As I learned from my friend Umair (umuj), there are many people who are unaware of Thunder’s capabilities … perhaps don’t even know that it exists. It is a matter of interest as I should say that many people don’t care what the armed forces are doing.
For that reason I am posting the details of the project for reference and information. The reference sites are
The following information is courtesy to these sites and their members.
The project started in 1992 by China Aerotechnology import and export corporation. It’s name was Super7. They invited Pakistan to invest in the project with 50% rights to the whole project. In 1994 Pakistan joined the project but no concrete development took place until 1999. From then, in a matter of 4 years, the project showed its success with the maiden flight of Thunder.
The project cost about $450-$500 Million and the cost of one single aircraft would be around $20 Million. Comparing with other aircrafts in the market, this aircraft in this price range has a good potential for export.
5 prototypes were built, each one for a different kind of testing. First and third were for flight testing, rest of the three were for ground testing.
In 1999 this project was renamed to represent both the countries. China named it “FC-1” (Fighter China – 1) while Pakistan named it “JF-17” (Joint Fighter – 17) and codenamed it “Thunder”.
Max Speed : Mach 1.8 (Mach 1 equals speed of sound)
Max weapon payload : 3,600 kg
Operation radius : 1,355 km (in case of air to air refueling, 3,000+ km)
Service ceiling : 20,500 meters
Engine : RD-93 (Chinese upgrade of Russian RD-33 that is used in Mig-29)
The first flight was made in 2003 and the final prototype was tested in 2006. Initial batch is under production of which two jets have been provided to Pakistan which made their first official flight on 23rd March 2007. They had been decorated according to the occasion and jet enthusiasts had gone crazy seeing the plane making sharper turns than the F-16s Pakistan has in its inventory.
There had been considerable speculations about the engine. It is a Russian engine and many feared that Russia would not allow it to be used by Pakistan. A plane is BUILT around its engine. Changing the engine is near impossible, unless the other engine is near identical to the previous one regarding size and strength. Only this year have these speculations cleared as Russia allowed the export of this engine to Pakistan by China. I don’t have the link to that news, once I do I will post it. The alternative to this engine is a Chinese variant named WS-13 which nearly as good as Russian engine. RD-93 is believed to be 89%-90% efficient when compared with F-16 engine.
A special thing about Thunder (one that Pakistan desperately needed) is that it is BVR capable. BVR mean “Beyond Visual Range”. This capability allows the pilot to attack a target nearly 100 km or so away. For this BVR missiles are needed. Pakistan has this capability in Thunder and the possible option for BVR missile is a newly developed and under testing missile named “SD-10” by China. Pakistan has purchased newer versions of F-16s from USA and has also expressed interest in their BVR missiles “AMRAAM”. If they are approved, PAF would be allowed to mount that missile on the new F-16s but not on Thunder due to contract as well as software restrictions and compatibility problems. India had this capability in the nineties with the purchase of Russian Sukhoi planes, one of the best planes on earth and they could shoot down PAF planes inside Pakistani territory without the need to enter into Pakistani airspace. Pakistan needed to counter this threat and in case of successful testing of SD-10 missile, this problem would be considerably solved.
For Thunder, Pakistan has ordered an Italian company to manufacture a radar specifically for JF-17. The name of the radar is “Grifo S-7 Fire Control Radar”. This radar would be inducted at a later stage.
Initial 50 planes would have Chinese radar and avionics. After that the planes would be inducted with western radar and avionics. This include Italian radar and state-of-the-art Martin Baker Seats. Not much information is available as to what Pakistan has ordered but there are speculations that Pakistan may purchase French missiles and fit them on Thunder after sorting out the compatibility issues.