JF-17 Information From Zuhai air show And PakDef

The poster on Pakdef known as Eagle Hannan is a Pakistani engineer who works in Nanjing, China. He speaks both Urdu and Chinese fluently. He is a serious military aviation enthusiast. The city he comes from in China, Nanjing, is also the home of two of the J-10 pilots from the PLAAF that participated in the Zhuhai Air Show, 2010. He stayed at the same hotel as the PAF pilots and had many conversations with them as well as the PLAAF pilots. . Hannan attended all three public holidays and spent all three days with pilots and senior officers. Hannan has managed to collect a large amount of information and media and these have been cleared by senior personnel from the PAF for public release.

What follows is a summary of Eagle Hannan's posts from Pakdef.

Hannan describes the aerobatics display of the JF-17 as brilliant. The JF-17 flew twice every day of the air show. He notes that the weather conditions were very bad and hard to take videos in. He said that the J-10s did not perform particularly well. Hannan comments that in 14 minutes of display there was a single performance of 360 and three half-hearted loops. He observes that the rest of the displays by the J-10 were formation flights. He notes that one of the Sherdil pilots comments about the J-10 pilots in Punjabi that the old men of China cannot fly their own planes. 

In comparison, the JF-17s did much better. Hannan describes the Chinese crowd as going “wild” with the Thunder’s repeated tight turns, without a single one off-target from the venue.

In his conversations with the PAF, he has found out the following:

1. JF-17s will not have CFTs (Conformal Fuel Tanks).

The present batch of JF-17s has certain non-Chinese subsystems.

3. Air to Air missile tests for both WVR and BVR are complete.

PAF is impressed with the performance of SD-10s and confirms that the missile is comparable to the AMRAAM-Cs.

An improved SD-10s, designated here as SD-10Bs with improved range, seeker, new motor and better seeker has been tested in China on the FC-1. These missiles are marginally lighter than the first generation and are in the same standard as the best Western BVR AAMs. 

The weight of the SD-10Bs still remains slightly greater than the AMRAAM Cs but this is not an issue anymore because the performance is equal or superior. The missiles displayed in Zhuhai were not the new generation SD-10Bs but the earlier model.
PAF order for the SD-10Bs will be fulfilled before PLAAF. Previous models will be upgraded to the new SD-10B standard. [Author’s note: this may suggest that PAF have provided critical input for the SD-10Bs]

6. PAF will standardize to this SD-10Bs. First 50 will have PL-9Cs as standard WVR missiles.

A new radar will possibly be used in the Block II JF-17s and the first block will be upgraded. These are likely to be AESA radars with a swash-plate, similar to the Gripen NG. 

8. JF-17 radars are designed to be fully multirole.

9. Various new guided munitions are being tested in China. These include SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) ideal for the light fighter class.

PAF’s second squadron of JF-17s is almost ready and flight trials are earmarked for early next year.

11. China is confirmed (yet again and without any doubt whatsoever) to buy the FC-1s. Consequently, production is being expanded in Pakistan’s production facilities, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), to meet the demand. These facilities are located in Kamra.

12. Close cooperation on the J-10B is taking place. The level of cooperation has been significantly expanded since 2009. The size of the cooperation is described as literally a small city-like facility to accommodate PAF and Pakistani civilian engineers. Hannan confirmed that civilian engineers from PAC are also part of the cooperation in China.

The J-10B will have Chinese radar and western subsystems will allow it to be integrated with Erieye and Chinese AWACS. This is not an assumption and Eagle Hannan, who is a telecom engineer himself, confirms that this is not a technical problem and reconfirms from PAF. There is no problem as long as the protocol messages and handshake procedures are known. He found out that PAF has a solution in terms of the middleware.

The middleware will not only be via a C4I but also direct communication middleware. Some of these are being developed in-house and some are being imported.

15. Whether JF-17s can data link with Erieye has not been confirmed due to diplomatic/political reasons. However, Hannan notes that from his discussions, it is implicitly obvious that they definitely can.

IFR (In-Flight Refueling) will be installed in later batches. These will be fixed IFRs and not retractable. [Author’s note: radar signature and aerodynamics penalty paid for simplicity of construction, cost and maintenance]. The JF-17s were designed from the ground-up to have IFRs installed.

Next block of JF-17s will have IRST (Infra-Red Search & Track) similar to those installed on the J-10B.

Pakistani ALCM Raad and H2/H4 ASM will be integrated and was a major reason why Pakistan has chosen to go with Chinese radars for Block 2 JF-17s.

Advanced composites have been tested for use on the Block 2 JF-17s. Present JF-17s also use some composites. J-10B/FC-20 is designed from inception from new advanced composites. FC-20s in PAF service will form the top tier in the PAF (above the F-16 Block 52+).

20. PAF denied any collaboration in Chinese 5th generation fighter program as this is a capability they are not familiar with. PAF senior officials stated that:

We cannot help develop a capability we don’t know. Like we don’t know what kind of sensor suite is in F-22 other than what we find from open-source. Such capability/requirement generation is not Air Force job but such technology information is brought in by other means [Hannan notes: espionage or intelligence I think this is what he meant]. We all know F-22 is stealth but what else it can do is what we don’t know. JF-17s are developed because we knew what we wanted from a 4th generation fighter as we already had an experience with capability, either by existing systems or by our collaboration with other air forces. Even US Air force only comes to know new capabilities when it’s presented to it. Chinese on the other hand, have the means to bring such information and develop on such information and PAF does not. We'll see what they bring up.