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Realigning Project Azm: Balancing Ambition and Pragmatism

By Syed Aseem Ul-Islam

Author Profile: Syed Aseem Ul Islam is a Research Scholar at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA, specializing in adaptive and model-predictive flight control systems. He received his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad, and his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in flight dynamics and control from the University of Michigan.

The flagship project of Project Azm is the development of a 5th-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). However, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) has no prior experience developing a fighter jet, let alone an FGFA. The design and development of the 4th-generation JF-17 were primarily carried out in China with small design inputs from the Pakistani side.

Clearly, this limited input into the design process of the JF-17 does not provide PAC with the requisite experience or industrial base required for the design and production of an FGFA.

However, according to public statements made by the PAF, it is known that PAC is embarking on the design and development of an indigenous FGFA design.

Through publicly released videos it can be surmised that the aircraft design under consideration is a twin-engine, low-observable aircraft, similar to the Northrop YF-23. This potentially puts the Azm FGFA in the heavy-weight fighter aircraft category.

Figure 1: Azm FGFA design as seen in a promotional video.

Publicly disclosed Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) documents have shown that PAC has completed at least one cycle of the conceptual design of the FGFA.

Personnel involved with project Azm have informed the author that the design was primarily focused on CFD analysis of the airframe’s aerodynamics and flight dynamic characteristics.

Furthermore, the author has learned that PAC is now struggling with how to proceed since it does not have the requisite experience or industrial base required for moving a conceptual design into the detailed design phase, let alone producing a locally designed airframe with all its subsystems and complexities. PAC does not have the experience, human resources, or infrastructure for a task of this magnitude…

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