Skip to comments.Shopping for Fighters: Is the Chinese/Pakistani JF-17 Thunder the Real “Joint Strike Fighter”?
Posted on 11/10/2017 6:43:02 AM PST by sukhoi-30mki
Cheap, Easy, Available: Asias JF-17 Thunder Contrasts U.S. and Russian Tactical Aircraft.
Develop it faster, build it cheaper and make it more available. From electronics to automobiles, the Asian doctrine of the 20th century. With the rush toward globalization and the blurring of borders in the internet age, manufactured products in every category move across borders and subvert political boundaries with impunity.
Tactical combat aircraft may be the next category.
Traditionally, high level defense and aerospace programs have been slow to move toward global distribution largely because of regional security concerns, partially because of technology concerns, and definitely because of economic concerns. But those concerns may be taking a back seat to the new priorities of updating old air forces as new political boundaries and alliances are drawn, and old ones are erased.
Enter the Chinese and Pakistani co-manufactured PAC JF-17 Thunder tactical aircraft, also referred to as the CAC FC-1 Xiaolong or Fierce Dragon. The JF-17 is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed from a joint venture between the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China.
In the ethos of eastern imports competing with western aircraft like the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program, the JF-17 Thunder can be hawked as better, cheaper, faster to many end users who could not afford to participate in the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter program for political or financial reasons or both. While the better and faster are certainly doubtful, the cheaper is set in stone. For many countries, that is the single most important acquisition metric; affordability.
Global political change has mandated the need for new mass-market, non-western import/export multi-role tactical aircraft. When the former Soviet Warsaw Pact defense industry collapsed along with the Iron Curtain at the end of the Cold War it left huge inventories of largely Russian-built tactical aircraft in service with third world air forces.
The Russian-built MiGs and Sukhois in African and Arab service were sturdy, easy to maintain and designed to operate in austere conditions. They were perfect for air forces in developing nations. When countries engaged in a greater or lesser degree of political alignment with the former Soviet Union, the price of the Russian-built tactical aircraft went down, sometimes to zero in lend-lease or other political machinations.
But those old Eastern Bloc, Cold War Russian planes supplied to banana republic countries and oil nations with shifting global agendas are wearing out, and many of the lines that separated the countries who use them have been erased and redrawn in the Arab Spring and the new Africa. These changes have created a market for a new, affordable, regionally capable fighter plane. The Chinese and Pakistani JF-17 may fill that need.
The generic looking, no-brand JF-17 is what most people would sketch on a napkin to show what jet fighters look like. It is quite unremarkable by 5th generation combat aircraft standards. If U.S. wholesale retailers Costco or Sams Club sold fighter planes, they would sell the JF-17. The JF-17 probably may have more in common with the 1950s F-100 Super Saber than the current F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
In numbers, a JF-17 Thunder costs (approximately) between $25 million USD-$32 million USD, depending on the tranche and avionics version. Contrast that with the $94 million to $134 million USD price tag of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. If you are a sales agent for the Chinese/Pakistan consortium building the JF-17 one of the first lines in your pitch at the Paris or Dubai Air Show will be, For the price of one F-35 you can fly almost four JF-17s! Then you open your slick PowerPoint (in one of 6 languages) and back up your sales pitch with shorter training cycles for air crew, lower maintenance cost, easier and faster acquisition, and on and on.
New upgrade proposals and capability expansion for the JF-17 program make a versatile and affordable option. (Photo: PAC/CAC)
If you are selling the JF-17 Thunder it is unlikely you will be courting the same prospective market as F-35 program participants. And you will certainly do well to also stay away from comparisons about capability, because comparing an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in any version to the JF-17 Thunder is like comparing a Bomar Brain pocket calculator from the 1970s to a new MacBook Pro computer. They are completely different products.
But the JF-17 is still a capable aircraft that is well-engineered for a burgeoning market of basic tactical aircraft consumer nations. To date, operators include Myanmar, Nigeria and Pakistan. Countries that have indicated, at some point, an interest in the project include Argentina, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Qatar, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Uruguay.
Given the dynamic nature of global politics and fluid changes in alliances the JF-17 fills a niche for many countries. That alone is reason to be familiar with it.
Top image credit: Shimin Gu
Read more at https://theaviationist.com/2017/11/09/shopping-for-fighters-is-the-chinesepakistani-jf-17-thunder-the-real-joint-strike-fighter/#yvXPsxFCxXiD0Yl3.99
Looks like a F-16 and F-18 mated and had a kid.
Kind of like the Japanese entree in the film “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machine”?
And with the conformal fuel tanks, it looks like that kid has mumps!
The lost lesson of WWII: Quantity is a quality of its own.
We didn’t beat Japan’s Zero by having a better aircraft. We beat it by having more aircraft.
We didn’t beat the German tanks by having a superior tank. We beat them by having more tanks.
We didn’t beat Japan’s navy by having superior ships. We beat them by have really good ships and many of them.
We didn’t beat Germany’s air force by having better airplanes. We beat them by having many more airplanes.
An F-35 may be good at some things, but a swarm of really good aircraft will overwhelm an F-35. It can only engage so many targets and is can only carry so many munitions to do that.
I’ll reply to this later in depth. For now, you are correct in that “Perfect is the enemy of good enough”. However, other than tanks, the US had superiority in everything else top to bottom.
Quantity by itself does not suffice.
By 1043 the US had superior carrier-based planes to the Japanese. The Corsair and Hellcat were nearly 80 mph faster and more heavily armed and armored.
Even in 1040-1941 a P-40 could compete with a zero if used right.
We had better airplanes than the Germans. Even the Soviets had a plane that scared the wits out of the Germans.
“Quantity by itself does not suffice.”
Lack of quantity is always a failure. When you run out, you’re done.
“We had better airplanes than the Germans.”
Not always, and certainly not at the end of the war when they fielded their jet aircraft. They simply didn’t have enough of them.
The lesson isn’t that having quantity guarantees a win. The lesson is that when you run out of whatever you have, you’re done.
We didnt beat Japans Zero by having a better aircraft. We beat it by having more aircraft.
The Wildcat and P40 were equal to or slightly inferior to the Zero
The Hellcat, Corsair P38 and P51 took the Zero to the woodshed
My wife was just trying to explain this to a young teacher the other day.
Sometimes your opponent has them but doesn’t want to tangle with you like the Iraqis/Syrians/etc.
Israel proved that a smaller number can be superior.
That was later in the war. Earlier, we had inferior aircraft but we field more of them and used them well.
F-5 and F-16.
Never forget the lessons of the past.
The Japanese possibly did us a favor at Pearl Harbor by destroying so many old aircraft on the ground, but NOT the pilots, who could then be put into better planes.
The Zero was better than the F4 and P-40 in the early war. However, the “Flying Tigers” developed boom and zoom tactics that helped out the F4’s once utilized. Joe Foss won his CMH in a F4 against the cream of the Japanese early war aircraft. Once the F6 and F4U came into play the Japanese were swatted out of the sky. Japanese bombers were hopelessly slow, fragile, and outdated. Meanwhile the US had the B-24, B-25, B-17, and B-29. The B-29 was so fast and flew at such high altitude that the Japanese couldn’t even get to them until the “George” came out near the end of the war.
Germany had good planes but they had short legs. (short range) Both the P-51 and P-47 could do long range escort and the P-51 was every bit as maneuverable and faster than anything the Germans had until the Me-262 jet which came too late. The P-47 was a fantastic CAS platform and with rockets made a great tank killer. Germany had no 4 engine long range bombers.
Most US Navy capital ships (cruisers, battleships) had radar guided targeting computers. They were vastly superior to the Japanese targeting systems. US Aircraft Carriers were better in every way. The only thing the Japanese had that was better was torpedoes.
US Tanks were reliable, easier to produce, easier to maintain, but undergunned until the E-8 Sherman. The M-18 Hellcat, M-10,and M-36 tank destroyers had good main guns but open top lightly armored turrets and/or chassis. Mostly it was doctrine in the use of tanks.
US Artillery was the best overall in WWII.
US transport trucks, jeeps, halftracks, duece and a halfs, etc were all better, easier to maintain, and easier to produce.
You are correct sir. The boom and zoom tactics developed by the “Flying Tigers” in P-40 Warhawks gave the F-4 pilots early in the war parity at the least. Once the F-6 Hellcat and F-4U Corsair were put into action the Japanese Air forces were done. The biography of Saburo Sakai mentioned how inferior the Japanese planes were near the end of WWII.
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