Pakistan’s aeronautics on the world map

Courtesy: FARHAT ALI

Pakistan’s stealth and beaming JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft roared over the skies of Paris, exhibiting spectacular aerial aerobics, manned by world’s best acknowledged Pakistani pilots, amidst spell-bound and cheering spectators of few hundred thousands at the official opening of the 51st Paris International Air Show being held at Le Bourget Air Fields outside Paris. Prior to this JF-17 was displayed at Farnborough Air Show at Dubai and Zhuhai Air Show in China.

The Paris Air Show event is over 100-year-old and this is its 51st edition being held from 15 to 21 June, 2015. It is reputed to be the world’s largest and longest running aero space trade show. This year over 140,000 professional visitors from 181 countries, 176,000 public visitors,285 official military and civilian delegations from 102 countries and 3100 journalists from around the world are participating in the event. It is the world’s largest one point place to exhibit, sell and buy the latest Aviation innovations. Some 120 of the world’s most innovative and stunning civil and military aircraft are presented this year at the Paris Air Show. Some of them are performing daily flying displays. JF-17 Thunder has the distinction of being one of them.
This is indeed the right forum to introduce JF-17 to the world. The official press release of the Paris Air Show highlights the presence of JF-17 from Pakistan as an Important appearance at the show much in line with world famed Rafale Jet fighter of France for whom 2015 is a crucial year for its success in exports. This year Egypt and India has placed substantial orders on Rafale. In the world media JF-17, built jointly by Pakistan and China, has been cited as one of the most intriguing aircraft to come to the show and all eyes are on it. Prominent under display are the fighters from the US, France, the UK, Austria, Brazil and Turkey.

Pakistan’s JF-17 presence at Paris is indeed commendable considering that the entry into this well-protected fraternity of aircraft manufactures is benchmarked to world class standards of innovation, reliability and safety.

Today, the Jet fighter industry is threatened with high costs. To balance costs with the temptation to build in so much of available innovations is a challenge. World’s leading plane makers are scrambling for survival in a now highly challenging Fighter-JET Market estimated to be around $300 billion. Lockheed, Boeing and other US and European manufacturers face acute pressure amid a demand for rivals’ combat jets.

They are scouring for new export deals that could prove crucial to extending production lines at risk of closing. A string of deals for fighter aircraft is redrawing the global battle lines among the world’s leading military aircraft makers, leaving those left empty-handed scrambling to reverse their fortunes or face a market exit.

JF-17 Thunder is a cost effective and of a second generation combat fighter jet technology which is still very effective for ground attack missions and air defence. It is lightweight with amazing manoeuvring possibilities, it is single engine, with a range of 3,482 km and top speed of 1,960 km. The first order to supply JF-17 to an Asian country has been secured- the identity of which is not made public, whereas, 11 countries have shown interest.

The market for JF-17 is at best in the emerging markets for whom the price of US and European made fighters is becoming unbearable. Further, the political string attached with the supplies from these countries is another major deterrent. Purchases from the US and the UK are often governed by their ever changing foreign policies. Supplies of spare parts to many non-complying customers were suspended rendering their investments unutilised. Pakistan suffered gravely on this account too when the US suspended the supply of spare parts of the F-16 purchased from it and the supply of second lot, which was all paid for in advance, was aborted. It was with great persuasion and legal battles that Pakistan could salvage some good out of the purchase. Emerging economies with weak political muscles are more prone to this unfair dilemma and this is the niche market where JF-17 fits in best.

Pakistan’s defence-related exports are much challenging. All such exports are under the radars of the US and the European Union who would like to censor all defence goods moving out of Pakistan. With the introduction of JF-17 in the global market, Pakistan has a lead in indigenised aeronautics over India. India is on the fast track path of building up its defence production. It has allowed 100% FDI in its defence production. In February 2015, India’s Kalyani group and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems entered into a joint venture with 51% and 49% stakes, respectively, to produce a wide-ranged missile technology.

JF-17 Thunder, jointly developed by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation of China is a symbol of another success of the joint ventures between the two great countries in defence production. Not only will this JV help Pakistan meet some of its defence needs, it will also provide Pakistan with an opportunity to export this aircraft free from political strings. The credentials so developed merit the joint venture to move on to new and escalated levels of defence production initiatives.