Produced by Shruti Pushkarna
A French journalist sat with the writer at the Paris Air Show 2015 Press Center as we watched the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) JF-17 take to the skies for its demonstration and exclaimed, “Look at the black smoke!”
But when he told me he’d been to the static line to check out the only fighter aircraft, besides Dassault’s Rafale, which had conducted flight displays at the show, he admitted, “It does seem to work.” “For what they want it to do, the aircraft works. And cheaply,” he said.
The writer spoke to a number of people at the show about their impression of the aircraft. Everyone mentioned the black smoke, before grudgingly admitting that it ‘seems to work’.
During the show, news media also reported the first sale of the aircraft to a, so far, unnamed Asian export customer. Sri Lanka denied ordering the aircraft, after some reports emerged naming it as the buyer.
The JF-17 may not match up to the capabilities of a Rafale, Eurofighter, Gripen or any of the other MMRCA 6, but as my French colleague mentioned, it works and it does the job cheaply. It does all this in times when defense requirements struggle to be carried to conclusion on shaky budgets. Does the Pakistan Air Force really need a Rafale to carry out its missions?
As you’ll see in the accompanying video, it has a not-unworthy array of configured weapons in its arsenal. Air Commodore Khalid also tells us about the upgrades being planned in the next variant, the Block III.
With 54 JF-17s so far, and more planned, perhaps the Indian Air Force might find it useful to examine what numbers of JF-17s would become a source of worry, given its planned increase in capabilities and low cost of acquisition.
Text: Saurabh Joshi