By Bilal Khan
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF)’s No. 2 fighter squadron operating out of Masroor Air Base in Karachi has formally inducted the JF-17 Thunder. The squadron was previously flying the Chengdu F-7P Skybolt, a Chinese derivative of the Russian MiG-21 and one of the current backbone fighters in the PAF. This is the third operational fighter squadron (not including Combat Commanders’ School) to be equipped with the JF-17, in addition to the No. 26 and No. 16 squadrons in Peshawar.
The No. 2 squadron is also the first Southern Air Command squadron to be equipped with the JF-17. Be sure to check out Quwa’s previous articles discussing why the JF-17 is an important program for the PAF as well as the multitude of improvements it offers over the existing fleet. That said, there are some specific comparisons to be made between the two fighters.
In general, the JF-17 is a vast improvement over the F-7P, especially in terms of range and payload, not to mention the added capability of beyond visual range air-to-air and precision air-to-surface warfare capabilities in the Thunder. For Southern Air Command in particular, the inclusion of the JF-17 will greatly boost that sector’s anti-ship warfare (AShW) capacity: The JF-17 has been integrated with the C-802A and CM-400AKG anti-ship missiles (AShM), and the Block-II will also be equipped with aerial-refuelling probes. These two elements are important gains in as far as PAF’s maritime responsibilities go, the No. 2 squadron’s JF-17s will greatly augment the present AShW cadre in the sector’s specially equipped Mirages.