The Game Changer

The Game Changer Vigorous Dragon Joins the fleet
Vigorous Dragon Joins the fleet

Four decades after PAF acquired the first delivery of F-16 Fighting Falcons, a momentous ceremony in March 2022, marked yet another milestone in the glorious history of the PAF. The induction of the omni-role, 4.5 Generation J-10C ‘Vigorous Dragon’ was another step to strengthen the aerial defence of the country. Senior Civil and Military leadership gathered at the occasion and showed their combined resolve to make the defence of the country impregnable and termed the induction of this newly inducted weapon system as a ‘Game Changer’ event in the history of Pakistan.

The rapid evolution of air power complemented by advances in technology, required that PAF kept pace with contemporary capabilities and employment concepts. This was imperative to maintain optimum mission readiness. The PAF had been able to develop itself as a force to reckon with, through a professional, innovative and bold leadership; resilience and skills of its human resource and above all intrinsic motivation to serve Pakistan. At the ceremony, held in March this year at Karma, the PM, Services Chiefs’, elected members of National Assembly and senior military and civil officials, were all part of history in the making as the PAF formally inducted its latest acquisition- the J-10C ‘Vigorous Dragons’. The induction marked the dawn of a new era. The J-10C weapon system is the PAF’s new pointy tip of the spear, proud flag bearer, the game changer equipped with EW suite, AESA radar, and the PL-15 missile. The ‘Vigorous Dragon’, as it is fondly called, would further strengthen the PAF in achieving its mission, contributing towards national security and regional stability.  

The ceremony was as glamorous as it could be. Soon after the guard of honour and as the guests took their seats, a fly past of different aircraft was presented. Approaching perpendicular to the dais and flying right over it, first to come-in were the famous Sherdil, in nine-ship K-8, running-in in a “Spirit Formation.” Then a single Mirage aircraft busted the arena in a high-speed low-level run-in front of the guests. Next, a 4-ship Mirage formation appeared from the left to perform a high G ‘Break Manoeuvre’. 

After two four-ship formations of F-16s and of JF-17s each presented linear bomb bursts, a three-ship followed by a two-ship formation of the highly anticipated J-10C aircraft flew low along the runway presenting a salute to the chief guest. The J-10C formations then fed in the landing pattern for a full-stop landing. The aircraft taxied to the venue and parked in front of the guests in a synchronized manner. After the formation switched off at main tarmac, the air and ground crews formed up in front of the aircraft. The commentators of the aerial display were Sqn Ldr Hassaan Jalal and Sqn Ldr Khadija Awan.

Quantum Leap

In their speeches, the leadership of the country articulated that the J-10C Dragon aircraft gave Pakistan a much-needed competitive advantage. In his opening remarks, Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force shed light on the evolving global challenges.

“Rapidly changing geopolitical

environment has had a profound impact on the region and Pakistan. The pace of changing technologies in contemporary war alters the character of war increasingly. Advancement in space, network, electronic warfare, cyberspace nano technology coupled with Artificial Intelligence (AI) have significantly affected the traditional concept of national security and defence,” he said.

In order to safeguard against all threats, the armed forces of Pakistan continued to synergize their efforts bridging capability gaps through timely inductions programmes, ACM Zaheer Ahmed Baber further elaborated. “Considering modern parameters of warfare, induction of J-10Cs jets in the air force, is the result of one such combined effort, which merits appreciation at all levels. I must acknowledge the support that the air force received from the government of Pakistan, under the able leadership of the PM despite enormous challenges. This milestone could not have been possible without your patronage, to equip the air force with the new weapon system within a short space of eight months,” he said while also appreciating support of the Chief of Army Staff in backing the air force in all initiatives of national importance.

In his views, the induction ceremony was testimony to the strong partnership between two friendly countries Pakistan and China, as the two sides are committed to work together in multiple domains to ensure peace in the region.

He finally complimented his team for its dedication and professionalism, and especially the No 15 Sqn, for successful induction of the new weapon system in a record time. “This induction ceremony has significant aspects. Today after a gap of four decades, PAF is inducting the J-10C next generation combat system, state of the art concept and weaponry,” he said proudly.

Next to comment on the inductions was Prime Minister Imran Khan, who said that the pride was reminiscent of the wave of joy that spread 40 years ago when the F-16s were inducted to defend skies with latest aircraft. He lamented the efforts to create a security imbalance in the sub-continent. To address that challenge, the induction of J-10C was a significant addition into Pakistan’s defence system. He appreciated support from China for providing the jets in a record time. He complemented the CAS, PAF for his futuristic vision that prevailed in Pakistan’s armed forces. “Future warfare will be dependent on the latest technologies with focus on developing indigenous capabilities. As Pakistan sets off in the right direction, I express confidence on behalf of millions of Pakistanis, in their armed forces,” Mr Imran Khan said, cautioning that after these new acquisitions, belligerent forces threatening national security would only pick up massive losses.

“In Operation Swift Retort, Pakistan sent a message across the globe that Pakistan is capable of defending its borders. The people of Pakistan are the strength of its armed forces. Speaking on behalf of the citizens, I can safely say that the nation overcame one of the most difficult challenges during the war on terror, sending a message that Pakistan could defend its sovereignty,” Imran Khan stressed, expressing greater confident in the country’s defence capabilities, after seeing the new jets perform.

He expressed pride in the capabilities of the PAF to induct the J-10C jets and in taming the Dragons in a record time.

Contract Signing Jun-2021

The Dragons arrived in March this year, however, the contract to deliver these aircraft was signed back in Jun 2021. As per the contract, the Chinese agreed to provide training, ground support equipment and weaponry, including the famous PL-15 missile to the PAF. Resultantly, as we have witnessed that in less than a year, the first batch was delivered in March, 2022, reflecting PAF’s need for urgent acquisition of the new capability. CAS, PAF termed the contract signing with China as a historic moment for Pakistan and for the PAF. “A Milestone achievement, a major step forward in our commitment to defend aerial frontiers of Pakistan. I appreciate and acknowledge the support of our all-weather friend and strategic partner China. Pakistan has always endeavoured for peace in South Asia without indulging in any arms race,” ACM Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu had said during the contracting signing ceremony with China. The ceremony was attended by senior leadership of both sides.

The Air Chief took the opportunity to share that the prime focus remained on the modernization campaign, absorbing and operationalizing new technologies along with enhancing human resource development. This, he said, was fundamental for any organization. “Being fully aware of the non-contact warfare paradigm, Pakistan strives to attain its punch through a smart induction programme of cutting edge and niche technologies, coupled with collaboration with friendly countries and indigenization campaigns. Induction of J-10C, will endure, retention of first shot capability to PAF, and that is an important milestone for the PAF.” The J-10s state-of-the-art AESA radar and other components, including the long-range PL-15 missile, would not only boost operational capabilities but also ensure desired technological edge in the evolving global environment, the Air Chief Marshal emphasized towards the end of his speech.

The Vigorous Dragon

The 4.5 Generation J-10C is a multi role fighter aircraft with extended long range first-shot Beyond Visual Range (BVR) capability. Owing to its excellent performance in all flight regimes and altitudes, matchless manoeuvrability and advanced integrated Electronic Warfare Suite; the aircraft can take-on any contemporary aerial and ground threats with precision. Equipped with latest avionics such as modern AESA Radar and fully-fused sensor systems enabling employment of a variety of weapons, the aircraft is ideally suited for conduct of multi-domain operations.

The J-10C Vigorous Dragon, a single-engine tactical fighter built by the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation in Sichuan province. Developed in the 90s, the J-10 was similar in concept to the lightweight Belly Intake F-16 with some DNA from Canard LAVI – Israel’s cancelled fighter jet. Chinese military expert Fu Qianshi, recently revealed on a program that the J-10C had become the most feared 4.5 Generation fighter in China’s “Golden Helmets” free air combat test in recent years. In the last three years of the “Golden Helmets” exercise, the J-10C had repeatedly defeated the J-16 multirole fighter and the imported Su-35 air fighter, achieving a brilliant record.

The acquisition of modern, hi-tech. 4.5 generation semi-stealth J-10C ‘Vigorous Dragon’ into PAF fleet in record time of less than eight months shows the commitment and resolve of the present PAF leadership which has always remain the hallmark of this prestigious organization for decades. Not only its flawless induction and integration into the PAF fleet, the introduction of new maintenance concepts and revolutionary steps in bringing cultural change in handling new weapon system at the flight lines, would surely go a long way in making the PAF ‘Second to None’.