27 Janvier 2023
Pakistani fighter jet GF-17 Thunder, expected success in the Middle East
We previously published on Tarsana.net in 2006 an article dealing with the joint fighter program between Islamabad and Beijing. After 16 years, this aircraft has become a realistic production after it entered service in several air forces. It has reached maturity now after continuous development
Thunder, or Thunderbolt, is a lightweight, single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft. Primarily designed to meet the needs of the Pakistan Air Force, it is inexpensive, modern, and multi-functional. Pakistan will replace its huge fleet of Chengdu J-7 and Mirage 3 and 5 aircraft. It can also be exported to other countries because of these features. They are considered cheaper than Western fighters. China and Pakistan signed a contract in 1999 for its design
Work was slow because it was difficult to get the necessary avionics and radar package from Europe. But the fuselage was designed without the necessary electronics in 2001. After that, the plane was fully designed and had its first flight in 2003.
The design was modified in 2006, and test flights began to take place in 2007. The first squadron of 14 aircraft was delivered to Pakistan on February 18, 2010.
The final design particularly influenced the design of the nose and tail. The latter two prototypes were used for avionics testing and armament integration. The first prototypes were handed over to the Pakistan Air Force in 2007 for evaluation. In the same year, the first official flight show of the fighter was held in Islamabad
The cost of the program is about 500 million US dollars, divided equally between the two countries
The GF-17 will cost about $15 million per plane, but it is estimated that Burma bought its jets for $35 million.
The PAF confirmed an order for 150 aircraft, with an option for a total of 250 aircraft
It announced the production of 16 fighters in 2015, to be increased to 20 in 2016.
The aircraft has been upgraded to the Block-2 standard which includes an in-flight refueling arm and a new set of avionics to expand the range of air-to-surface weapons on board. The handover takes place from December 2013 to June 2019, by which time the PAF had equipped five frontline squadrons.
The Block-3 standard is currently under development in China. This version should include a new Chinese engine, active antenna radar and infrared optical control system, helmet sight and a new electrical flight control system.
The Pakistani warplane has had some export success. Among the countries that acquired them in addition to the Pakistani Air Force, we will find, for example, Burma, from which it bought 16 aircraft, and 6 aircraft were delivered in 2018. As for Nigeria, it has received 3 of them so far, with a division of $ 16 million.
There are other countries that have shown interest in these planes, including Sri Lanka, Bolivia and Argentina. Serious discussions took place with Iraq and Egypt. According to the Chinese Sohu website, there are discussions about the possibility of Egypt buying this type of fighter, and establishing a local production and assembly line for it in Egypt on the production lines of the Kai-8 aircraft produced by Egypt, in order to save effort and reduce costs, as Egypt wants to obtain the new version of the fighter. (Block 3)
The Chinese website stated that if this deal is completed, it will undoubtedly be an opportunity to open a new market for this fighter in the Middle East
This Chinese fighter is distinguished by its low cost compared to the French Rafale fighters, as Egypt needs it to replace 100 obsolete fighters, as well as to train pilots in order not to consume the most powerful and expensive fighters in the Egyptian Air Force’s arsenal.
The fuselage is mainly made of aluminum alloy. Although plans have been drawn up to reduce the weight of the aircraft by using composite materials, aluminum alloys and titanium have been used in some important parts of the fuselage. The hull life expectancy is 4,000 flight hours, or 25 years. The wings are fixed in the middle of the fuselage and are delta-shaped. It is equipped with a set of attachments that generate a vortex that has the ability to provide more thrust to lift the aircraft's wings during combat maneuvers
The aircraft uses a software package written in more than a million lines of instructions. Written using the civilian C++ language, it allows a greater variety of applications to be used. The cockpit contains an electronic flight system and a system for displaying information in front of the pilot on the cockpit glass. It also contains communications systems, so it can become part of a military network to collect information and focus attacks on the target
Length: 14 metres
The distance between the two wings: 9.45 meters
Height: 4.77 metres
Wings area: 24.4 square meters
Curb weight: 6,411 kg
Loaded weight: 9,100 kg
Maximum weight: 12,700 kg
Internal fuel capacity: 2,300 kg
Top speed: Mach 1.8 (2,205 km/h)
Range: 3480 km
Maximum altitude: 16,920 metres
Thrust-to-weight ratio: 0.95
23 mm cannon
About 3,629 kg of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons can be carried on seven suspension points
Additional fuel tanks: Three additional tanks can be carried (one under the fuselage of 800 liters capacity and two under the wings of 800-1100 liters capacity)