JF-17 is a new generation fighter aircraft co-developed by China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) and Pakistan Air Force (PAF). The aircraft is designed to perform all types of combat missions in air-to-air and air-to-surface attacks, with the lowest cost and highest efficiency in global markets. JF-17 is an advanced all-weather light multi-role fighter with single seat and single engine. The aircraft has an outstanding high maneuverability at low and medium altitudes, large radius of action (ROA), long endurance, short take-off/landing distance and strong weapon store carriage capability. Integrated avionics and display control system provides the pilot with tactical situation awareness and low workload by excellent man-machine interface (MMI) and advanced airborne system. High capability of carriage of conventional and precision guided armament, such as beyond visual range (BVR) missile, short-range dogfight missile and guided air-to-surface missile, ensures the fighter with exceptional air-to-air and air-to-surface combat capability.
The China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) won the Working Together Award due to the success of the JF17/FC-1 program. It took 15 years for CATIC and PAF to go from negotiating cooperative research and development in 1992 to the JF-17/FC-1’s delivery in 2007. In February 1992, China and Pakistan decided to co-develop a multi-role, all-weather light fighter named “Super-7.” On August 25th, 2003, prototype #01 of the Super-7 made its first successful flight. China and Pakistan agreed to change its name to the JF-17 (Joint Fighter)/FC-1. From the beginning of 2007, the JF-17/FC-1 aircraft were delivered to the PAF in small batches. On March 23rd, 2007, the National Day of Pakistan, a grand military parade was held in Islamabad. Covered with the national flags of China and Pakistan, a JF-17/FC-1 flew overhead and its debut won thunderous applause from the spectators. Chinese officials present at the scene were extremely excited. On March 7th, 2009, CATIC signed a series of contracts with the PAF, including a sales contract for 42 JF-17/FC-1 aircraft, a cooperative manufacturing contract, and an avionics cooperative manufacturing contract. The total volume of the three contracts amounted to 1 billion US dollars, the largest volume in the history of China’s military trade, leading CATIC and the PAF to embrace a new stage in their cooperation.
As the key military trade program of CATIC, the JF-17/FC-1 program has encountered more difficulties and challenges than ever before. CATIC made creative use of program management methods and developed a new management mode with its own features. This program has trained a group of skillful, hard-working and devoted talents who can handle whole processes, from establishing good customer relationships to collecting both general and precise market information; from carrying out tough business negotiations to implementing entire programs; from receiving short-term high-level delegations to managing long-term expert teams. CATIC has also moved one step further along the road to become a supplier of military aircraft and services and also an integrated platform for international technology cooperation, thus accelerating the development of exporting China’s military products in the aviation industry. Meanwhile, plenty of Pakistani engineers and technicians have come to China for work and study. The AVIC-PAF Officer Development Program (APOD) has trained many high-level officials from the PAF. Those officials from the headquarters, military bases and combat troops of the PAF come to learn the most advanced aviation technology and modern enterprise management concepts. Their visits to the first-class aviation enterprises and research institutions help them gain insight into the development of China’s aviation industry and China’s profound culture. The study and visits also enhance the PAF’s confidence and capabilities in practice, as well as the mutual understanding between CATIC and the PAF. This cooperative mode is strengthened and improved with the process of constant exchange and communication.
In February 2010, the first JF-17 squadron of the PAF was established, making the JF-17 an official member of Pakistan’s order of battle. The second squadron was established in April 2011, and was deployed on the frontlines. In December 2010, when Premier Wen Jiabao visited Pakistan, three JF-17/FC-1 aircraft escorted the Premier’s plane and put on an aerobatic flight show for him in Chaklala Air Base. People of China and Pakistan always describe the Sino-Pak friendship as “higher than the mountain, deeper than the ocean, and sweeter than honey,” adding “We would rather abandon the gold than giving up our friendship.” CATIC and PAF even compare their relationship to “all-weather partners.” In 2010, the JF-17/FC-1 made its debut in the international arena at the Farnborough International Airshow, generating major buzz. Later in November 2010, at the 8th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition held in Zhuhai, the JF-17/FC-1 demonstrated its first aerobatic flight at an international air show. In November 2011, its first appearance in the Middle East at the Dubai International Airshow again drew great attention. All media are speculating as to whether the JF-17/FC-1 will become the most popular aircraft in the next ten years. There is no doubt that CATIC and PAF will continue to work side-by-side, pulling their forces together, and inaugurate a new era for the JF-17/FC-1 program.