3J’s in PAF’s Fighter Fleet: A Lethal Combination

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF), known for its forward-thinking ap­proach, has consistently embraced cutting-edge technologies, boast­ing a fleet composed of advanced aircraft. Currently, the PAF oper­ates two formidable ‘J series’ fight­ers: the JF-17 and J-10C, alongside other potent fighters like the US F-16, French Mirage, and Chinese F-7P (originally J-7) aircraft. It may be noted that in Chinese aviation, the letter ‘J’ signifies the category of fighter aircraft. The recent an­nouncement in January 2024 re­garding the plan for procurement of another ‘J series’ fighter aircraft, the J-31, symbolises not only the PAF’s commitment to staying at the forefront of aviation capabil­ities but also highlights its strate­gic vision for a dynamic and potent fighter aircraft fleet.

The JF-17 Thunder (with ‘J’ rep­resenting the Chinese symbol for fighter as well as for ‘Joint,’ and ‘F’ for Fighter), stands as a testa­ment to the successful collabora­tion between Pakistan and China. The programme, formally execut­ed in 1998, aimed to jointly devel­op and manufacture a multi-role advanced fighter, resulting in over 150 JF-17s currently flying in the PAF. The synergy of Pakistan’s ex­tensive experience in operating multiple types of aircraft with Chi­na’s robust aviation industry gave rise to the JF-17 – an advanced, cost-effective, and lethal fighter with capabilities like the power­ful AESA radar, Helmet Mounted Display (HMD), glass cockpit, pre­cision day/night attack, outstand­ing Man Machine Interface (MMI) with Hands-On Throttle-And-Stick (HOTAS), and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles capability.

The collaborative endeavour of the JF-17 Programme proved transformative, enhancing not only Pakistan’s aviation industry’s capa­bilities but also instilling self-con­fidence for future undertakings in the development and manufactur­ing of indigenous fighter aircraft. The Pakistan Aeronautical Com­plex (PAC) located in Kamra, At­tock, which has already produced JF-17 Block-I and Block-II aircraft, is currently engaged in the pro­duction of the JF-17 Block-III vari­ant. This industrial endeavour rep­resents a significant achievement in Pakistan’s aerospace sector, demonstrating its capacity to local­ly produce airframe and avionics for state-of-the-art aircraft.

JF-17 Thunder Fighter Aircraft

The PAF’s second J series aircraft is the J-10C Dragon, which, al­though new to the PAF, has been a stalwart in the China People’s Lib­eration Army Air Force (PLAAF) for over a decade. Its prowess was demonstrated in various joint ex­ercises performed by Pakistan and China, cementing its reputation as an excellent fighter aircraft. The J-10C aircraft boasts modern fea­tures such as cutting-edge avion­ics, state-of-the-art AESA radar, and superior electronic warfare capabilities. It also has 11 hard points for a variety of armaments, providing agility and adaptability for excelling in air-to-air combat and ground-attack missions. The J-10C is not only a superb aircraft for its combat capability but also for its interoperability in joint ex­ercises, demonstrating perfect co­operation between the air forces.

J-10C Dragon Fighter Aircraft

The third planned addition to the PAF fleet, the J-31 Shenyang Fifth-Generation stealth fighter aircraft, would mark a significant milestone in the PAF’s pursuit of sophisticated stealth technology, with a unique radar-evading capa­bility. Equipped with state-of-the-art avionics, agility, twin engines, and precision attack capabilities with external and internal weap­ons, the J-31 excels in air domi­nance and multi-role missions, in­cluding the option of naval aircraft carrier launch, solidifying its sta­tus as a cutting-edge fighter that remains undetectable by radar, providing an advantage in modern air warfare scenarios. The J-31’s stealth capabilities provide Paki­stan with more strategic options and operational flexibility. Nota­bly, the Indian Air Force (IAF) cur­rently lacks a stealth fighter in its fleet, emphasising the strategic significance of Pakistan’s acquisi­tion of the J-31 and solidifying the PAF’s position by gaining a formi­dable advantage from a significant shift in the balance of airpower, which favours Pakistan.

J-31 Stealth Fighter Aircraft

In future conflicts, the PAF stands poised to leverage a for­midable advantage by deploy­ing the potent combination of the 3Js - JF-17, J-10, and J-31, in com­bination with existing advanced US/Western fighters. This stra­tegic alliance offers increased in­teroperability and operational flexibility, giving the PAF a con­siderable competitive advantage in aerial operations. The strate­gic synergy among these aircraft not only allows for flawless op­erations in combat scenarios, but also streamlines air and ground crew training along with mainte­nance due to their standardised common systems. In addition, this shared feature also leads to signif­icant savings on foreign exchequer expenditures for spares support. 

In conclusion, the forthcoming induction of the J-31 stealth fight­er aircraft is a significant step for­ward in the PAF’s modernisation efforts and will be a strategic addi­tion to the fighter fleet, known for its steadfast commitment to the aerial defence of Pakistan.

Air Commodore (Retd) Raza Haider

–The writer is currently serving as Director at the Centre for Aer­ospace & Security Studies, Islama­bad, Pakistan. He can be contacted at: cass.thinkers@casstt.com

Air Commodore (Retd) Raza Haider

–The writer is currently serving as Director at the Centre for Aer­ospace & Security Studies, Islama­bad, Pakistan. He can be contacted at: cass.thinkers@casstt.com

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt