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JF-17 Thunder Specifications
Updated - 29th Dec 2011

The new Sino-Pak fighter, the JF-17 Thunder, is the subject of numerous claims and counter-claims by the aviation community. The facts about this jet, taken from plethora of sources, often contradict each other. However after sifting through each and everyone of them, a pattern emerges, which removes the ambiguity surrounding the JF-17. The following is the result of an exhaustive compilation of all known valid sources pertaining to the fighter. Five hotly contested parameters along with their sources are taken and put under the scanner.

The first parameter which is the subject of much ambiguity is Empty Weight of this fighter. This figure was constantly changed during the course of its development cycle. An Aircraft gaining weight during its development period is nothing new and is a standard for fighter jets, unless specifically stated otherwise. This fact is extremely helpful in discerning the updated sources over old ones.
When JF-17 first flew, the first specifications of this fighter was taken from numerous third party sources which quoted random news articles, because Pakistan Aeronautical Complex(PAC) Aircraft Manufacturing Factory's JF-17 page and China's CAC weren't updated till 2007[1][2] and 2009[3] respectively. The Empty Weight back in 2003 was 6,320 kgs.[4][5]
During the course of the development JF-17 became heavier. It weighed 6,411 kgs, 91kgs heavier. With the help of The Internet Wayback Machine it's now clear that this PAC's JF-17 page existed from March 2 2007 to October 24 2010.
The next update came via IDEAS 2008 held in November of that year in Pakistan. IDEAS which showcased the JF-17 for the first time at the center stage, didn't disappoint the aviation fans. It gave the much awaited updated specs of that fighter. The new empty weight was now 6586kgs(14520lbs)[6] This has been further confirmed from the IDEAS 2012 placard featuring the same updated Specs.[24][25][26]
However as pointed before, the PAC website wasn't updated even in 2010. Only from 2011 did PAC finally updated its specs to the latest figures from 2008. Unlike PAC's website, CAC's website is still not updated. It's still displaying old figures right from April 17 2009 to September 6th 2012. The updated specs can be clearly seen in PAC's website from Jan 20 2011 to October 16th 2012, and the Present Day Website . The lethargy w.r.t updation was also clearly visible, first in the Turkish Izmir Airshow held on June 4 2011[7], and second in the JF-17 Chief Engineer's Power Point Presentation at the Dubai Airshow held on November 13 2011,[8] where both of them display many old JF-17 parameters including the old empty weight.

Another parameter which is controversial is the Engine Thrust of JF-17. Numerous sources state numerous figures. RD-93 engine is a variant of RD-33 Series 3 engine with repositioned gearboxes. However while Klimov states that the engine thrust is 18,300lbf(8300kgf)[9], sources like the placard from IDEAS 2008 state that the Thrust is 19,200lbf(8700kgf).[6] This would been a major contradiction between official sources if not for Klimov. The Russian Engine manufacturer cleared up this confusion by clearly stating that the RD-33 Series 3/RD-93 engine has a provision for Emergency Thrust which is used only during take-offs.[10] Normally Russians employ such provisions in their engines to help the fighters with the much needed the extra acceleration during takeoff/scramble missions. Even the MiG-21Bis Engine has this feature. This was partly corrected in the new PAC specs from its website, however it still displays 700lbf thrust more than what is given out by the RD-93's afterburner. Obviously the PAC's engine thrust figure from IDEAS 2008 and the Website, was more oriented towards marketing than exhaustively elaborating all the technical nuances of the engine.
Another controversy reared its head when Klimov flashed an incredible figure which kicked up a storm. The Zhuhai Airshow stall displayed that RD-93 has a thrust of 10,000kgf(22046lbf!).[11] How can Klimov which managed a modest increase of 700kgf in their new engine after almost 30 years, and went on a massive PR campaign showcasing their achievement to the entire world in airshows & press releases, and also naming their new RD-33 engine as RD-33MK "Sea Wasp" new generation engine[10][12], keep this massive 10,000kgf nameless engine under-publicized? It certainly doesn't add up. Upon glancing at the above display, it becomes obvious that the Klimov exhibit is not a technical data sheet. It very briefly goes over JF-17's history and then gives a vague 8000kgf-10000kgf figure. 8000kgf may look like the military thrust without afterburner, but for a 10,000kgf engine the military thrust will be less than 7000kgf, not anywhere near 8000kgf! This huge discrepancy would have remained unsolved if not for Klimov's old press-kit for China.[13] Whoever at Klimov made that non-technical display, copied the above old template from 2006 and displayed it 5 years later at Zhuhai 2011. The presentation was so shoddy that even the headline wasn't changed to "55 Years" from the original "50 Years". The max Class rating of turbojet engine(Russians call both Turbojet and Turbofan as Turbojet engines) rated 10,000kgf was diligently copied and clubbed in it with the minimum Class rating of RD-33's 8000kgf. They probably thought that separating the two and explaining everything wasn't necessary since this was a general non-technical exhibit more geared towards showcasing the best face without elaborating the technical nuances. And what's more, going by the above press-kit source, JF-17 should have had 9000kgf in 2006 itself. But everyone knows that is not the case. Lethargy in PR divisions of aerospace companies is something which needs to be seriously looked into. Finally after a long silence, Klimov came out with a statement that a new engine RD-93MA has been in development and it features 9300kgf thrust finally ending the nonsense of 10,000kgf once and for all. No date has been given as to when this new RD-93MA engine will come out of the development phase and will get operational clearance.[23]

The Radar Range of the JF-17 is also embroiled in controversy. An internet blog of some individual, posted a pic claiming to be the official brochure from CETC. It claims that the KLJ-7 onboard JF-17 has a detection range of 105km for a 5m2 target.[14] However, PAF isn't too fond of this radar eventhough it has the same range as F-16 Block52's APG-68(V)9[15][16] & Mirage-2000-5/-9 's RDY-2[16], and has more range than RC-400 radar. Even in its most powerful form(meaning the version with the largest antenna, which the JF-17 cannot house due to its relatively small nose), the RC400 has 20% less range than the RDY-2 radar. RC-400 is the radar which the PAF is planning to equip their second block of JF-17 according to current reports. The APG-68(V)9 has a bigger antenna(bigger radar-dish/bigger antenna gives more range) than the KLJ-7, plus it is manufactured by Northrop Grumman, a more mature and advanced Military-Industrial complex than CETC by a large margin. And APG-68(V)9 & APG-68(V)10 are THE best & latest mechanically scanned array type radars on F-16s(Both APG-68(V)9 & APG-68(V)10 have the same range[17]). Like the APG-68(V)9 & APG-68(V)10, KLJ-7 is also a mechanically scanned array type radar. So the claim that the KLJ-7 has the same range as APG-68(V)9 seems more unlikely. Also is the fact that the PAF preferred a far lesser ranged RC-400 over the KLJ-7 radar. All this is fueling speculation that KLJ-7's true specs is lower than publicized by the closed-to-scrutiny Chinese Defence Establishments. This speculation turned out to be true when Janes Defence Weekly published that the Radar Range of KLJ-7 is actually 75km for a 3m2 Target. The page in the Janes site has since been taken offline during a site overhaul. So with help of the Internet Archive, you can see the old Janes webpage carefully preserved.[18]
Using the Radar-Range-RCS equation which states that the detection range varies with the fourth root of the RCS, KLJ-7 will detect a 5m2 target at 85 kms.[19]

Another figure which is hotly debated is the JF-17's Speed. While Mach 1.6 is the near universal figure, Mach 1.8 keeps cropping up sometime or the other. Mach 1.8 was stated in a news release, and briefly later in PAC's website, when the fighter's prototype underwent high speed tests. However after the increase of Empty Weight, the new Updated specs from PAC indicates that the speed got back to Mach 1.6.[21].[37] [38]

There is also confusion with the JF-17's Weapons Payload. The new specs which came out indicate a load of 3400Kgs.(lb is a error. Wish the entire world converted to the Metric system)[37][38]

And Finally, JF-17 origins. There is an active disinformation campaign on the net by JF-17 fans that the fighter evolved from either MiG-33 or Romanian IAC-95. However there has been no proof that the Romanians have either transferred blue prints, or assisted in the development of JF-17. The MiG-33 angle does hold water due to the Russian assistance in the JF-17 project, but apart from the Elevators, the MiG-33's Spine, Frontal View, Fuselage, Tail Fin, Intakes, and most importantly Wings doesn't bear resemblance to the JF-17 fighter[27]. So most likely the Russian assistance is for the honey comb structure housing the Russian RD-93 engine. JF-17 is rather..., it's better if I quote sino defence an old and experienced pro-chinese defence website "The FC-1 traces its origin to the Super-7 fighter programme, a joint Chengdu-Grumman development project worth US$500 million to upgrade the Chinese J-7 (MiG-21) fighter." "Chengdu continued the Super-7 project independently and re-branded the design as FC-1."(FC-1 is the chinese designation for the JF-17 fighter. JF-17/FC-1 was initially named Super-7 after the project it originated from.)[28] Further confirmed by these recently de-classified material from Grumman.[29][30][31][32][33] All that when compared to JF-17 Prototype-1 makes perfect sense as to the Origins of JF-17.[34] Thus JF-17 is part of the MiG-21 family of fighters and owes it's existence to the 1950's era plane.[35][36] This makes the JF-17 Thunder a radically evolved/modified MiG-21.

It's now clear that the Specification of JF-17, after an exhaustive research covering all known sources, is more or less the data published by the current PAC's Official website, IDEAS 2008, 2012 and 2014 factsheets.(IDEAS 2010 was cancelled due to floods)
To round off, the Latest and Valid Specs for the JF-17 Thunder Fighter Aircraft is as follows.
Technical Data Sheet
* Empty Weight - 6586 kgs / 14520 lbs
* Engine Thrust
- Emergency takeoff Thrust - 8700 kgf / 19200 lbf
- Afterburner Thrust - 8300 kgf / 18300 lbf
* Radar Range(Detection) - 75 km for 3m2 target
* Speed - Mach 1.6
* Weapons Payload - 3400 kgs / 7500lbs

[1] - Ancient PAC website which was online till 2006
[2] - Old PAC website which was online from March 2 2007 to October 24 2010
[3] - Out-of-Date CAC website which is online from 2009
[4] - Ancient Empty Weight of JF-17 from a Third Party Source
[5] - Ancient Empty Weight of JF-17 from a Third Party Source
[6] - Updated Empty Weight of JF-17 from IDEAS 2008
[7] - Old JF-17 parameters including the old empty weight from Izmir , Turkey
[8] - Old JF-17 parameters including the old empty weight from the Chief Engineer's Power Point Presentation from Dubai
[9] - RD-93 After Burner Thrust from Klimov's Website
[10] - RD-93 Take-off Emergency Mode Thrust from Klimov Website's Press-kit
[11] - Zhuhai Airshow Exhibit
[12] - Klimov Website's RD-33MK page
[13] - Klimov's old press-kit template for China
[14] - Radar Range of KLJ-7 from CETC
[15] - Radar Range of F-16 Block 52's APG-68(V)9 radar from
[16] - Radar Range of Mirage-2000-5/-9's RDY-2 radar from
[17] - Radar Range of F-16 Block 52's APG-68(V)10 radar from
[18] - KLJ-7's real range from Janes Defence Weekly's website
[19] - KLJ-7's range for 5m2 target using Radar-Range-RCS equation
[20] - Old PAC website which was online from March 2 2007 to October 24 2010
[21] - Old PAC website which was online from Jan 20 2011 to October 16 2012
[22] - Zhuhai 2012 Airshow Placard
[23] - RD-93MA news from Klimov
[24] - IDEAS 2012 Infoboard
[25] - IDEAS 2012 Placard
[26] - IDEAS 2012 Technical Data Sheet
[27] - MiG-33 Model
[28] - JF-17 Origins from
[29] - Sabre-II which got evolved into JF-17
[30] - Sabre-II and Super-7 which got evolved into JF-17
[31] - JF-17 Prototype 1 which derives design traits from Super-7
[32] - JF-17 initially named as Super - 7
[33] - Super-7, JF-17's old name
[34] - JF-17 Prototype 1 which shares design traits with the Super-7
[35] - JF-17 and MiG-21 Family Tree
[36] - JF-17 derived from the MiG-21/F-7 Chain
[37] - New & Updated PAC's Present Day Website
[38] - JF-17 IDEAS 2014 Infoboard / Placard / Specifications from PAC

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