05 Juni 2010

Pakistan Begins Domestic Fighter Avionics Production

05 Juni 2010
JF-17 Cockpit diagram (photo : ggpht)

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan said it has commenced domestic production of avionics for the Sino-Pak JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft.

The announcement came May 28 at a ceremony attended by Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra, just outside Islamabad.

To date, the majority of avionics produced in Pakistan have been manufactured under license from foreign companies, most notably Selex Galileo radars for the Air Force's Mirage III and F-7P Fishbed fighters. However, this looks set to change.

During the May 28 ceremony, the PAC's chairman, Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan, outlined the JF-17 avionics, in which he stated, "four indigenously designed and developed avionics systems were also being produced," and that the "production scope would be progressively broadened to include the production of a complete JF-17 avionics suite at the complex."

Officials at PAC could not provide any details on the announcement, and Air Force officials declined to answer any queries.

It is believed, however, that at least two of the domestically designed and produced systems include a head-up display and a weapons and mission management computer.

Past indigenous avionics projects have included a radar homing system in the 1960s for the F-104 fighter jet; an IRST pod and modifications to the GEC 956 HUD (Head Up Display); and the HUDWAC (HUD Weapon Aiming Computer) for the F-7P in the 1990s.

Efforts to sustain avionics design in Pakistan have not succeeded.

Retired Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail said he believes the reason is because it has "not been a viable proposition so far."

However, large-scale indigenous production of the JF-17 and potential export sales mean such a move is now more economically viable, he said.

Tufai said the Air Force has the potential to succeed because it has "a very large pool of highly qualified avionics engineers at the bachelor's, master's and even doctorate level, both serving and retired."

If that potential does result in a focused effort, "the next decade may well see Pakistan establish itself as one of the leading Asia-Pacific producers of avionics hardware and software," he said.

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