The Pakistan air force has indicated a requirement for up to 25 more Chengdu F-7PG/FT-7PG fighters to bolster its fleet to 75 aircraft. Meanwhile, the protracted China/Pakistan Chengdu Super 7/FC-1 development programme appears to be finally moving ahead, with the metal for the first prototype having recently been cut.

China has completed delivery of 50 of the improved F-7s to Pakistan and is understood to be discussing a follow-on order for 25 single-seat F-7PGs and two-seat FT-7PGs. Pakistan is also expected to shortly sign a contract with Italy's Galileo to equip the fighter, designated in China as the F-7MG, with the improved Fiar Grifo MG radar.

The F-7PGs have been delivered equipped for the radar but do not have it installed. The radar selection was delayed while the Pakistan air force evaluated BAE Systems Super Skyranger, an improved pulse-Doppler version of the F-7's Skyranger 226 ranging radar. Italian officials say the Grifo MG was able to demonstrate better low-level capability than that of the Super Skyranger.

Installation of Grifo MG is likely to be performed by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra, which has already fitted Grifo F and M variants of the multimode radar to older F-7Ps and Dassault Mirage IIIEA/DA fighters. Grifo MG has an enlarged 350mm (13.8in) diameter antenna and an expanded ±30° elevation and azimuth capability.

Pakistan's F-7PG have replaced its elderly Nanchang F-6s and provide an interim capability until the Super 7 can be fielded. With initial fabrication now under way, the first prototype is due to make its maiden flight by the end of the next year. A full-size mock-up of the fighter is expected to be at the Farnborough air show in July.

The programme has been dogged by disagreements over radar and avionics and the refusals of European governments to approve a deal. Pakistan wants either a BAE or Thales sensor and weapons system, while China wants indigenous avionics and radar.

Source: Flight International