Pakistan’s JF-17 Fighter Jet Is Doomed, Amid Crippling Sanctions On Russia

Pakistan Air Force is heavily dependent upon the JF-17 fighter jet whose Block-III version’s production in Pakistan was announced last week. The Block III version will feature an AESA radar, a targeting pod, and electronic warfare besides equipping the aircraft with beyond-visual-range missiles. However, it will not be before 2023-24 that Block III will begin to enter PAF service.

However, all these fancy technology means nothing if Pakistan cannot source a reliable engine for JF-17 Thunder. Pakistan’s JF-17 Block I already suffers service availability problems due to high maintenance costs and unavailability of spare parts for its engine.

The new Western sanctions means, Russia is unable source raw materials from Europe and cannot produce 100 RD-93MA engines ordered by China nor it can supply spares for Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder. The WS-13, a derivative of WS-10 engine specially built for a single engine fighter jet is yet to pass technical trials in China.

The PAF has time and against voiced, its desire to maintain air parity with India and going to China for either the J-11 or J-10 could be the only way of securing that parity.

China also began introducing locally made laser-guided bombs – the LT-series. These were similar to the American Paveway and the Russian KAB-500L.

Turkish firm Aselsan has signed a contract with Pakistan to integrate its ASELPOD Electro-Optical Targeting System onto JF-17 fighter jets. A contract amounting to $24.9 million for 16 ASELPOD systems had been signed in 2017.

Earlier, Pakistan tried unsuccessfully to obtain the Damocles targeting pod made by Thales before settling for the ASELPOD.

A new engine for the Pakistani JF-17 fighter jet, dubbed RD-93MA being developed by Russia’s United Engine Corporation (UEC)-Klimov has entered thermal chamber tests to confirm high-speed characteristics in simulated flight conditions.

Sanctions on Russian Defense Industries

The US has unveiled a new layer of sanctions on Russia, targeting services, Russia’s propaganda machine and its defence industry on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s planned Victory Day parade.

The new technology export bans on industrial items such as heavy engines, machinery, electronics, semiconductors, composites and heavy-engineering equipment are intended to have an impact on Russian war efforts by hitting the supply chain for defense manufacturers. The U.S. claims that Russia’s Uralvagonzavod Corporation, United Engine Corporation, Sukhoi Design Bureau and Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, have already been forced to halt production due to a lack of foreign components.

The targeted sanctions will also hit eight executives from Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution, and 27 from Gazprombank, owned by Russia’s giant gas industry. Until now Gazprombank has been left untouched because of its role in facilitating European purchases of Russian natural gas.

RD-93MA Engine

The RD-93MA has been specifically developed to power single-engine light fighter jets. It is an upgrade of the RD-93 engine which currently powers the Pakistani JF-17/Chinese Chengdu FC-1 single-engine fighter jets.

With the successful completion of the thermal chamber test stage, it will be possible to proceed to flight design tests. A set of tests in the TsIAM large thermal pressure chamber will be held as part of the experimental design work on the RD-93MA, a UEC statement said today.

During the tests, the engine will simulate conditions as close as possible to actual flight. Here, the BARK-93MA, the automatic control system of the engine, designed and manufactured at UEC-Klimov, will also be put to test.

The thrust of the RD-93MA is expected to 9300 Kgf compared to 8300 kgf of the RD-93, a significant bump-up in power which will help the JF-17/FC-1 to carry more armaments and fly at a higher speed (this information is not from UEC but earlier published sources).

Like all other Russian design bureaus, Russia’s United Engine Corporation most likely to halt production of RD-93MA engines for Sino-Pakistan JF-17 Thunder fighter jets.

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