Saturday, February 15, 2014

Current Status of JF-17

As PAC starts the production of second block of JF-17, it's good to take a look at where the project is right now. I won't go over the history of the project, since that can be found online or any of the many forums. At this point, PAF remains the only operator of JF-17. They have finished the production of the first block of 50 JF-17s out of the 150 they ordered. There have been persistent news coming out of Pakistan that more will be ordered, but I don't think that's finalized. By all account, PAF has been fairly satisfied with the performance of the aircraft and the project as a whole. I don't have the latest number, but PAC is now capable of producing most parts of JF-17 with engine been the lone major subsystem that is outside their expertise. There have been numerous reports of sales to other country, but none of them have concluded. There were the 12 JF-17s to Zimbabwe and the 24 JF-17s to Azerbaijan, which never came to fruition. There were also the more persistent stories of concluded sales to Egypt and possible sales to Argentina. In the former case, China lost the deal after Mubarak and the new government is now picking Mig-29s over JF-17s. In the latter case, Argentinian economy has bigger issues like hyperinflation to deal with and will not have the ability to purchase fighter jets anytime soon. The problem for JF-17 has always been finding the right customers. China's traditional customers don't have the need or the money for something like JF-17. They have most opted for J-7s and K-8s in the recent years. L-15 is fighting the same issues. In the more affluent markets, JF-17 has been fighting against used F-16s, Mig-29s and other better known 4th generation fighter jets with more customers. It's hard to make the case for JF-17 while PAF remains its only operator. Having said that, I think JF-17 still has a bright future. PAF have really made JF-17 project what it is today by discovering/expanding the flight envelopes of the aircraft and working with various Chinese firms to add support for SD-10A, SRAAM, C-802A, various PGMs and the infamous mach 4.5 CM-400AG. We've heard recently that Saudi Arabia is interested in getting involved in the JF-17 project. Certainly, if KSA does purchase JF-17, that would be a huge shot in the arm for the entire program and its export prospects around the world (especially the rest of Muslim world). More importantly, I think PLAAF will be placing orders for JF-17 in the next few years. In a recent interview from Singapore Air Show, the VP of AVIC-1 said that domestic engine options should be available for JF-17 soon. I have talked in the past that PLAAF is looking for a stripped down version of JF-17 that it can replace all the retiring J-7 regiments. There were a total of 10 J-7E and 3 J-7G regiments produced for PLAAF/PLANAF. Based on the year they entered service and orbat data, most if not all of them should still be in service. There are also 10 or more J-8 regiments still in service including the very ancient J-8B aircraft. All of these regiments will need to be replaced. Although some of those regiments may be disbanded, there are not likely going to be enough J-10B and J-16 production to replace all of those retiring aircraft. There will probably be a total of less than 10 regiments of J-10B/J-16. By the time domestic engine (let's say WS-13) becomes ready for JF-17, some of the older J-7E regiments should be ready to retire. If CAC can meet PLAAF's cost requirements, then I think there will be order for several regiments of JF-17. Once PAF and PLAAF operate JF-17, I think you will see some export deals.

9 comments:

Andrew Chen said...

PLAAF and PLANAF are not in the position to entertain another aircract, such as the JF-17. I also think that as more J-10B's and J-16's enter service, less total aircraft is necessary to maintain effectiveness.

G said...

I second Andrew. It does not make much sense to induct JF-17. There might be a case to be made 10 years ago.

Given the security environment that China is increasingly in and the availability of J-10B, J-16, China should invest more in higher-end fighter aircraft. 3 regiments of J-10B is much better than 6 regiments of JF-17, even before considering the complexities of training and logistics for multiple types of aircraft. Plus, what would be potential adversaries that the supposedly JF-17 regiments target for? Burma? Mongolia?

G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DLF1977 said...

Forget about JF-17, the retiring J-7s and J-8s should be replaced by stealth fighters. If the PLAF still insists on JF-17 it should only buy it as a trainer, or heavily modified/armoured for close air support to replace Q-5

Feng said...

There are budgetary limitations with PLAAF. A bare bone JF-17 at under $15 million a pop is more than sufficient for a lot of missions that they would need in the remote provinces.

DLF1977 said...

Budgetary limitations sure, but the more stealth fighters produced the greater the economies of scale. Logistical costs can also be reduced, especially when the stealth fighters replace J-10s and J-11s.

Reminder said...

JF-17 might have a future if PLAAF were to go for a 1 to 1 replacement of its existing J7/J8 fleets.

But I doubt this would happen as PLAAF modernize further. Large fighter regiments were required in the past in order to adequately cover China's vast airspace and provide faster response time.

However, with better command and control, sensors and platforms with longer range, the same coverage and reaction requirements can be met by the more sophisticated J-10 or J-16.

The cost differences, especially when considering total life cycle costs, is likely to average out for the J-10/J-16 due to large commonality and numbers, rendering the low initial capital cost of the JF-17 irrelevant.

Meng-yuan said...

L-15 just got its first foreign customer: Zambia.

Thinking from Tummy said...

If the PLAAF /PLAN join in the JF 17 project, before the third block production starts, the per unit cost of aircraft may further be stripped down.

With the advent of 2 seat version and PLAAF / PLAN procurement, a strong case can be made for a number of South American, Asian and African countries that cant afford or get Western fighters and need to replace their older ones.

The notion that PLAAF / PLAN should invest on high end platforms only can see the logic that there would be missions where employment an expensive assets such as J 16/ J 10b would not justify the ends. There a cheap but suitable capable JF 17 can fill in the space.

Regards