Once again, a Pakistan’s JF-17 crashed. The latest victim was a JF-17B training plane, which crashed on August 6, 2021
This was the fifth accident involving the Pakistan Air Force JF-17 family. The most recent was an accident on September 15, 2020. Martin Baker, the manufacturer of the ejection seat confirmed that JF17 had crashed but the perfect ejection mechanism of the UK based ejection seat provider saved the life of the pilot.
Pakistan’s JF-17 “Thunder”, which was supposed to be a low cost, light-weight, all-weather multi-role fighter with a Chinese airframe, has now become a liability for Islamabad due to its high Operations and Maintenance cost as compared to the modern weapon systems.
In 1999, Pakistan and China had inked an agreement to jointly develop and produce the JF-17 “Thunder”. They had also decided to share the development cost. Pakistan had believed that the JF-17 would be at par with the Su-30MKI, Mig-29 and Mirage-2000. It was supposed to be “equipped with Western avionics and powered by the Russian Klimov RD 93 aeroengine”.
On February 27, 2019, during an attempted retaliation to the Indian Air Force targeting a Pakistani terrorist group, the JF-17 performed poorly against IAF Mirage-2000 and SU-30s. Military observers believe that, In the Air Defense role, its indigenous Link-17 data link is not only unreliable; it does not have sufficient data transfer rate and can never be integrated with the F-16 fighter’s Link-16 to give the aircraft true interoperability capability.
Considered the best fighter of the Pakistani Air Force after the F-16, the JF-17 is rated as having low durability, the accuracy of its weapons and the payload are also not appreciated. The critical part of the JF-17 avionics is the KLJ-7 Al radar and Weapon Mission Management Computer (WMMC) and both face several problems. It has limited capacity and has shown high failure rates for some of its modules, including the Main Computer module.
The JF-17’s weapon load is also unremarkable. Its integral 23 mm Gun initially experienced gun stoppages in the air and now has problems with the 23 mm round bursting. Efforts to integrate the aircraft with other Chinese weapons are in progress, but with limited success.
According to international media, Pakistan is currently interested in the Chinese J-10 fighter jet, which is cheap with an expected price in 2018 of $25 million per unit. However, as the Pakistani Rupee depreciated by nearly 30% last year, the cost of the plane would be very high for Islamabad. Due to financial problems, it will be difficult for the JF-17 to receive the material support and spare parts that Islamabad needs to buy from China.