Pakistan heads east in search of their latest fighter import:
Two days after Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani took a direct stab at deteriorating US-Paki relations by saying that China is now his country’s “best friend“, China has retorted in kind by announcing it will provide another 50 JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan on an “expedited” basis. The WSJ reports that “the agreement to accelerate supply of the jointly developed jets, the first 50 of which are being assembled in Pakistan, came as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani held talks in Beijing during a visit that he has used to portray China as an alternative source of military and civilian aid. “We’re getting the 50 jets, on top of the ones we already have. Something has been agreed in Beijing, so they’ll be expedited” he said.” In other words: step aside US, here comes China.
On very cursory examination, the JF-17 seems like a modern, fourth generation design, aerodynamically comparable to the F-16.
It’s a small machine, with some blended body work – a nod to reductions in radar cross-section – as is, no doubt, the “bump” in front of the intake in this photo. It’s hard to see how they get much volumetric air flow from an intake of that diameter, but the bump would probably also serve to eliminate the complexity that comes from mechanically deployed intake ramps at supersonic speeds.
A 0.95 thrust-to-weight ratio is not particularly impressive, nor is an internal load of only 5130 pounds. Even with a single RD-33 Fulcrum variant engine, he’s going to go through that in a hurry in any kind of combat environment.
It all comes down to the avionics of course, the human systems interfaces and pilot training. The radome is sufficiently expansive to contain a relatively powerful mechanically scanned array and the cockpit layout is sensibly fourth gen as well.
Overall, my impression is that it’s a very 1990′s design, and certainly an upgrade to the Pakistani Air Force’s current kit. Albeit an update that the Indian Air Force’s Su-30MKI will swallow whole.
Oh, yes, and China/Pakistan best buddies; harrumph, harrumph.