By R Chandrakanth
There were some rumours that India would take its light combat aircraft (LCA) to the Paris International Airshow, but that remained rumours. Meanwhile, India’s belligerent neighbour Pakistan showcased two aircraft – JF-17 Thunder and the ATR Reconnaissance aircraft, the former had some impressive aerial displays too.
In fact, for the JF-17 it is the second appearance at Le Bourget, having debuted in 2015. The aircraft jointly produced by the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation – Pakistan Aeronautical Complex has been making the rounds of various airshows including Farnborough and Dubai. In 2015, it was mentioned that an Asian country had placed an order for the aircraft, the details of which are not known. Myannmar was the name that propped in the media and in Dubai too, Pakistan announced that it had bagged some orders from an undisclosed customer and this time it was Malaysia, while Nigeria also had made budgetary allocation for the same. According to the World Air Force directory brought out by Flight International, the Pakistan Air Force has 98 in-service JF-17s in the Block I and Block II configuration with additional orders estimated at 62. The Block-III is a two-seat variant, powered by a single Russian Klimov RD-93 engine.
The JF-17 is pitched as a low-cost combat aircraft, meant primarily for countries that cannot afford to buy the more expensive aircraft from the likes of Lockheed Martin; Boeing etc. It is a lightweight single-engine multi-role combat aircraft used for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack and aircraft interception. According to reports it can deploy diverse ordnance, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and has a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin barrel autocannon. It is powered by a Guizhou WS-13 or Klimov RD93 afterburning turbofan, with a top speed of Mach 1.8.
Pic- R Chandrakanth
*Author is a Bengaluru based independent journalist.