In what is seen as a counter to India’s effort to jointly develop the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) with Russia’s Sukhoi Aircraft Corp, Pakistan’s Kamra-based Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corp (CAC) last October inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly develop an advanced, stealthy, single-seat and single-engined derivative of the JF-17 Thunder fourth-generation light multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) that is already being co-developed by PAC and CAC.

Consequently, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is expected to induct only 100 JF-17s into service between this year and 2014, and subsequently switch over to the acquisition of another 150 JF-17-derived fifth-generation stealthy MRCAs between 2015 and 2025. Present plans call for the latter MRCA to be powered by SNECMA Moteurs’ M88-3 twin-shaft bypass turbofan, incorporate a digital glass cockpit and open-architecture avionics suite, and use SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems’ Vixen 500E X-band multi-mode active phased-array radar, or AESA, an integrated electronic warfare/defensive aids suite being developed by China’s CETC, along with a helmet-mounted sighting-cum-cueing system for which systems from THALES, BAE Systems and Denel Aerospace are being evaluated.

The M88 turbofan for this aircraft will have variable camber inlet guide vanes, while its high-pressure compressor will have a sixth stage, and its exhaust nozzle will be of the ejector type. The turbofan will deliver 50kN (11,250lb) of dry thrust and 75kN (17,000lb) with afterburning. The primary offensive armament to be carried by this aircraft will be two underwing-mounted Hatf-8 (also called ‘Raad’ or ‘thunder’ in Arabic) air-launched cruise missile, which has a range of 350km. For air combat engagements, the stealthy MRCA will be armed with three types of air-to-air missiles: 60km-range PL-12 beyond visual range missile; 15km-range PL-13 within visual range missile; and PL-14 ramjet-powered 100km-range missile. The latter two have been developed by China in cooperation with South Africa’s Denel Aerospace.

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