Pakistan is pushing ahead with the Fifth Generation Aircraft Project, trying to take the lead in equipment in India.

 Pakistan is pushing ahead with the Fifth Generation Aircraft Project, trying to take the lead in equipment in India.

On the vertical tail of the Pakistani Air Force C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft exhibited last year, C-130 transport aircraft and F-16, JF-17 fighter aircraft were drawn. The imagination of the fifth generation stealth fighter aircraft at this years tattoo show represents the dream of the fifth generation fighter that has haunted the Pakistani Air Force for a long time.

At the Royal Tattoo Fair of the UK in 2019, the vertical tail of the Pakistani Air Force C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft showed an imaginary picture of a fifth generation stealth fighter.

Ba-Five aiming at heavy fighters?

In fact, just in July 2017, the Pakistani military announced that it would launch a fifth generation fighter development project called the Azm program. After the fifth generation stealth fighter imagined on the vertical tail of the transport aircraft appeared, this may be one of the preliminary design schemes of the Azm project.

Many people have the impression that if Pakistan wants to develop a fifth generation fighter, the greatest possibility is to make major changes and stealth upgrades on the basis of JF-17. Thus, we can get a fifth generation light fighter with significantly improved performance and affordable price compared with the fourth generation fighter.

However, from the first public Azm project Fifth Generation fighter imagination, it is clear that this is the same level of the U.S. F-22A Raptor dual heavy multi-purpose fighter aircraft, similar to the location of the TF-X Fifth Generation fighter shown in the recent Turkish Air Show in Paris. This can also explain why the fifth generation foreign trade stealth fighter FC-31 has not yet made a decision to introduce such fighter after several design improvements and upgrades. Because the FC-31 is a fifth-generation fighter program targeting medium-sized fighters, the Pakistani military may still be watching.

According to the current strength comparison between the Pakistani Air Force and the Indian Air Force, the number of F-16 medium-sized fighters and JF-17 light fighters equipped by the former is only about 185, while the number of Su-30MKI heavy fighters equipped by the latter is as many as 272. In addition, Indias Ministry of Defense has bought 18 additional aircraft for its Air Force this year. In this way, around 2020, the Indian Air Force will have more than 290 Su-30MKI heavy fighter aircraft, not only far more than F-16 medium fighter aircraft and JF-17 light fighter aircraft of the Pakistani Air Force, but also more obvious advantages in operational performance. In the Indian-Pakistani air battle in February this year, the Pakistani Air Force seized the opportunity to shoot down an Indian Air Force MiG-21 fighter plane by virtue of only performance substitution. If the Pakistani Air Forces F-16 medium fighter and JF-17 light fighter face-to-face confrontation with the Indian Air Forces Su-30MKI heavy fighter, the results will be difficult to predict.

Thats why the Pakistani Air Force has always been eager to buy heavy fighters. According to official reports, in recent years, during joint exercises with the Chinese Air Force and Naval Aviation Force, Pakistani Air Force pilots have experienced and piloted Su-27SK, Su-30MKK and J-11B heavy-duty Soviet fighter aircraft for many times. If China approves the export of J-11 fighters, Pakistan will probably become the first purchaser. The Pakistani military has shown little interest in the J-10 fighter aircraft, which China is actively promoting, because of its overlap with the F-16.

Since then, it has been reported that the Pakistani Army has sought Russian heavy fighter Su-35, but so far it has not been implemented. In this case, the Pakistani Army will naturally place its demand for advanced medium-sized fighters in the future Fifth Generation Fighter Development Program. Moreover, the Pakistani military is in a very urgent mood to acquire this advanced fifth generation heavy fighter. In 2017, it put forward the target of launching the first prototype in five years. This is obviously a little too optimistic for a developing country like Pakistan, whose aviation industry is still in the process of introducing component assembly.

In fact, the idea of the Pakistani military is very straightforward, that is, to speed up the development of the fifth generation of heavy fighter aircraft and strive for early service in the case of delays in the development plan of the fifth generation fighter aircraft in India. In this way, the Pakistani Air Force is likely to lead the Indian Air Force in equipping the Fifth Generation Heavy Fighter Aircraft, and in a certain period of time, the latter will be equipped with a generation difference, thus offsetting the latters advantage in the number of fourth generation fighters.

FC-31 fighter model participated in Zhuhai Air Show. Fang Dachuan

Duck layout emphasizes high mobility

After establishing the target location of the fifth generation fighter aircraft of Azm project, the next step is how to choose the design scheme and aerodynamic layout. For readers familiar with the development of Fifth Generation fighter aircraft in various countries, the imagination of the Fifth Generation fighter aircraft in Pakistan seems familiar. Not surprisingly, from the initial ATF research and development program in the United States, to the fifth generation fighter development projects in Russia and China, to the fifth generation fighter plans in Korea, Japan, India, Turkey and other countries, various configurations and aerodynamic layout design schemes have appeared. Therefore, Pakistani aviation technicians will naturally refer to these schemes when designing the fifth generation fighter aircraft. And the fifth generation fighter aircraft with diamond wing and duck configuration, which finally appeared in front of us, is also unique to some extent.

In fact, if we compare the aerodynamic layout of the fifth generation fighter aircraft developed and proposed by all countries in the world up to now, we will find that only the Chinese J-20 adopts the tailless duck layout, while the four models of F-22A, F-35, FC-31 and Su-57 all belong to the tailed conventional layout. In addition, the Korean KF-X, the Japanese Mind, the Indian AMCA and the Turkish TF-X are four kinds of fifth generation fighter aircraft under development, and they all use the F-22A aerodynamic layout design as a template. In this case, if the fifth generation fighter aircraft of Pakistans Azm project insists on duck layout, it clearly shows that higher requirements are put forward for maneuverability.

In addition to the overall aerodynamic layout, the detailed design of the intake port, tail nozzle and large inclined vertical tail of Pakistans fifth generation fighter aircraft is also worthy of attention. Instead of adopting the most fashionable DSI intake design, the aircrafts intake ports are similar to F-22As oblique-cut dual intake ports with boundary layer partitions, as are Su-57, KF-X, Xinxin, AMCA and TF-Xs fifth generation fighter aircraft designs. This involves the DSI intake in the bulge shape design is more complex, for the import air flow simulation calculation is more demanding, the manufacturing process is more difficult, if it is not like China and the United States, such as a country with strong technical strength, it is difficult to achieve. Therefore, the choice of a more conventional oblique-cut two-way inlet with boundary layer baffles for the fifth generation fighter aircraft in Pakistan is in line with the actual requirements.

The tail nozzle of the fifth generation fighter in Pakistan adopts a binary vector thrust design, which is similar to the F-22A fighter. Besides improving its maneuverability, it is also conducive to the stealth characteristics of infrared signals. The large dip vertical tail of the fifth generation fighter aircraft in Pakistan is one of its unique technical characteristics. Because of its large dip angle, it is closer to the level, so it can be regarded as a combination of vertical tail and flat tail design. From the perspective of stealth design, such a large inclined vertical tail will increase the radar reflection cross section of the rear fuselage to a certain extent, and the lateral stability is not as good as that of a small inclined vertical tail design, but it is conducive to improving the longitudinal maneuverability, and even can form a quasi-tri-wing layout together with the duck wing and the main wing. Such a pneumatic configuration, coupled with a binary vector thrust design, will enable Pakistans fifth generation fighters to have a strong close combat capability, even with the fourth generation fighters such as the F-16 and MiG-29, which are known for their maneuverability, to gain the upper hand.

The Pakistani Air Force has equipped hundreds of JF-17 fighters.

Cooperators Conjecture

As mentioned earlier, Pakistans aviation industry does not have the capability to independently develop and produce fifth generation fighters. Therefore, this exhibition of the imagination of the fifth generation fighter aircraft, in a sense, can be regarded as looking for plum to quench thirst. To make it a reality, Pakistan needs to find a solid and reliable partner country with strong technological research and development strength. Usually, based on the successful experience of joint development of JF-17 fighter aircraft between China and Pakistan, we believe that if Pakistan wants to develop the fifth generation war opportunity, it will cooperate with China Aviation Industry. In fact, for the Pakistani military, there is another candidate partner, Turkey.

Pakistan and Turkey have close cooperation in the military field. The open imagination of the fifth generation fighter aircraft in Pakistan is very similar to one of the design schemes of Turkeys TF-X project, except that Pakistan has changed the original single-shot design of the Turkish side to double-shot design. Moreover, senior members of the Pakistani Air Force said twice in July 2017 and September 2018 that they had cooperated with Turkey in the research and development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft.

But now Turkey, which has almost fallen out with the United States, has exposed deadly shortcomings under the joint technical blockade of European and American countries, the most obvious of which is the aeroengine. Recently, for example, according to foreign media, the Turkish T129ATAK helicopter has been completely shut down because Rollo stopped supplying the LHTECCTS800-4A turboshaft engine. In this case, if Turkey does not get the advanced high-thrust turbofan engines provided by European and American countries, it should not say that it will help Pakistan to complete the Azm plan. I am afraid that its TF-X plan will also face the risk of stalling.

In fact, as far as advanced high-thrust turbofan engines are concerned, Pakistan can cooperate with AVIC to launch the AZM project. But if it is in the field of advanced high-thrust turbofan engines like the F-119 of the United States, it will be very difficult for China to fully meet the needs of the fifth generation fighter aircraft in a short time. After all, the J-20 is already in use. Today, small batches of troops are still equipped with Russian-made engines. If time is tight, China Aviation Industry will be able to provide Pakistan with the aerodynamic layout design of the fifth generation fighter aircraft, as well as radar, avionics, airborne weapons and other support, but in the supply of advanced large thrust turbofan engines, Pakistan also needs to find its own way. For example, referring to the JF-17 development model, the AL-41FS1 engine was purchased from Russia and equipped with the fifth generation fighter aircraft of the Azm project.

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