The PAC JF-17 Thunder is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and theChengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. The JF-17 can be used for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack and aircraft interception. Its designation “JF-17” by Pakistan is short for “Joint Fighter-17”, while the designation and name “FC-1 Xiaolong” by China means “Fighter China-1 Fierce Dragon”.
The JF-17 can deploy diverse ordnance, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrelautocannon. Powered by a RD-93 afterburning turbofan it has a top speed of Mach 1.6. The JF-17 is to become the backbone of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), complementing the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. The PAF inducted its first JF-17 squadron in February 2010 and four years later 49 units were in service (one lost in a crash), and 110 units were on order.
The JF-17 was primarily developed to meet the PAF’s requirement for an affordable, modern, multi-role combat aircraft as a replacement for its large fleet of Dassault Mirage III/5 fighters, Nanchang A-5 bombers, and Chengdu F-7 interceptors, with a cost of US$500 million, divided equally between China and Pakistan. The aircraft was also intended to have export potential as a cost-effective and competitive alternative to more expensive Western fighters.
By 1989, because of economic sanctions by the US, Pakistan had abandoned Project Sabre II, a design study involving US aircraft manufacturer Grumman and China, and had decided to redesign and upgrade the Chengdu F-7. In the same year, China and Grumman started a new design study to develop the Super 7, another redesigned Chengdu F-7. Grumman left the project when sanctions were placed on China following the political fallout from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. After Grumman left the Chengdu Super 7 project, the Fighter China project was launched in 1991. In 1995, Pakistan and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for joint design and development of a new fighter, and over the next few years worked out the project details. In June 1995, Mikoyan had joined the project to provide “design support”, this also involved the secondment of several engineers by CAC.
On 2 March 2007, the first consignment of two small-batch-production (SBP) aircraft arrived in a dismantled state in Pakistan. They flew for the first time on 10 March 2007 and took part in a public aerial demonstration during a Pakistan Day parade on 23 March 2007. The PAF intended to induct 200 JF-17 by 2015 to replace all its Chengdu F-7, Nanchang A-5, and Dassault Mirage III/5 aircraft. In preparation for the in-flight refuelling of JF-17s, the PAF has upgraded several Mirage IIIs with IFR probes for training purposes. A dual-seat, combat-capable trainer was originally scheduled to begin flight testing in 2006; in 2009 Pakistan reportedly decided to develop the training model into a specialised attack variant.
In November 2007, the PAF and PAC conducted flight evaluations of aircraft fitted with a variant of the NRIET KLJ-10 radar developed by China’s Nanjing Research Institute for Electronic Technology (NRIET), and the LETRI SD-10 active radar homing AAM. In 2005, PAC began manufacturing JF-17 components; production of sub-assemblies commenced on 22 January 2008. The PAF was to receive a further six pre-production aircraft in 2005, for a total of 8 out of an initial production run of 16 aircraft. Initial operating capability was to be achieved by the end of 2008. Final assembly of the JF-17 in Pakistan began on 30 June 2009; PAC expected to complete production of four to six aircraft that year. They planned to produce twelve aircraft in 2010 and fifteen to sixteen aircraft per year from 2011; this could increase to twenty-five aircraft per year.
Russia signed an agreement in August 2007 for reexport of 150 RD-93 engines from China to Pakistan for the JF-17. In 2008, the PAF was reportedly not fully satisfied with the RD-93 engine and that it would only power the first 50 aircraft; it was alleged that arrangements for a new engine, reportedly the Snecma M53-P2, may have been made. Mikhail Pogosyan, head of the MiG and Sukhoi design bureaus, recommended the Russian defence export agency Rosoboronexport block RD-92 engine sales to China to prevent export competition from the JF-17 against the MiG-29. At the 2010 Farnborough Airshow, the JF-17 was displayed internationally for the first time; aerial displays at the show were intended but were cancelled due to a late attendance decision as well as license and insurance costs. According to a Rosoboronexport official at the Airshow China 2010, held on November 16–21, 2005 in Zhuhai, China, Russia and China had signed a contract worth $238 million for 100 RD-93 engines with options for another 400 engines developed for the FC-1.
The NESCOM Burraq is an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) built and developed by the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM), a civil scientific research and development organizarion of Pakistan, along with thePakistan Air Force (PAF).
Primarily used by the PAF, its applications have also been used by the Pakistan Army (PA) in its counterinsurgency operations. The Burraq carries different imagery and motion sensors, and it is equipped with a laser guided air-to-surfacemissile named “Barq.”.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the public relations department of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, described the system as a “force multiplier”. The Burraq is also claimed to be “all-weather” capable and have “pinpoint accuracy.”
After its successful demonstration to fire missiles as both stationary and moving targets, Pakistan became the ninth country in the World to successfully domestically develop an unmanned combat aerial vehicle.
Since 2004, the United States (US) has been conducting controversial strikes through its own UCAV systems in Pakistan’s northwest territories, that target suspected militants in the region. For years, Pakistan had been pushing the US for acquiring the MQ-1 Predator, the main UCAV system the US uses in the strikes, but such requests had been denied amid fear of technology proliferation. Development is though to have primarily begun in 2009 with the contract being awarded to NESCOM in close coordination with thePAF.
Growing frustration over the US refusal and politicization of the US UCAV strikes in the country, the Burraq program is thought to have picked up its speed in secrecy.In 2012,China offered to help by selling Pakistan armed drones it had developed, but questions were raised about the capabilities of the drones. The first few models of the Burraq were only capable of surveillance and intelligence gathering, and lacked any offensive combat capability. Some of these early models were used by the Pakistani military to track down militants. The first combat capable version of the Burraq was first publicly demonstrated in March 2015.
The Burraq is thought to be mostly influenced by the US MQ-1 Predator and the Chinese CH-3.
About the Burraq program, the Popular Science reported noted: “with the Burraq, Pakistan can now do drone strikes on their own, without the United States.”
Origin of Name
The name, Burraq, comes from the legendary creature mentioned in al-Isra, (sura) in the Qur’an. According to Islamic theology, Buraq is a steed, described as a creature from the heavens which carried Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem, and back during the Isra and Mi’raj (lit. “Night Journey”), which is the title of one of the chapters al-Isra, (sura) in the Qur’an.
Use in the Military Operations
Before the Burraq was eventually publicly unveiled for the first time, the Pakistani military reportedly conducted several strikes using the UCAV, as part of Operation Khyber-1 military operations in the Tirah Valley.