Role Multirole combat aircraft
National origin Islamic Republic of Pakistan
People's Republic of China
Manufacturer Pakistan Aeronautical Complex
Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation
First flight 25 August 2003
Introduction 12 March 2007
Status Operational with the Pakistan Air Force since 18 February 2010, undergoing avionics and radar development.
Primary user Pakistan Air Force
Produced In China: June 2007–present
In Pakistan: January 2008–present
Number built Prototypes: 6
Program cost US$ 500 million 
Unit cost US$ 15 million (estimated) 
The JF-17 Thunder (Urdu: تھنڈر), also designated Chengdu FC-1 Xiaolong  (English: Fierce Dragon; Chinese: 枭龙; pinyin: Xiāo Lóng) is a single-engine, light-weight multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAC) of China, the Pakistan Air Force and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). It is designated as "JF-17" by Pakistan, which is short for "Joint Fighter-17" and as "FC-1" by China, which is short for "Fighter China-1".
The JF-17 was developed primarily to meet the requirements of the Pakistan Air Force for a low-cost, medium-technology, multi-role combat aircraft as a cost-effective replacement for its ageing mixed fleet of Nanchang A-5, Chengdu F-7P/PG and Dassault Mirage III/V fighters and also have export potential to air forces of other developing countries as a cost-effective alternative to hi-tech but expensive Western fighters.
Pakistan and China signed the Letter of Intent for the joint development of the JF-17 (then called "Super-7") in 1998, followed by the signing of the Contract in 1999. The project got delayed due to the inability to find an avionics and radar package. In 2001, the Pakistan Air Force recommended that the airframe design be de-coupled from the avionics and radar systems for the aircraft to avoid further delay. This resulted in a fresh impetus to the project and the design was finalized and 'frozen' in 2001. The maiden test flight of the first prototype took place during 2003 in China, later test flights with a modified design with Diverterless Supersonic Intakes (DSI), and a modified tail design took place in 2006. Deliveries to the Pakistan Air Force for further flight testing and evaluation began in 2007, the aircraft's first aerial display also taking place that year in Islamabad, Pakistan. The Pakistan Air Force officially inducted its first JF-17 squadron on 18 February 2010.
The JF-17 is expected to cost approximately US$15 million per unit. The Pakistan Air Force has announced that it has a confirmed order for 150 JF-17s, which may increase to 250 aircraft. The JF-17 will replace Pakistan's MiG-21-derived Chengdu F-7, Nanchang A-5 and Dassault Mirage III/Mirage V aircraft currently in service. Azerbaijan, Zimbabwe and eight other countries have expressed interest in purchasing the JF-17 at a recent military exhibition in Pakistan, according to an official.
The JF-17 was designed and developed jointly by China's Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC), the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan's Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. The project cost was approximately US$500 million, shared equally by China and Pakistan.
Successor to the Sabre II Project
The J-17 project was commenced after China and Pakistan abandoned the Sabre II Project based on the F-7 when the third partner, Grumman Aerospace Corporation, pulled out in 1991 following the political fallout from the Tiananmen Square protests in China in 1989.
The JF-17 project, being an altogether new project not based on the F-7, did not originate from the Sabre II project, but it was the successor to the Sabre II project.
Launch of the FC-1/Super-7 Project
After the abandonment of the Sabre II Project, CAC continued further independent studies into modifying the F-7 by providing low-level funding from its own resources.
In 1991, China launched a project for the modification of the F-7 and re-branded it as the "FC-1" (local designation) or "Super-7" (for export). The F-7 was further modified with the delta wings of the F-7 replaced by new wings of cropped-delta planform, featuring a pair of hardpoints on the wing-tips and leading edge root extensions blending the wings, side-mounted air intakes and fuselage.
Requiring a more capable and modern fighter to replace its fleet of F-7P, A-5C and Mirage III/V, the PAF high command debated joining the Super 7/FC-1 project. The PAF informed the Chinese that it would only be willing to join the FC-1/Super-7 project if was based on a completely new design and not on the F-7. The Chinese agreed to this proposal.
In 1995, memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Pakistan and China for joint design and development of a new fighter. Pakistan and China worked out the project details over the next few years. In June 1995 it was reported that Mikoyan MAPO had joined CAC on the project to provide design support, believed to be using experience from their "Izdeliye 33" (English: "Project 33") design, a small single-engine fighter similar to the FC-1/Super 7. However, there is no evidence to substantiate this claim.
In October 1995 it was reported that Pakistan was to select a Western company by the end of the year which would provide and integrate the avionics for FC-1, which was expected to go into production by 1999. The avionics were stated to include radar, INS, HUD and MFD. Competing for the contracts were Thomson-CSF with a variant of the RDY radar, Sagem with avionics similar to those used in the ROSE upgrade programme and GEC-Marconi with the new Blue Hawk radar, but FIAR (now SELEX Galileo) was expected to win the radar contract with the Grifo S7 because the PAF had already upgraded F-7 and Mirage III fighters with the Grifo 7 and Grifo M3 radars.
After a period of little activity, a letter of intent (LOI) covering airframe development was signed in Beijing by Pakistan and China in mid-February 1998. Russia's Klimov was reported to be offering a variant of the RD-33 turbofan engine to power the fighter and a mock-up of the cockpit was put on display at the Singapore air show.
In June 1999 the contract to co-develop and produce the Chengdu FC-1/Super 7 was signed during a visit to Beijing by then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and Chinese premier Zhu Rongji. The project was to be a 50-50 partnership with the air forces of both Pakistan and China being committed to ordering the fighter. Avionics suites were being proposed by FIAR and Thomson-CSF, based on the Grifo S7 and RC400 radars respectively, after GEC-Marconi had abandoned the bidding to supply an integrated avionics suite including INS, MFD, HUD and mission computer, despite previously hoping to use the PAF's Super 7 to launch its new Blue Hawk radar. Design work progressed very slowly over the next 18 months due to sanctions, placed on Pakistan after the country's May 1998 nuclear tests, preventing delivery of the advanced Western avionics systems to the PAF.
In early 2001, however, a major decision was taken by the PAF to de-couple the platform (airframe) from the avionics systems, enabling design work on the aircraft to continue. An added advantage would be that as the platform was developed, any new avionics requirements by the PAF could easily be catered for, not easily possible had the aircraft been designed for late-1990s era avionics. Prototype production began in September 2002 and a full size mock-up of the FC-1/Super 7 was displayed at Airshow China in November 2002. The first batch of Klimov RD-93 turbofan engines that would power the prototypes was also delivered in 2002.
It has been reported by a Chinese source that use of modern computer aided design (CAD) software, likely the French CATIA package, shortened the design phase of the JF-17 as well as the dual-seat model of the Chengdu J-10.
Flight testing and re-design - FC-1/JF-17
The first prototype, PT-01, was rolled out on 31 May 2003  and transferred to the Chengdu Flight Test Centre by June 2003 to be prepared for the maiden flight. This was initially planned to take place in June but was delayed  due to concerns about the SARS outbreak. The designation Super-7 was replaced by "JF-17" (Joint Fighter-17) at some point during this period. Low speed taxiing trials began at Wenjiang Airport in Chengdu on 27 June 2003. The maiden flight took place in late August 2003, but the actual date is unclear. Some sources report it took place on 24 August 2003 and lasted 17 minutes, others stating it occurred on 25 August 2003  (the first of two test flights that day) and lasted 8 minutes. However the 'official' maiden flight of the prototype took place on either 2 September  or 3 September 2003, the prototype being marked with the new Pakistan Air Force designation JF-17. In late March 2004 it was reported that CAC had made around 20 test-flights of the first prototype. On 7 April 2004 the PAF's first test pilots, Sqn Ldr Rashid Habib and Sqn Ldr Mohammad Ehsan ul-Haq, flew the PT-01 for the first time. The maiden flight of the third prototype, PT-03, took place two days later on 9 April 2004. In March 2004 it was reported that Pakistan was now planning to induct around 200 aircraft.
Prototype designation Role Official first flight
PT-01 Flight performance verification 2 September 2003
PT-02 Load testing
(static ground tests) N/A
PT-03 Flight performance verification 9 April 2004
PT-04 Weapons integration and avionics testing 28 April 2006
PT-05 Fatigue testing
(static ground tests) N/A
PT-06 Avionics testing 10 September 2006
In September 2005 it was reported that flaws in the design had began to surface after the first test flight in 2003, leading to work on design changes being started by Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (CADI) in 2004. It was believed that the air intakes were being re-designed due to excessive amounts of smoke being emitted by the Klimov RD-93 engine and test-pilot reports of control problems had resulted in changes being made to the wing leading edge root extensions (strakes). It was also stated by CAC that the size of the vertical tail fin was being increased to house an expanded electronic warfare equipment bay at the tip of the fin. The re-designed aircraft was reported to have a maximum take-off weight slightly above the original 12,400 kg (27,300 lb) and a model was put on display at the Aviation Expo 2005 event in Beijing. It was planned that the re-designed prototypes would incorporate Chinese avionics suites, which would later be replaced by the PAF's selected Western suite. As a result of the changes the first deliveries to the PAF were postponed from late 2005 to 2007. Test flights of the original flying prototypes, 01 and 03, were continuing. At this stage Pakistan was evaluating British, French and Italian avionics suites, the winner of which was expected to be finalised in 2006.
The fourth prototype and the first to incorporate the design changes, PT-04, was rolled out in a ceremony by CAC in mid-April 2006. On 28 April 2006, PT-04 flew for the first time in a test flight lasting 16 minutes  and announced by Chinese news agency Xinhua from Wenjiang airport in Chengdu. Pictures released by CAC gave details of the design changes, which included re-designed air intakes, larger leading edge root extensions (LERX), longer ventral fins underneath the rear of the fuselage and a taller vertical stabiliser fin, with lower angle of sweep  and rectangular electronic warfare equipment housing at the tip.
In the background, a JF-17 is parked during flight operations at a Pakistan Air Force airbase. A diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) and its 3D compression surface "bump" can be clearly seen. In the foreground a Dassault Mirage 5 ROSE fighter taxies past.
The modifications to the air intakes replaced the conventional intake ramps, whose function is to divert turbulent boundary layer airflow away from the inlet and prevent it entering the engine, with a "diverterless supersonic inlet" (DSI) design very similar to that of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The DSI design uses a combination of forward-swept inlet cowls and a three-dimensional compression surface, referred to as a "bump" due to its shape, to divert the boundary layer airflow away from the intake at high sub-sonic through to supersonic speeds. According to Lockheed Martin, the DSI design prevents the majority of boundary layer air from entering the engine at speeds up to Mach 2, reduces weight by removing the need for complex mechanical intake mechanisms  and is more stealthy than a conventional intake. Work on the DSI was started in 1999 with the aim of improving aircraft performance and took almost two years, during which a number of models underwent wind tunnel tests at different speed regimes. It was found that the DSI gave high performance, high total pressure recovery, low integrated distortion and good engine/intake matching.
For the avionics and weapons qualification phase of the flight testing, PT-04 was fitted with a 4th generation avionics suite that incorporates sensor fusion, electronic warfare suite, enhanced man-machine interface, Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC) for the RD-93 turbofan engine, FBW flight control, day/night precision surface attack capability and multi-mode pulse doppler radar for beyond visual range air-to-air attack capability, making the aircraft a modern multi-role fighter. A sixth prototype, PT-06, first flew on 10 September 2006.
Production, delivery and further development
Russia and China had originally signed an end-user certificate for the Klimov RD-93 engines preventing China from exporting the JF-17 to Pakistan, after protests by Pakistan's adversary, India. In 2007 however, the Russian government reversed their decision after the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, signed the permission for re-export of the engines to Pakistan and six other countries.
A JF-17 stands near a runway at a Pakistani airbase, a Dassault Mirage 5 fighter is parked behind it.
The first consignment of two pre-production (small batch production, SBP) aircraft was received in Pakistan, arriving in dismantled form, on 2 March 2007. Once assembled, they were flown in Pakistani airspace for the first time 8 days later on 10 March 2007 and took part in an aerial demonstration to the public during the Pakistan Independence Day parade on 23 March 2007. According to statements by then PAF Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Tanveer Mehmood, it was intended that the PAF would induct 200 JF-17 by 2015 to replace all Chengdu F-7, Nanchang A-5, Dassault Mirage III and Mirage 5 combat aircraft. It was also stated that the PAF was preparing for in-flight refuelling (IFR) of JF-17 fighters ahead of their induction by upgrading a number of Mirage III fighters with IFR probes.
A dual-seat combat-capable training variant was initially scheduled to begin flight testing in 2006. However plans for this model seemed to have been cancelled until late 2007, when it was reported that Pakistan had decided to fund the development of the dual-seat model which would be used for training pilots and developed into a specialised attack variant.
In November 2007 it was reported that the PAF and PAC were conducting flight evaluation of the SBP aircraft fitted with a variant of the NRIET KLJ-10 radar, designed and built by China's Nanjing Research Institute for Electronic Technology (NRIET), and the LETRI SD-10 active radar homing air-to-air missile. It was also stated by JF-17 program managers that they were seriously considering purchasing the Thales RC400 radar and MBDA MICA air-to-air missile from France for equipping the JF-17, meaning that in future the PAF could be operating a mixed fleet of JF-17 armed with Chinese and French radars and missiles.
Pakistan Aeronautical Complex began manufacturing JF-17 sub-assemblies on 22 January 2008. Manufacture of parts had already begun at PAC in 2005. The PAF was to receive a further 6 pre-production (small batch production, SBP) aircraft that year, giving it a total of 8 out of an initial production run of 16 aircraft. Initial operating capability (IOC) was to be achieved by the end of 2008.
Prior to the IDEAS 2008 (International Defence Exhibition and Seminar) event in Pakistan, news emerged that the PAF was not fully satisfied with the Klimov RD-93 turbofan engine and it would only power the first batch of 50 aircraft. It was reported that a deal for a new engine, believed to be the Snecma M53-P2, could appear during the exhibition.
Final assembly of the JF-17 in Pakistan began on 30 June 2009, with PAC expected to complete production of 4-6 aircraft before the end of the year. PAC then plans to produce 12 aircraft in 2010 and 15-16 aircraft per year from 2011. This may eventually be increased to 25 aircraft per year.
In early 2010 it was reported that ATE Aerospace Group had been selected by the PAF to integrate various French avionics and weapons systems which would be supplied by other partners including Thales, Sagem and MBDA. Rival bids from Astrac, Finmeccanica and a Thales-Sagem joint venture were beaten by the ATE bid to upgrade 50 JF-17, with 50 more optional, at a cost of up to 1.36 billion dollars. The upgraded aircraft would go into production in 2013. The Thales RC-400 radar and MBDA MICA air-to-air missiles, as well as various air-to-surface weaponry, are believed to be included in the contract. The PAF is also in contact with South Africa for the supply of Denel A-darter air-to-air missiles.
The deal was reported to have been suspended in April 2010 after 18 months of negotiations due to various concerns of the French government. These were cited as being related to Pakistan's financial situation, worries regarding the protection of sensitive French technology and "intense" lobbying by the Indian government which had also selected France to upgrade some of its French-origin fighters. It was also reported that France wanted the PAF to purchase a number of French-built Mirage 2000-9 fighters from the United Arab Emirates Air Force, a sale which would be made unnecessary if the JF-17 upgraded with French systems. However in July 2010 these reports were stated to be false by the PAF's Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman. According to ACM Suleman, "I saw the report quoting unnamed sources or any French government official. I have had discussions with French Government officials who have assured me that this is not the position of their government." ACM Suleman went on to speculate that he thought "someone was trying to cause mischief - to put pressure on France not to supply the avionics we want." 
As of 2010, with the FC-1 in direct competition with the MiG-29 in the international market, Russian aircraft manufacturers have raised concerns regarding the re-export of the FC-1's Klimov RD-93 engines. The FC-1 is competing against the MiG-29 in an Egyptian tender for 32 fighter aircraft. Mikhail Pogosyan, head of the MiG and Sukhoi design bureaus, has recommended to the Russian defence export agency Rosoboronexport that sales of RD-93 engines to China be blocked to prevent the JF-17 from competing with the MiG-29 on the international market. It was later reported on 19 July 2010 that, according to a statement by a Chinese official representing CATIC at the Farnborough International Airshow, China and Russia had already signed a contract for the delivery of 100 RD-93 engines, an agreement for the later supply of 500 engines and there was "no instruction to stop this." The official stated that China has received "nothing through official channels" and he believes "the engine is still an option for exported aircraft."
The JF-17 was displayed internationally for the first time at the Farnborough International Airshow 2010 where two aircraft of the No. 26 Black Spiders Squadron were put on display alongside a Chinese weapons package. This included the C-802A anti-ship missile, LS-6 guided glide bomb, KG300G airborne self-protection jamming pod, WMD-7 day/night targeting pod and the air-to-air missiles  SD-10A and PL-5. News also emerged that of 250 JF-17s to be built for the PAF until 2025, a number would be configured as "stealthy 5th generation" fighters. It was reported that an MoU had been signed to develop a stealthy variant and, of the 250 fighters to be produced for Pakistan, 150 stealthy versions may be produced between 2015 and 2025.
Airframe and cockpit
A JF-17 taxiing during flight operations at a Pakistan Air Force airbase.
The airframe is of semi-monocoque structure, constructed primarily of aluminium alloys, although plans are in place to reduce weight by increasing the use of composite materials. High strength steel and titanium alloys are partially adopted in some critical areas. The airframe is designed for a service life of 4,000 flight hours, or 25 years, the first overhaul being due at 1,200 flight hours.
The mid-mounted wings are of cropped-delta planform. Near the wing root are convex strakes, also called leading edge root extensions, which generate a vortex that has the effect of providing more lift to the wing at high angles of attack encountered during combat manoeuvres. A conventional tri-plane empennage arrangement is incorporated, with all-moving stabilator tail-planes, single vertical stabiliser fin and rudder. Twin ventral fins are located underneath the rear of the fuselage. The flight control surfaces are operated by a computerised flight control system (see aircraft avionics), which also adjusts the slats/flaps for improved manoeuvring. Up to 3,629 kg (8,000 lb) of ordnance, equipment and fuel can be mounted on the seven hardpoints; two on the wing-tips, four under the wings and 1 under the fuselage.
The retractable undercarriage is of tricycle arrangement, with a single steerable nose-wheel that under the cockpit between the air intakes and two main gear wheels mounted under the fuselage, between the wings. The hydraulic brakes have an automatic anti-skid system. The nosewheel retracts rearwards into the fuselage and the main gear wheels retract upwards into the engine intake trunks.
Two bifurcated air inlets, one on either side of the fuselage behind and below the cockpit, provide the engine's air supply. The position and shape of the inlets is designed to give the required airflow to the jet engine during manoeuvres involving high angles of attack. A diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) design is used to separate and prevent boundary layer airflow entering the inlet.
The glass cockpit of the JF-17, as shown by a JF-17 simulator on display at the MAKS 2007 air show.
The three multi-function displays in different modes.
A mock-up showing the entire cockpit, including banks of switches and instruments to the left and right of the pilot.
A mock-up of the initial cockpit design which incorporated two CRT displays and several analogue instruments.
Another view of the initial cockpit mock-up.
The aircraft cockpit is covered by a transparent acrylic canopy designed to give the pilot a good all-round field of view. A centre stick is used by the pilot to control the aircraft in pitch and roll while rudder pedals control the aircraft's yaw motion (see flight dynamics). A throttle stick to control the engine throttle setting is located to the left of the pilot. The cockpit incorporates "hands on throttle and stick" (HOTAS) controls to allow operation of all essential aircraft systems, especially combat-related systems such as radar and weaponry, without the pilot having to remove his hands from the controls. The pilot sits on a zero-zero capable ejection seat; either the Martin-Baker Mk-16LE, which will be used on Pakistan Air Force fighters, or the Chinese TY-5B also fitted to the Chengdu J-10.
The software written for the JF-17's avionics totals more than one million lines of instructions, incorporating the concept of open architecture. Rather than using the Ada programming language, which is optimised for military applications, the software is written using the popular civilian C++ programming language to better utilise the large number of civilian software programmers available. Avionics equipping the JF-17 prototypes used the Motorola 88000 microprocessor, which can be changed to other microprocessors of the same class. The redesigned PT-04 prototype JF-17 had more advanced avionics than its predecessors, which are included on the production version of the aircraft.
The aircraft's glass cockpit incorporates an Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) and a wide-angle holographic Head-Up Display (HUD), which has a minimum total field of view of 25 degrees. The EFIS is made up of three colour multi-function displays (MFD) providing basic flight information, tactical information and information on the engine, fuel, electrical, hydraulics, flight control and environment control systems. The HUD and MFD are "smart", meaning they can be configured by the pilot to show any of the available information. Each MFD is 20.3 cm (8 in) wide and 30.5 cm (12 in) tall, arranged side-by-side in a portrait orientation (height greater than width). The central MFD is placed lower down to accommodate an up-front control panel (UFCP) between it and the HUD.
The People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) experienced problems with the HUDs of its Russian designed combat aircraft, these tended to fog up due to deployment in humid sub-tropical and tropical zones. The Chinese HUD fitted to the JF-17 was developed to ensure this problem would not occur when deployed in any environment. Western HUDs can be incorporated directly onto the aircraft, if desired by the user, with little effort due to the modular avionics design and the adoption of the MIL-STD-1553B databus architecture. Information from the onboard radar can be displayed on the head-down multi-function displays or projected onto the HUD, the latter feature believed to have been inspired by the HUDs of Russian aircraft. This enables the pilot to keep his eyes focused at infinity so that he can simultaneously view radar images and monitor the airspace around him, without having to re-focus his eyes. Monochrome images from electro-optical navigation/targeting pods carried by JF-17 can also be projected onto the HUD.
The aircraft has a composite flight control system (FCS), comprising conventional controls with stability augmentation in the yaw and roll axis and a digital fly-by-wire (FBW) system in the pitch axis. The leading edge slats/flaps and trailing edge flaps are adjusted by the flight control system automatically during manoeuvring to increase turning performance. Some sources state that the system has been upgraded to provide fly-by-wire flight control in the roll and yaw axis also, the serial production aircraft having a digital quadruplex (quad-redundant) FBW system in the pitch axis and duplex (dual-redundant) FBW system in the roll and yaw axis.
The avionics also include a health and usage monitoring system (HUMS). Automatic test equipment is supplied by Teradyne.
The communication systems comprise two VHF/UHF radios, one of them having capacity for data linking. The data link can be used to exchange data with ground control centres, AWACS/AEW aircraft and other combat aircraft also equipped with compatible data links. The ability to data link with other "nodes" such as aircraft and ground stations allows JF-17 to become part of a network, improving the situational awareness of the pilot as well as other entities in the network (see network-centric warfare).
The JF-17 has a defensive aids system (DAS) made up of various integrated sub-systems. A radar warning receiver (RWR) gives data such as direction and proximity of enemy radars to the pilot and electronic warfare (EW) suite, housed in a fairing at the tip of the tail fin for greater coverage, that interferes with enemy radars. The EW suite is also linked to a missile approach warning (MAW) system to help it defend against radar-guided missiles. The MAW system uses several optical sensors mounted on the airframe (two of which can be seen at the base of the vertical stabiliser) that detect the rocket motors of missiles and gives 360 degree coverage. Data collected by the MAW system, such as direction of inbound missiles and the time to impact (TTI), is also shown on the cockpit displays and HUD to warn the pilot. A counter-measures dispensing system releases decoy flares and chaff to help the aircraft evade enemy radars and missiles trying to track and destroy the aircraft. The DAS systems will also be enhanced by integration of a self-protection radar jamming pod which will be carried externally on one of the aircraft's hardpoints.
The first 42 production aircraft currently being delivered to the Pakistan Air Force are equipped with the NRIET KLJ-7 radar, a smaller variant of the KLJ-10 radar fitted to the Chengdu J-10, developed by China's Nanjing Research Institute of Electronic Technology (NRIET). Its multiple modes allow surveillance and simultaneous engagement of multiple air, ground and sea targets, of which a total of 40 can be managed. Using the track-while-scan (TWS) mode, the radar can track up to 10 targets at beyond visual range (BVR) and engage 2 of them simultaneously with radar homing air-to-air missiles. The operation range for targets with a radar cross-section (RCS) of 5 m2 is stated to be ≥105 km in look-up mode and ≥85 km in look-down mode.
It is known that a helmet-mounted sights/display (HMS/D) system will be installed on the JF-17, although the exact type is yet to be confirmed. This system assists in targeting enemy aircraft by projecting targeting information onto the pilot's visor and tracking the movements of his head/eyes. A Chinese HMD is stated to be available for installation on the fighter. Also to be integrated is a FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) pod for low-level navigation in low visibility and IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) system for passive monitoring and targeting of enemy aircraft.
A day/night laser designator targeting pod will be integrated with the aircraft's avionics and carried externally on one of the hardpoints for guiding laser-guided munitions. An extra hardpoint may be added under the starboard air intake, opposite the cannon, for mounting such pods. No specific targeting pod has been selected, but a Chinese system such as the FILAT (Forward-looking Infra-red Laser Attack Targeting) pod may be integrated if a suitable Western system is not available. To reduce costs associated with buying large numbers of targeting pods, during strike missions the aircraft's tactical data-link will be used to transmit targeting data to other aircraft not equipped with targeting pods.
Propulsion and fuel system
The JF-17 is powered by a single Russian Klimov RD-93 turbofan engine, which is a variant of the RD-33 engine used on the Mig-29 fighter. The turbofan engine gives more thrust and significantly lower specific fuel consumption than the turbojet engines fitted to older combat aircraft being replaced by the JF-17. The advantages of using only one engine are that both maintenance time and cost are significantly lower than twin-engined fighters. A thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.99 can be achieved, with full internal fuel tanks and no external payload. The engine's air supply is provided by two bifurcated air inlets (see airframe section).
The Guizhou Aero Engine Group of China has been developing a new turbofan engine, the WS-13 Taishan, since the year 2000 to replace the Klimov RD-93. It is believed to be based on the Klimov RD-33 but incorporates many new technologies to boost performance and reliability. Thrust output of 80-86.36 kN (19,391 lb), life span of 2,200 hours and thrust to weight ratio of 7.8 are expected. An improved version of the WS-13 developing a thrust of around 100 kN (22,450 lb) is also reportedly under development.
The fuel system comprises internal fuel tanks located in the wings and fuselage, with capacity for 2330 kg (5,130 lb) of fuel, that are refuelled through a single point pressure refuelling system (see turbine fuel systems). Internal fuel storage can be supplemented by external fuel tanks. One 800 litre droptank can be mounted on the aircraft's centerline hardpoint under the fuselage and two 800 litre or 1100 litre droptanks can be mounted on the two inboard under-wing hardpoints. The fuel system is also compatible with in-flight refuelling (IFR), allowing the aircraft to take on fuel from a tanker aircraft when an IFR probe is installed and increasing its range and loitering time significantly. All production aircraft for the Pakistan Air Force are to be fitted with retractable IFR probes.
JF17 in 2010 with a display of weapons
JF-17 can be armed with up to 3,629 kg (8,000 lb) of air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance, as well as other equipment, mounted externally on the aircraft's seven hardpoints. One hardpoint is located under the fuselage between the main landing gear, two are underneath each wing and one at each wing-tip. All 7 hardpoints communicate via a MIL-STD-1760 data-bus architecture with the Stores Management System, which is stated to be capable of integration with weaponry of any origin. Internal armament comprises one 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel cannon mounted under the port side air intake, which can be replaced with a 30 mm GSh-30-2 twin-barrel cannon.
A model of the JF-17, armed with six Chinese air-to-air missiles, on display at a defence exhibition. The larger missiles mounted inboard are medium range SD-10s, the four smaller ones being short range PL-5Es.
The wing-tip hardpoints will normally be occupied by short range infra-red homing air-to-air missiles, while many combinations of various ordnance and equipment (including avionics such as targeting pods) can be carried on the under-wing and under-fuselage hardpoints. Under-wing hardpoints can be fitted with multiple ejector racks, allowing each hardpoint to carry two 500 lb (241 kg) unguided or laser-guided bombs (Mk.82 or GBU-12). It is currently unknown if multiple ejector racks can be used for other ordnance such as beyond visual range air-to-air missiles. The under-fuselage and inboard under-wing hardpoints are plumbed, enabling them to carry droptanks of various sizes for extra fuel (see propulsion and fuel system).
Active radar homing beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missiles can be deployed once integrated with the on-board radar and data-link for mid-course updates. The Chinese PL-12/SD-10 is expected to be the aircraft's primary BVR air-to-air weapon, although this may change if radars of other origin are fitted. Short range infra-red homing missiles currently integrated include the Chinese PL-5E and PL-9C, as well as the AIM-9L. The PAF is also seeking to arm the JF-17 with a modern fifth generation close-combat missile such as the IRIS-T or A-darter. These will be integrated with the helmet mounted sights/display (HMS/D) as well as the radar for targeting.
Unguided air-to-ground weaponry includes rocket pods, gravity bombs of various sizes and anti-runway munitions such as the Matra Durandal. Precision-guided munitions (PGM) such as laser-guided bombs and satellite-guided bombs, as well as other guided weapons such as anti-ship missiles and anti-radiation missiles can also be deployed.
The first 50 JF-17s entering Pakistan Air Force service will most likely incorporate only Chinese avionics and other systems, however this may only be temporary. Once JF-17 enters full production, retractable in-flight refueling probes will be added and avionics from other sources may be integrated.
Subsequent modifications to the JF-17 design will be made, such as:
* Greater use of composite materials in the airframe to decrease weight and increase thrust-to-weight ratio.
* Internal Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST) system, possibly the Type Hongguang-I Electro-optical Radar (虹光-Ⅰ型光电雷达) developed by Sichuan Changhong Electric Appliance Corporation (currently the IRST must be carried externally).
* More powerful engine, potential options include the Chinese WS-13 Taishan and Russian Klimov RD-93B turbofans, giving 10% greater thrust than the current RD-93.
* Minor airframe modifications to reduce the aircraft's radar cross-section by adding stealthy features.
Beyond the initial 50 PAF JF-17, the remaining production aircraft may also be equipped with European avionics, radars and weaponry. Pakistan had begun negotiations with British and Italian defence firms over potential avionics and radars for JF-17 during initial development. Some of the radar options for JF-17 are the Italian Galileo Avionica Grifo S7  and the French Thomson-CSF RC400 (a variant of the RDY-2), along with the MBDA MICA IR/RF short/medium range air-to-air missiles. The Vixen 500E AESA radar has also been offered to the PAF for installation on the JF-17 by the British company SELEX, but the PAF may be looking for a more advanced AESA radar.
A JF-17 on display at the IDEAS 2008 defense exhibition in Karachi, Pakistan.
Initial delivery, evaluation and induction
Small batch production began in China on June 2006. The first two small batch production (SBP) aircraft were delivered on 2 March 2007, first flying in Pakistani skies on 10 March. They took part in an aerial display on 23 March 2007 as part of the Pakistan Day Joint Services Parade in Islamabad. Another six SBP aircraft were delivered circa March 2008. These SBP aircraft were subjected to extensive flight-testing and evaluation by the PAF.
Two serial production aircraft were delivered from China in 2009 and the first Pakistani-manufactured aircraft was delivered to the PAF in a ceremony on 23 November 2009.
The first JF-17 squadron was officially inducted into the PAF fighter fleet on 18 February 2010 with a strength of 14 fighters. These aircraft first saw service in the anti-terrorist operation in South Waziristan, during which they were evaluated with weaponry of different types. The aircraft then took part in the PAF's High Mark 2010 exercise from 29 April, where they were used by the Blue Force to attack Red Land surface targets with a variety of "highly accurate" air-to-surface weaponry.
Egypt is currently discussing a deal with Pakistan to co-produce the JF-17 for the Egyptian Air Force. The Azerbaijani Air Force has negotiated with China for the purchase of several dozen JF-17, worth between 16 and 18 million dollars each. The Sudanese Air Force is also reported to be negotiating for 12 aircraft. The Air Force of Zimbabwe reportedly ordered 12 JF-17 in 2004, but there are no current sources that confirm payment or intent of delivery. An article in 2008 reported several other countries including Bangladesh, Iran and Nigeria have been identified as potential buyers. In early 2010 it was reported that China had been in talks with around 5 to 6 countries on the JF-17, some of whom had sent air force pilots to test-fly the fighter.
* PT-01, PT-02, PT-03 - single-seat initial prototype variant.
* PT-04, PT-05, PT-06 - single-seat final prototype variant, redesigned form of the initial variant (see development section).
* JF-17 / FC-1 - single-seat production variant, based on PT-04 redesign.
* Dual-seat variant for training and strike roles. Under development, designation unknown.
Pakistan Air Force JF17 in 2010
* People's Liberation Army Air Force — Under evaluation. FC-1 reported to have passed a design appraisal in December 2009.
* Pakistan Air Force — One squadron of 14 aircraft in service as of February 2010.
o 36 Tactical Attack Wing, PAF Base Peshawar 
+ No. 26 Squadron Black Spiders 
Data from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex
* Crew: 1
* Length: 14.0 m  (45.9 ft)
* Wingspan: 9.45 m (including 2 wingtip missiles)  (31 ft)
* Height: 4.77 m (15 ft 8 in)
* Wing area: 24.4 m²  (263 ft²)
* Empty weight: 6,411 kg (14,134 lb)
* Loaded weight: 9,100 kg  (20,062 lb)
* Max takeoff weight: 12,700 kg  (28,000 lb)
* Powerplant: 1× Klimov RD-93 or WS-13 turbofan
o Dry thrust: 49.4 kN  / 51.2 kN (11,106 lbf / 11,510 lbf)
o Thrust with afterburner: 84.4 kN  / 86.36 kN (18,973 lbf / 19,391 lbf)
* G-limit: +8.5 g 
* Internal Fuel Capacity: 2300 kg (5,130 lb) 
* Maximum speed: Mach 1.8  (1,191 knots, 2,205 km/h)
* Combat radius: 1,352 km  (840 mi)
* Ferry range: 3,000 km  (2,175 mi)
* Service ceiling: 16,700 m  (54,790 ft)
* Thrust/weight: 0.95 
* Guns: 1× 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel cannon (can be replaced with 30 mm GSh-30-2)
* Hardpoints: 7 in total (4× under-wing, 2× wing-tip, 1× under-fuselage) with a capacity of 3,629 kg (8,000 lb) external fuel and ordnance
* Rockets: 57 mm, 90 mm unguided rocket pods
o Air-to-air missiles:
+ Short range: AIM-9L/M, PL-5E, PL-9C
+ Beyond visual range: PL-12 / SD-10
o Air-to-surface missiles:
+ Anti-radiation missiles : MAR-1
+ Anti-ship missiles: AM-39 Exocet
+ Cruise missiles: Ra'ad ALCM
o Unguided bombs:
+ Mk-82, Mk-84 general purpose bombs
+ Matra Durandal anti-runway bomb
+ CBU-100/Mk-20 Rockeye anti-armour cluster bomb
o Precision guided munitions (PGM):
+ GBU-10, GBU-12, LT-2 laser-guided bombs
+ H-2, H-4 electro-optically guided, LS-6 satellite-guided glide bombs 
+ Satellite-guided bombs 
o Up to 3 external fuel drop tanks (1× under-fuselage 800 litres, 2× under-wing 800/1100 litres each) for extended range/loitering time
* NRIET KLJ-7 multi-mode fire-control radar 
* Night vision goggles (NVG) compatible glass cockpit 
* Helmet Mounted Sights/Display (HMS/D)
* Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST)
* Externally mounted avionics pods:
o Self-protection radar jammer pod
o Day/night laser designator targeting pod
o Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) pod