According to a report in the UK’s Financial Times newspaper, the West is irritated by the growing defence cooperation between China and Pakistan. The joint JF-17 Thunder fighter jet, the Burraq armed drone, and the specially designed AIP equipped submarines are all mentioned in the paper as examples of the close cooperation between the two countries, wrote Group Captain D.K. Pandey (Retd) in a report.

Though Pakistan asserts that the PAC, at Kamra, has the maximum Share (58%) of the production, this is untrue. The JF-17 is put together at a sub-assembly line of Kamra’s Aircraft Manufacturing Factory using raw materials and production kits imported from CAIC, China. Only a few sub-assemblies, including the wings, front fuselage, and tail, are produced by PAC using materials that are once again imported from China. The ejection seat is from Martin Baker; however, the majority of the systems are Chinese, South African, and European (UK).

PAF’s JF-17 has maintenance problems that are getting worse by the day. The reason is the RD-93, the engine of JF-17s. The RD-93 is Russian made engine.

Issues With Chinese JF-17 Jets

The JF-17 recorded a string of crashes (most of them not reported by ISPR) and frequent technical breakdowns, casting serious doubts on the fitness of the aircraft.

Over 100 JF-17 Block 1 & 2 fighters are currently in service with the PAF. There are about 40 un-airworthy aircraft. Guide vanes, exhaust nozzles, and flame stabilisers have reportedly developed cracks in a significant number of engines. It’s challenging to replace the substandard engines.

JF-17 in the Air Defence role was reported to be unreliable. It has an indigenous Link-17 data link. Reports say “it does not have sufficient data transfer rate. The aircraft’s true interoperability capability is limited as it can never be integrated with the F-16 fighter’s Link-16”. The ‘Thunder’ does not have even an effective BVR or Airborne Interception radar. It was hailed as the second-best PAF fighter after the F-16, but “on February 27, 2019, in the face of effective jamming and strikes by Indian pilots, all of its Range Extension Kit (REK) bombs missed their intended target.

JF-17 avionics are supported by the KLJ-7 radar, but it consistently performs much below stipulated levels and has experienced numerous operational problems since the project’s inception.

The competence of a fighter aircraft is assessed on the basis of the effectivity avionics, weapons, and engine configuration. JF-17 is assessed to be much inferior to the stipulated standards. The major unremarkable flaws of JF-17 are:

Low Endurance
Poor Accuracy
Unreliable Airborne Interception Radar
Low Weapon Carrying Capability
Maintenance problems
Low credibility of Aircraft Main Computer, and
Frequent failures of a number of its modules

It was termed as “PAF JF-17 Blunder” after the crash of JF-17 during a training mission on September 15, 2020.

Numerous JF-17 aircraft failures were reported, which were largely attributable to the RD-93 engines’ serviceability. Worried Pakistan bypassed China and went straight to Russia to purchase the RD-93 engines. Series of negotiations between Islamabad and Moscow paid the dividends. Now Kilmov, the Russian engine manufacturer has expressed its willingness to provide RD-93 engines. The deal includes relevant accompanying repair systems and maintenance facilities to JF-17 aircraft.

Nigeria Officially Confirms Acquisition of 24 M-346FA Jets

Nigeria’s interest in the Leonardo M-346FA (Fighter Attack) is not a secret: while never officially confirmed, the news that the Sub Saharan African nation was to become the new customer of the “light combat” version of the M-346 advanced jet trainer, has been around for several years.

The Nigerian Air Force has struck a deal with an Italian defence company for the supply of 24 M-346 master aircraft.

The deal is said to be worth around €1.2bn.

According to a report by Military Africa on November 7, 2023, the aircraft is expected to be delivered to the Nigerian Air Force in 2024.

The report noted that several prominent defence companies had been approached to provide the necessary munitions, missiles, precision-guided bombs, and rockets for the platforms.

It added that the Master aircraft would replace the ageing Dassault Alpha jet A/E and would enhance Nigeria’s aerial capabilities and bolster its defence strategies.

The report partly read, “The Nigerian Air Force’s forthcoming acquisition of 24 M-346 Master aircraft from Italy’s Leonardo is generating considerable interest in the defence industry. With discussions already underway regarding the selection of armament for these advanced aircraft, several prominent defence companies have been approached to provide the necessary munitions, missiles, precision-guided bombs, and rockets.

“The deal, estimated to be worth around €1.2bn, marks a significant step in Nigeria’s ongoing efforts to modernise its air force. The M-346 Master aircraft will replace the ageing Dassault Alpha jet A/E, enhancing the country’s aerial capabilities and bolstering its defence strategies. The aircraft is expected to be delivered to the Nigerian Air Force in 2024.

“The selection of armament for these aircraft is crucial to their operational effectiveness, and Nigerian defence authorities have engaged with several renowned companies to fulfil these requirements.”

The report, however, noted that with the acquisition of the Master aircraft the Nigerian Air Force would be the most powerful in the region.

“With this purchase, the NAF will have the most powerful air force in the region, especially since it also has a fleet of armed Chinese and Turkish drones, “ the report added.

When contacted, the Air Force spokesman, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, confirmed the acquisition.

He said, “ Confirmed. This has been mentioned severally by the NAF at various forums.”

The aircraft is equipped with multi-mode Grifo-M-346 mechanical scanning radar, developed by Leonardo and optimised for the M-346FA. The M-346FA is also equipped with a complete passive defence system (DASS – Defensive Aids Sub-System), integrated communication system and tactical datalink (TDL). The M-346FA can integrate different types of armaments and external loads, including air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions (such as IR, radar and/or laser/GPS- guided munitions), gun pods, and target reconnaissance and designation pods, integrated with Helmet Mounted Displays (HMD). Among the weapons integrated or tested for integration there are the IRIS-T and AIM-9 air-to-air missiles, a 12.7 mm gun pod, GBU-12 and GBU-49 laser-guided bombs, JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), Brimstone and Marte ER, Small Diameter Bombs and RecceLite reconnaissance pod.

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