Dubai 2011: Pakistan commander 'Thunders' his approval
Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, Pakistan's Chief of the Air Staff, underlined the importance of the new JF-17 Thunder which, he said, “represented a much-needed capability for the Pakistan Air Force”.
A 20-fighter squadron air force, the PAF currently operates five frontline fast jet types, consisting of the F-16, the Mirage III/5/50, the Chengdu F-7 and F-7PG, and the Nanchang A-5.
All but the F-16 are based on 1950s or 1960s technology and were described by Suleman as being “obsolete and expensive to maintain and support”.
Replacing 250-275 fighters would have placed a heavy burden on Pakistan but the JF-17 offers what Suleman called “cutting edge capabilities at an affordable cost” – estimating that the JF-17s cost one third of the price of fighters offering equivalent capability.
Moreover, because the JF-17 was “developed from the start by PAF fighter pilots and engineers”, and because the Chinese team was guided by
Pakistani operational experience, the aircraft is tailored to meet Pakistani requirements.
The aircraft’s performance is already “far exceeding our expectations”, Suleman said. A robust growth path is in place and deliveries of Block 2 aircraft will begin next year, after the last of 42 Block 1 JF-17s is delivered.
The Block 2 aircraft incorporates avionics improvements (especially to the data link and EW systems), new guided weapons, and air-to-air refuelling capability. It will include the first two-seat versions.
A Block 3 configuration is planned to follow from 2016.
Below: Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, Pakistan’s Chief of the Air Staff.