FC-1 / JF-17 Multirole Fighter Aircraft
Official designation: Fighter China-1 (FC-1) Xiaolong
PAF designation: Joint Fighter-17 (JF-17) Thunder
Function: Air-superiority; Ground attack
Designer: Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (611 Institute)
Manufacturer: Chengdu Aircraft Industry (Group) Corporation Ltd. (CAC)
Maiden flight: 25 August 2003
Operator: Pakistani Air Force
Estimated cost: US$15~20 million
The FC-1 (Fighter China-1) Xiaolong is the result of a joint Sino-Pakistani development programme that started in 1999, with each side contributing 50% of the total development cost. Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China is the prime contractor for aircraft development and manufacture, while Pakistani Aeronautical Complex (PAC) is the main partner responsible for post-sale service and maintenance, as well as the production of some parts for the aircraft in Pakistan. The aircraft was designed by Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (611 Institute). Russia supplied its Klimov RD-93 turbofan jet engine for the aircraft.
The initial order was from the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) for eight aircraft, which were delivered in 2007~08. A further order for 42 aircraft worth about US$800 million was signed in March 2009. The aircraft is currently being built by CAC at a rate of 15 aircraft per annum, and this will increase to 30 aircraft per annum later. The total number required by the PAF could be as many as 250, worth US$3~5 billion.
Several other countries also showed interest in the aircraft. Despite previous reports suggesting that the FC-1 would also be equipped by the PLAAF, no order has been reported so far.
The FC-1 traces its origin to the Super-7 fighter programme, a joint Chengdu-Grumman development project worth US$500 million to upgrade the Chinese J-7 (MiG-21) fighter. Proposed upgrades included removing the fighter's nose air intake and replacing it with a ‘solid’ nose with two lateral air intakes, as well as upgrading the fighter with Western-made avionics and engine. The development agreement was signed in 1986, but the programme was cancelled in 1990, in the wake of the cooling political relations between China and the West, as well as in response to a 40% increase in the cost of the project.
Chengdu continued the Super-7 project independently and re-branded the design as FC-1. In 1999, China and Pakistan concluded a joint development and production agreement to co-develop the FC-1 fighter. Under the agreement, the programme was to be jointly funded by the China Aviation Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) and Pakistan, each with 50% stake of the joint venture. The total cost of the development programme was estimated to be US$150 million. Russian Mikoyan Aero-Science Production Group (MASPG) reportedly provided some assistance in the development of the aircraft
The first prototype of the FC-1 rolled out on 31 May 2003, and the aircraft made its maiden flight successfully on 25 August. A total of three flying prototypes were developed, along with a static prototype. Flight trial of the aircraft completed in 2005 and the aircraft entered production in June 2006.
JF-17 of the Pakistani Air Force (Chinese Military Aviation)
In March 2007, CAC delivered two JF-17 fighters (#101, #102) to the PAF on 12 March 2007. They made their debut on 23 March during a fly-past as part of the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad. A further six aircraft were delivered to the PAF in 2008. Under the joint development agreement, the PAF will acquire up to 250 examples of the fighter in several batches, with the avionics systems gradually upgraded in later batches. Some production will also be carried out by PAC in Pakistan, including the manufacture of the aircraft’s wings and fin.
CAC and CATIC are also actively marketing the FC-1 to other developing countries as a low-cost replacement for the Northrop F-5 Tiger, Dassault Mirage III/5, Shenyang J-6, MiG-21/F-7 Fishbed, and Nanchang Q-5. Potential customers could include Bangladesh, Iran, Egypt and Nigeria.
The FC-1 adopts a rather conventional aerodynamic layout, with mid-mounted wings, lateral air intakes, single-frame bubble cockpit canopy, and two under-belly stabilising fins. The drag chute bay is located at the root of the rudder. An electronic equipment pod is mounted on the tip of the rudder. The formal production variant of the FC-1 features a diffuser supersonic inlet (DSI) similar to those of the U.S. F-35 fighter for better air-intake efficiency.
The JF-17s in service with the PAF are fitted with an Italian Grifo S-7 multi-track, multi-mode, pulse Doppler radar radar. The radar has 25 working modes and a non-break-down time of 200 hours, and is capable of “look-down, shoot-down”, as well as for ground strike abilities. Alternatively, the aircraft can be fitted with the Thales RC400, GEC Marconi Blue Hawk, Russian Phazotron Zemchug/Kopyo, and Chinese indigenous KLJ-7 developed by Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET).
Cockpit and Avionics Systems
The FC-1 / JF-17 features a ‘glass cockpit’ with three large multifunctional displays (Chinese Internet)
The FC-1’s avionics architecture is supported by two mission computers based on Multi-Bus System (MIL-STD-1553B). The heart of the system is a 32-bit Weapon and Mission management Computer (WMMC) which performs mission computations, flight management, reconfiguration / redundancy management and in-flight system self-test.
- Navigation -- Hybrid inertial navigation system (INS) and global positioning system (GPS);
- Communications -- Independent data link with two Independent wide-band radios with anti-jamming capabilities;
- Electronic warfare (EW) -- Self production jammer, missile approach warning system, radar warning receiver (RWR), chaff & flare dispenser;
- Identification of Friend and foe (IFF) -- IFF interrogator for target verification at the BVR range;
- ‘Glass’ cockpit -- Three large Multifunction Colour Displays (MFD) and smart Heads-Up Display (HUD) with built-in symbol generation capability; HOTAS;
- Targeting -- Laser Designator and Targeting Pod (LDTP) for target illumination and detection with day/ night capabilities;
Fixed weapon includes a GSh-23 dual-barrel 23mm cannon. Alternatively the aircraft can be fitted with a GSh-30 dual-30mm cannon. There are 7 stores stations, including one under the fuselage, 4 under the wings, and 2 wingtip mounted, with up to 3,700kg weapon payload.
The aircraft is callable of ‘beyond-visual-range’ (BVR) attack capability with the PL-12/SD-10 active radar-homing medium-range air-to-air missile (MRAAM) developed by China Leihua Electronic Technology Research Institute (LETRI, also known as 607 Institute). The aircraft also carries two short-range AAMs on its wingtip-mounted launch rails. The options include U.S. AIM-9P and Chinese PL-7, PL-8, and PL-9.
The aircraft can carry a special pod allowing day/night delivery of laser-guided weapons. In addition, it can also carry unguided weapons such as low-drag general-purpose (LDGP) bombs and unguided rocket launchers.
The FC-1/JF-17 is powered by a Russian-made Klimov RD-93 turbofan jet engine rated 49.4kN dry or 84.4kN with afterburning. The RD-93 is a derivation of the RD-33 used by the MiG-29 fighter. In 2007, China signed a contract with Russia to supply 150 RD-93 engines for the JF-17 production.
Liyang Aero Engine Corporation in Guizhou is reportedly developing an indigenous turbofan engine designated WS-13 (or Tianshan-21) as an alterative powerplant option for the FC-1. The engine was said to have been based on the RD-93 design with some modifications.
Wingspan: 8.5m (without wingtip missiles)
Wing area: 24.4m2
Empty weight: 6,411kg
Loaded weight: 9,100kg (without two wingtip missiles)
Take-off weight: (normal) 9,100kg; (maximum) 12,700kg
Fuel capacity: 2,300kg
In-flight refuelling: No
Weapon payload: 3,700kg
Powerplant: 1X Russian RD-93 turbofan, rated at 49.4kN dry or 84.4kN with afterburning
Max level speed: Mach 1.6~1.8 (high altitude)
Max climb rate: N/A
Service ceiling: 16,700m
Ferry range: 3,000km
Combat radius: 1,350km
G limit: -3 ~ +8.5
Fixed weapon: 23mm or 30mm single-barrel cannon
External hardpoints: Seven (1 under the fuselage centerline; 4 under the wings; 2 on the wingtips)
Last update: 13 March 2009