but eventually it was refused and instead soybean oil was given to Pakistan and no monetary return was made to add to the problem as were short of basic parts and were unable to procure new jets from any other country.

This was the turning point of Pakistan’s defense strategy and policy shift for Pakistan. We were part of the US war against USSR in Pak Afghan war and we were ditched when we were in need and we also had paid a hefty price fighting with USSR in the end we had returned empty handed. Our policy took a right turn after we were refused for F-16 from the US. New rules for the defense policy were made to stop reliance on US weaponry or any other country that may refuse Pakistan or pursue its own political interest.

This was the time when we decided to build a lightweight multirole aircraft, a replacement of the F-16 inside Pakistan and with all available resources.

The challenge was given to PAF to make a substitute for front line 4th generation multirole aircraft inside Pakistan. It is when (Pakistan Aeronautical Complex-PAC) Kamra had the will do it and make it a reality the project was started with joint technology sharing and collaboration with Chinese (Chengdu Aircraft Corporation-CAC) As China knew Pakistan it had an edge over avionics and have developed in-house avionics capability based on American technology used in F-16 it will be helpful for China as well to enhance their capabilities in avionics domain and both countries can collaborate to make better aircraft if the joint efforts are put together. But not to forget Russia was also ready to give all assistance to Pakistan through China for any of the parts or weapons development as they have the best technology when it comes to radar and missile systems (most important part of any multirole fighter aircraft) and avionics is the integration of all systems put together to perform any mission successfully on land sea or air.

So, the recipe was there. All that was needed was how to make it a reality. Prototype production started in September 2002. The first JF17 Block-1 was inducted in PAF in 2009, in 2015 PAC added 70 Block 1 aircraft, in 2017 33 Block 2 aircraft were added and by 2020 we will have 26 of JF-17B Twin Seater Block 2 inducted in PAF.

We have started serial production of Block 3 since Dec 2020 it’s the most advanced version of JF-17 made by PAC and it’s the four plus generation multirole fighter plane and it will start deliveries in the year 2022 and we will get delivery of 50 Block-3 by 2024.

58% of the JF-17 parts including its avionics, airframe, wings, front fuselage, and vertical stabilizer are manufactured in Pakistan whereas 42% of the parts are manufactured in China and for final assembly it takes place in Pakistan. The JF-17 is operational since 2009 with PAF and have contributed to many successful operations in North Waziristan, Afghanistan and the on the top 2019 Jammu and Kashmir airstrikes by India and counter attack by F-16, Mirage and two JF-17 with precision guided weapons used in the operation with one Su-30 and one Mig-21 was shot down with 2-0 win over Indian air force.

The above operational success was the reason 3 of the countries Nigeria, Myanmar and Azerbaijan have placed the order and Malaysia is also interested to buy Block-3 from Pakistan in future. It’s a success story of Pakistan’s armed forces and blessing of Allah Subhan-a-Tallah and every Pakistani is proud of this achievement. Alhamdulillah.

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Category: Technology

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