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The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) sent three of its JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter aircraft to the 2019 Paris Air Show, which took place from 17 to 23 June. Though the JF-17 flew at the event, much attention had gone into outlining the JF-17 Block 3, i.e., the JF-17’s first major iterative update.

Currently, the PAF has slated the JF-17 Block 3’s maiden flight for the end of 2019. It then expects to fly the fighter operationally in 2020. In an interview, the PAF Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Mujahid Anwar Khan, said that the PAF will also procure 26 twin-seat JF-17Bs alongside the 50 Block 3s.[1]

Considering how the JF-17B employs the same core technologies as the Block 3, e.g., the three-axis digital fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system – the PAF is procuring 76 new model JF-17s in the 2020s. The PAF is aiming to induct all of the 50 Block 3s by 2024, while the 26 JF-17Bs are due by 2021 (AIN Online). These will join 112 JF-17 Block 1 and Block 2 fighters, crossing the PAF’s original roadmap of having 150 JF-17s.

However, according to recent reports, the PAF is still finalizing the radar, electronics, and air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons package of the JF-17B and Block 3.

Radar Options

The centerpiece of the Block 3 will be its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. Though the PAF CAS stated that the selection is now down to “one of two new Chinese AESA radars,” (i.e., the KLJ-7A and the LKF601E) Alan Warns reported that the Leonardo Grifo-E “is still on the table.”

Leonardo unveiled the Grifo-E in 2018 as a low-cost AESA radar solution for lightweight combat aircraft. However, the Grifo-E uses gallium-nitride (GaN)-based transmit/receive modules (TRM), which are more efficient in terms of power consumption than older gallium-arsenide (GaA)-based TRMs.

The Grifo-E can simultaneously track up to 24 targets (the LKF601E can track 15), but its range for picking up “fighter-sized targets” are 139 km to 157 km (Leonardo). The LKF601E can track “fighter-sized targets” at up to 170 km. Otherwise, the Grifo-E, KLJ-7A, and LKF601E appear to have similar features, though the Grifo-E also includes an “inverse synthetic aperture radar” (ISAR) for “seaborne and airborne targets.”

Seeing how Leonardo opened an office in Islamabad, the company’s willingness to sell the Grifo-E is not a concern. Rather, the main constraint with selecting any Western radar is that the PAF will have trouble in integrating Chinese radar-guided munitions – i.e., the SD-10 beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile (AAM) and the C-802 anti-ship missile (AShM) – to the radar. The PAF’s Chinese and Western partners will not share their respective source-codes to enable for such integration.

[1] Alan Warnes. Interview. Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. 22 May 2019…

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The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) sent three of its JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter aircraft to the 2019 Paris Air Show, which took place from 17 to 23 June. Though the JF-17 flew at the event, much attention had gone into outlining the JF-17 Block 3, i.e., the JF-17’s first major iterative update.

Currently, the PAF has slated the JF-17 Block 3’s maiden flight for the end of 2019. It then expects to fly the fighter operationally in 2020. In an interview, the PAF Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Chi...

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The Turkish defence electronics supplier Aselsan reportedly said that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has 50 ASELPOD targeting pods on order. The PAF ordered its first batch of eight ASELPODs in 2016, with reports of follow-on orders of unknown quantities. In 2018, Aselsan confirmed that it and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) successfully integrated the ASELPOD to the JF-17 Thunder.

This recent news would confirm that the PAF is not only committed to inducting the ASELPOD, but that it will position the JF-17, its mainstay fighter, as a prominent ground attack asset.

Currently, the PAF has equipped the JF-17 to deploy the 60-100 km Range Extension Kit (REK) or Takbir – i.e., a precision-guided bomb (PGB) kit for MK-80-series general purpose bombs (GPB) – and C-802 anti-ship cruising missile (ASCM). A laser-guided bomb (LGB) should follow the integration of the ASELPOD. In March 2019, the PAF also test-fired a new precision-guided munition of an unknown typev.

With the ASELPOD, the JF-17 can hit fixed and moving ground targets. In terms of the latter, it can use the ASELPOD to designate – or “lase” – a target for its LGBs, even if the target is moving. Similarly, the JF-17 could also, potentially, use laser-guided air-to-ground missiles (AGM) – though it is not known if the PAF is seeking an AGM (akin to the AGM-65 Maverick).

The Case for Repurposing Older JF-17s for Ground Attack Missions

On first thought, it would make sense for the PAF to equip the upcoming JF-17 Block 3s with the ASELPOD. The JF-17 Block 3 will reportedly have a greater payload and, potentially, a dedicated hardpoint for special mission equipment, such as targeting pods, reconnaissance pods, and others.

However, the Block 3 will also be a high-tech asset with more qualities suitable for operating in contested air space, such as an integrated electronic warfare (EW) suite, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, and helmet mounted display and sight (HMD/S) with high off-boresight air-to-air missile.

The Block 3’s main purpose will likely be to shore-up the PAF’s ability to fend-off high-tech threats, such as the Dassault Rafale (albeit, with the need of greater numbers and other supporting assets). However, for ground attack missions, especially in a low-intensity, counterinsurgency (COIN) context, the PAF may rely more heavily on the JF-17 Block 1 and/or Block 2.

There is a limit to the Block 1 and Block-2’s upgrade potential – i.e., they cannot reach true Block 3 levels – and they are, at this stage, older airframes. It could also be the case that the Block 3 has a higher upgrade ceiling or potential due to its structural changes, which the designers likely made to ensure that the fighter could carry an AESA radar, integrated EW suite, and other subsystems from the onset.

Given the PAF’s turn on the JF-17B – i.e., a platform it had intended for only export, and now expanding the PAF’s new JF-17 orders to 76 aircraft – the likely route for additional “high-tech” JF-17s would be to order more of them. In other words, the future mainstay of the PAF fleet (especially if the PAF is unable to acquire another off-the-shelf fighter) would be the JF-17 Block 3/JF-17B and its direct evolutions.

However, moving to the Block 3 does not mean that the Block 1 and Block 2 are any less valuable. To the contrary, they could amount to a significant upgrade for ground attack missions. Having retired the A-5, the PAF lacks a close air support (CAS) asset analogous to the Jaguar. Thus, there may be an opportunity to repurpose older JF-17s for this role, and not only for COIN, but for conventional CAS operations as well.

End of Excerpt (602/1,306 words)

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The Turkish defence electronics supplier Aselsan reportedly said that the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has 50 ASELPOD targeting pods on order. The PAF ordered its first batch of eight ASELPODs in 2016, with reports of follow-on orders of unknown quantities. In 2018, Aselsan confirmed that it and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) successfully integrated the ASELPOD to the JF-17 Thunder.

This recent news would confirm that the PAF is not only committed to inducting the ASELPOD, but that it will p...

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For USD $10 per month, you will have access to weekly in-depth (1,500+ word) analysis of current defence issues about Pakistan and relating to Pakistan, as well as a monthly research report (4,000+ words) on a key Pakistani defence topic. You will also be able to access Quwa's original news coverage and exclusive multimedia content. If you are still unsure, you can subscribe to Quwa's daily email list and then receive a 300-word excerpt from us (by emailing premium@quwa.org). You'll receive free excerpts from Quwa regularly from that point on!

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‘Sea Eagle’ – The Official Name of the Pakistan Navy’s ATR-72 Maritime Patrol Aircraft

At the 2019 Paris Air Show (17-23 June), the Pakistan Navy (PN), Rheinland Air Service (RAS), and Aerodata exhibited the PN’s ATR-72 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). The official designation of the PN’s ATR-72 MPA is ‘Sea Eagle’ and is slated to replace the PN’s aging F-27 Fokker MPAs.

The Sea Eagle is configured with the following:

  • Leonardo’s Seaspray 7300 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar;
  • Aerodata AG’s AeroMission mission management system;
  • Elettronica’s electronic support measures (ESM) system;
  • FLIR Systems’ Star SAFIRE III electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) turret;
  • and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability through two torpedo hardpoints.

In a press release, the Director of RAS’ Special Mission Aircraft Division, Nikolaos Mavrikis, stated:

“With its long endurance and low operating costs, along with excellent parts and maintenance availability, the ATR 72 series was the ideal platform to fulfill our client’s most demanding operational needs for maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare missions.”

Currently, RAS and Aerodata AG hope that the PN will order up to two additional MPAs. However, the Sea Eagle program could also shape the PN’s plans for a new-generation long-range maritime patrol aircraft (LRMP) to complement and, eventually, supplant the P-3Cs. In an interview, the PN’s Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, stated that the PN is seeking a new LRMP.

One avenue for this LRMP project could involve a bespoke design using commercially off-the-shelf (COTS) subsystems – such as the Leonardo Seaspray AESA radar – and subcontractors to design and execute the project (akin to RAS with the Sea Eagle). It can also use the same subsystems as the Sea Eagle as well, and scale the training and maintenance infrastructure overhead in the process.

Pakistan Orders Aselsan’s Zargana Torpedo Countermeasures Suite for Agosta 90Bs

On 29 May 2019, the Turkish defence electronics vendor Aselsan announced it secured an order from the Pakistan Navy (PN) for its ‘Zargana’ torpedo countermeasures system (Anadolu Agency). The order is part of the PN’s Agosta 90B mid-life-update program, which is due for completion in the early-to-mid-2020s…

Pakistan Chooses Aselsan’s ALPER LPI for Damen Corvettes

On 29 May 2019, the Hürriyet reported that the Pakistan Navy (PN) selected the Aselsan’s ALPER LPI (low-probability-of-intercept) radar for use on its forthcoming Damen OPV 1900s. The Hürriyet also reported that the PN is negotiating with Aselsan to equip at least 10 additional ships with the ALPER…

End of Excerpt (402/876 words)

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‘Sea Eagle’ – The Official Name of the Pakistan Navy’s ATR-72 Maritime Patrol Aircraft

At the 2019 Paris Air Show (17-23 June), the Pakistan Navy (PN), Rheinland Air Service (RAS), and Aerodata exhibited the PN’s ATR-72 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). The official designation of the PN’s ATR-72 MPA is ‘Sea Eagle’ and is slated to replace the PN’s aging F-27 Fokker MPAs.

The Sea Eagle is configured with the following:

Leonardo’s Seaspray 7300 active electronically scanned array (AESA) ...

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On 17 May 2019, Damen Shipyards launched the first of two Pakistan Navy (PN) 2,300-ton corvettes from its facilities in Galati, Romania.

According to an official press statement by the PN Director General Public Relations (DGPR), the first ship – previously termed an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) – has a displacement of 2,300 tons.

Slated to join the PN by end of 2019, it will serve as a multi-mission corvette. The second ship will join the PN fleet by mid-2020.

The PN ordered the Damen OPVs in June 2017, and Damen Shipyards cut the steel of the first ship in April 2018. When it signed for the ships, the PN stated that it will use the OPVs for “anti surface [and] anti-air operations, maritime security operations, day/night helicopter operations, combat search-and-rescue, and surveillance and intelligence gathering operations.”

Though the PN did not disclose all of the corvette’s specifications, it did reveal that the ship has a total displacement of 2,300 tons. This would place the PN’s ships in the vicinity of Damen’s OPV 2400, the Dutch shipbuilder’s second largest OPV design (behind the OPV 2600).

In an interview with Asian Defence Journal (ADJ), the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, stated that the PN will configure the ships with “indigenously developed SSMs (surface-to-surface missiles)” and “close-in-weapon-system, anti-aircraft guns, and a modern EW (electronic warfare) suite.”

However, if based on the OPV 2400, the PN could potentially equip the ships with anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities. But this is contingent on the PN’s OPV 1900 having space for mission modules, which it can employ for ASW and other applications, such as mine countermeasures (MCM).

It is evident that the Damen ship is a component of the PN’s fleet modernization efforts.

By terming it as a corvette and earmarking it for anti-ship missiles (AShM) – potentially the long-range Harba AShM – the corvette is more than simply a patrol vessel. It will join the forthcoming MILGEM Ada corvettes (of which one might be a frigate), giving the PN six new 2,000 ton to 2,500-ton ships.

In an interview with Mönch’s Naval Forces, the PN CNS is “looking at the acquisition of more corvettes for effective contribution in the Regional Maritime Security.” This could be an indication of the PN exploring the idea of procuring additional MILGEMs and/or OPV 1900s. Both outcomes are plausible…

End of Excerpt (389/1,296 words)

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On 17 May 2019, Damen Shipyards launched the first of two Pakistan Navy (PN) 2,300-ton corvettes from its facilities in Galati, Romania.

According to an official press statement by the PN Director General Public Relations (DGPR), the first ship – previously termed an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) – has a displacement of 2,300 tons.

Slated to join the PN by end of 2019, it will serve as a multi-mission corvette. The second ship will join the PN fleet by mid-2020.

The PN ordered the Damen ...

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In an interview with IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Mujahid Anwar Khan, laid-out the PAF’s upcoming procurement plans.[1] These center on the procurement of additional JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighters alongside a new lead-in-fighter trainer (LIFT) as well as defining the PAF’s fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) program.[2]

First, the PAF is in the process of concluding the JF-17 Block-II program, with the last three aircraft (out of an order of 62) slated for June 2019. Second, for the forthcoming JF-17 Block-III, the PAF will choose one of two active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars: the KLJ-7A by the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET) or the LKF601E by Leihua Electronic Technology Research Institute (LETRI).

The PAF is aiming to induct the AESA radar-equipped JF-17 by March 2020.

Originally, the PAF opted to procure 150 JF-17s split across three equally sized tranches (i.e., Block-I, Block-II, and Block-III). However, to keep Pakistan Aeronautical Complex’s (PAC) production line warm, the PAF added 12 Block-IIs to its order. Now as per the CAS’ most recent statements, the PAF will also add 26 twin-seat JF-17Bs to its fleet[3], thus bringing the JF-17 roadmap to 188 fighters.

Having first flown in April 2017, the JF-17B was not only intended as the twin-seat training variant of the JF-17, but it was also the basis of the JF-17 Block-III. It introduced a new three-axis fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system (replacing the hybrid FBW of prior variants) and purportedly longer wingspan.

However, the primary goal of the JF-17B was to meet the needs of certain overseas users, while the PAF was satisfied with using simulators. It now appears that the PAF has pivoted to backing the JF-17B as well. It is likely that the PAF will configure these aircraft along identical lines to the JF-17 Block-III. Thus, the PAF will induct 76 new AESA radar-equipped JF-17s, and it may add more in lieu of an interim off-the-shelf jet.

It is unclear why the PAF is procuring the JF-17B. The CAS stated that the objective was to train new pilots “without first putting them through the F-16, Mirage or F-7P/PG as they are now.”[4] On first glance, one might take it as a sign that the PAF will use the JF-17B for LIFT or as a Fighter Conversion Unit (FCU). However, in the same interview, the CAS listed the LIFT as a separate requirement.[5]

End of Excerpt (408/1,461 words)

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[1] Alan Warnes. Interview. Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force. IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. 22 May 2019.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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In an interview with IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Mujahid Anwar Khan, laid-out the PAF’s upcoming procurement plans.[1] These center on the procurement of additional JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighters alongside a new lead-in-fighter trainer (LIFT) as well as defining the PAF’s fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) program.[2]
First, the PAF is in the process of concluding the JF-17 Block-II program, with the last t...

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For USD $10 per month, you will have access to weekly in-depth (1,500+ word) analysis of current defence issues about Pakistan and relating to Pakistan, as well as a monthly research report (4,000+ words) on a key Pakistani defence topic. You will also be able to access Quwa's original news coverage and exclusive multimedia content. If you are still unsure, you can subscribe to Quwa's daily email list and then receive a 300-word excerpt from us (by emailing premium@quwa.org). You'll receive free excerpts from Quwa regularly from that point on!

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