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Featured Project Azm: Pakistan's Ambitious Quest to Develop 5th Generation Military Technologies.

Bilal Khan (Quwa)

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Some new details on Project AZM as well as Block III in the new article on PAC Kamra (posted above). It summarizes what they are working on etc., and gives an insight into how they are thinking about emerging technologies and whether to produce them inhouse or not.

The gist of the information is that the project is still in the preliminary design phase (we already know from the prior statements by the ACM that this phase will have multiple tiers within itself). Periodically, through each phase they will review the cost-effectiveness (and Im guessing also PAC's ability) of what all the new gizmos and capabilities they want to add in the 5th gen aircraft and decide whether to exclude some or not.

What I am really surprised about is the ambitious timeline. 2 years through each of the new phase and the prototype to fly in 2028. Although the good chairman does caveat it by saying that the jet could change going through each design phase and the date might (certainly will) alter. They are also engaging with multiple international partners to see what they can offer PAC (which is really good news to me).

On a separate note, he also discloses the KLJ-7A as the AESA radar selected for Block IIIs and that PAC is working on a helmet-mounted display in partnership with China and other Pakistani companies. Lots of nice little details to keep the excitement going.

Edit: Also very interesting that PAC will also be overhauling foreign airliners at Karachi and Islamabad airports. That excess capacity will be put to use earning forex.
IMHO if they're going to keep evaluating the cost-effectiveness of the program every few years, then the 2028 timeline is likely for a technology demonstrator.

Remember, the LCA demonstrator flew in 2001, yet it India 18 years to make it reach FOC (the delays resulting due to them swapping COTS with in-house works, especially FCS).

IMHO, the fact that the PAF is now publicizing this much info at this stage tells me they want joint-ventures with foreign companies on the various inputs. Lol I know more about this NGFA than I do about al-Khalid 2. @JamD
 
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Ghessan

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Some new details on Project AZM as well as Block III in the new article on PAC Kamra (posted above). It summarizes what they are working on etc., and gives an insight into how they are thinking about emerging technologies and whether to produce them inhouse or not.

The gist of the information is that the project is still in the preliminary design phase (we already know from the prior statements by the ACM that this phase will have multiple tiers within itself). Periodically, through each phase they will review the cost-effectiveness (and Im guessing also PAC's ability) of what all the new gizmos and capabilities they want to add in the 5th gen aircraft and decide whether to exclude some or not.

What I am really surprised about is the ambitious timeline. 2 years through each of the new phase and the prototype to fly in 2028. Although the good chairman does caveat it by saying that the jet could change going through each design phase and the date might (certainly will) alter. They are also engaging with multiple international partners to see what they can offer PAC (which is really good news to me).

On a separate note, he also discloses the KLJ-7A as the AESA radar selected for Block IIIs and that PAC is working on a helmet-mounted display in partnership with China and other Pakistani companies. Lots of nice little details to keep the excitement going.

Edit: Also very interesting that PAC will also be overhauling foreign airliners at Karachi and Islamabad airports. That excess capacity will be put to use earning forex.
as you said and the detailed article posted in Blk III thread as well:

the final concept design (three phases each comprising two years of time ) which mean that stage is not far (next year probably) as the prototype is targeted to fly in 2028.

and yes, talk with a partner "with expertise" and that they are keenly looking for.
 

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Informative article and confirms a few things.

JF-17 - not as extensive changes from Block II to III as people were expecting (or hoping for), essentially AESA, HMD, and LDP hard point. KLJ-7A confirmed, and although the article doesn't mention whether this is air or liquid cooled, given the other recent reporting from Alan Warnes of the air-cooled version being used in B model, t's pretty much certain the air-cooled version will also be used in the Block III for commonality. What's interesting is that 3 AESAs were evaluated - 2 were Chinese, was the third the AESA Leonardo's Raven or Vixen? The other major confirmation was that Block I and II aircraft will be upgraded with the AESA. It seems the HMD system will be a hybrid of local input and Chinese competence to fill in any gaps, and what's particularly important here is the involvement of private sector companies in Pakistan - a very strong hint of what could come in the future.

Azm - An ambitious timeline, but one which will undoubtedly change as the project develops. As reflected in the approach to the JF-17, and if the HMD system for the Block III JF-17 is anything to go by, I think this will largely depend on what can be done in-house, and the gaps which will be filled in by third party collaboration. The key input from third parties here will clearly be powerplant and most of the avionics and weapon systems. I think what PAC is confident about is airframe design and construction, and is willing to largely complete this work on its own with limited third party input,. But what is clear is that significant investments will need to be made in materials technology for a fifth gen airframe - composites and RAM.
 

Ali_Baba

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Informative article and confirms a few things.

JF-17 - not as extensive changes from Block II to III as people were expecting (or hoping for), essentially AESA, HMD, and LDP hard point. KLJ-7A confirmed, and although the article doesn't mention whether this is air or liquid cooled, given the other recent reporting from Alan Warnes of the air-cooled version being used in B model, t's pretty much certain the air-cooled version will also be used in the Block III for commonality. What's interesting is that 3 AESAs were evaluated - 2 were Chinese, was the third the AESA Leonardo's Raven or Vixen? The other major confirmation was that Block I and II aircraft will be upgraded with the AESA. It seems the HMD system will be a hybrid of local input and Chinese competence to fill in any gaps, and what's particularly important here is the involvement of private sector companies in Pakistan - a very strong hint of what could come in the future.

Azm - An ambitious timeline, but one which will undoubtedly change as the project develops. As reflected in the approach to the JF-17, and if the HMD system for the Block III JF-17 is anything to go by, I think this will largely depend on what can be done in-house, and the gaps which will be filled in by third party collaboration. The key input from third parties here will clearly be powerplant and most of the avionics and weapon systems. I think what PAC is confident about is airframe design and construction, and is willing to largely complete this work on its own with limited third party input,. But what is clear is that significant investments will need to be made in materials technology for a fifth gen airframe - composites and RAM.
The airframe and the FBW are very closely related. If PAF is looking build its own airframe, it will need it's own home grown FBW, and FBW are one of the most complicated parts of developing a plane. Ask the germans when they tried to do one for the Typhoon !!!

The lack of homegrown experience of quite frankly anything in anything will become apparent to PAF very soon. Hell, they dont even make the full airframe for the JF17 !!!!

It needed to have seeded certain core technologies over a decade ago to pull off Azm, it has not ...

It does seem that alot of the TOT tech will be carried over from the JF17 programme(mission computer, radars, etc ...) but even then there is a lot of missing technology...

PAFs usual "bluster" is going to get a wake up call soon as far as Azm goes, of that I am convinced now.
 
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CriticalThought

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When 2028 comes around, there will be a LOT to be proven:

  • Fifth gen manufacturing - materials, their cutting, joining, riveting, and welding.
  • Fifth gen aircraft design - surface angles, RAM coating, aerodynamics, heat signature. But the most important for PAC - catering for twin engines.
  • Fifth gen structural engineering - Take the design, and create the specification that can be used by manufacturing.
  • Fifth gen avionics - cockpit layout, mission controller, human/computer interface, flight controller, the list is very long.
  • Fifth gen electronic warfare and radar, potentially based on AI.
  • Fifth gen weapons.
Now the good news is, we already have:

  • Sonmiani weapons test range, plus weapons testing facility procured from China.
  • In house production of AESA radar for JF-17.
  • A large number of electronic components already being manufactured inhouse for JF-17.
I believe the Design and Research arm will continue further research on these. In some shape or form, they can be tested on Thunders for validation.

The biggest unknowns are manufacturing, design, and engineering, i.e., the first three items above. And it is my proposal that these should be validated in a prototype ASAP. All haste should be made to get something up and running with whatever engine is available, and start testing its response to various electromagnetic signals, let CCS pit existing aircraft against it. If the control system follows F-22 methodology, then the artificial intelligence will be literally learnt by actually flying the aircraft. This again requires an accelerated schedule.

All in all, I want to see a barebones prototype in the air by 2024 at the latest.
 

Bilal Khan (Quwa)

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The airframe and the FBW are very closely related. If PAF is looking build its own airframe, it will need it's own home grown FBW, and FBW are one of the most complicated parts of developing a plane. Ask the germans when they tried to do one for the Typhoon !!!

The lack of homegrown experience of quite frankly anything in anything will become apparent to PAF very soon. Hell, they dont even make the full airframe for the JF17 !!!!

It needed to have seeded certain core technologies over a decade ago to pull off Azm, it has not ...

It does seem that alot of the TOT tech will be carried over from the JF17 programme(mission computer, radars, etc ...) but even then there is a lot of missing technology...

PAFs usual "bluster" is going to get a wake up call soon as far as Azm goes, of that I am convinced now.
PAF officials are bundling together two issues: (1) what it'll take to design and develop and aircraft indigenously and (2) sourcing the aircraft securely.

Obviously, total command of (1) will result in (2), but realistically, the PAF's focus has been on achieving (2) as early as possible. It's possible that they secured an agreement from China to enable (2) within Pakistan through an existing AVIC project (e.g., FC-31).

A few years ago New York Times had outlined a program of this nature under CPEC, i.e: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/19/world/asia/pakistan-china-belt-road-military.html

"According to the undisclosed proposal drawn up by the Pakistani Air Force and Chinese officials at the start of the year, a special economic zone under CPEC would be created in Pakistan to produce a new generation of fighter jets. For the first time, navigation systems, radar systems and onboard weapons would be built jointly by the countries at factories in Pakistan. "
Basically, AVIC could set-up shop in Aviation City (in partnership with PAC or private sector companies) to produce and supply inputs for the NGFA.
 

JamD

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I believe the Design and Research arm will continue further research on these. In some shape or form, they can be tested on Thunders for validation.

The biggest unknowns are manufacturing, design, and engineering, i.e., the first three items above. And it is my proposal that these should be validated in a prototype ASAP. All haste should be made to get something up and running with whatever engine is available, and start testing its response to various electromagnetic signals, let CCS pit existing aircraft against it. If the control system follows F-22 methodology, then the artificial intelligence will be literally learnt by actually flying the aircraft. This again requires an accelerated schedule.

All in all, I want to see a barebones prototype in the air by 2024 at the latest.
This is a very good point. PAC cannot expect the first jet they manufacture completely to be the first prototype itself. They should perhaps make a 1/3rd scale model of one of the designs, and see what they can and cannot do. There will be a tonne to learn from.
 

CriticalThought

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This is a very good point. PAC cannot expect the first jet they manufacture completely to be the first prototype itself. They should perhaps make a 1/3rd scale model of one of the designs, and see what they can and cannot do. There will be a tonne to learn from.
My only gripe with a 1/3rd scale is that you can't really fly it with human inside cockpit or carry on realistic tests. But definitely, before any kind of prototype, a scale model shall be built for wind tunnel tests etc. Hopefully, they will be doing something like that circa 2023. Just my wish.
 

Syed1.

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Making scale models is an older design methodology. Now software tools are advanced enough that you don't need to verify performance using scale models.


Case in point Boeing 787 and the secretive USAF 6th gen fighter that was designed, built and flown within a year.
 

CriticalThought

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Making scale models is an older design methodology. Now software tools are advanced enough that you don't need to verify performance using scale models.


Case in point Boeing 787 and the secretive USAF 6th gen fighter that was designed, built and flown within a year.
The US has a lot of data points from previous aircraft such as F-22 against which they can run simulations. For example, the F-22 control system was learnt literally by flying the aircraft repeatedly and slowly extending the flight envelope. The data readings of temperature, pressure, altitude will be extremely realistic and can be used to simulate other aircrafts in similar scenarios. We are beginners in this game. Yes, the flight data of Thunders has been collected, but it is limited to the current flight regime of the Thunder. And its not just the aerodynamics. This is a fifth gen plane so you need to determine the signal reflections as well.
 

JamD

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Making scale models is an older design methodology. Now software tools are advanced enough that you don't need to verify performance using scale models.


Case in point Boeing 787 and the secretive USAF 6th gen fighter that was designed, built and flown within a year.
Unfortunately, as @CriticalThought pointed out, you need a lot of data for that, data is gold, which we have very little of. The only data that we have is from the JF-17. So scale-model testing will absolutely need to be done. On a very low-level one can think about CFD. You need at least a good amount of wind-tunnel test data to verify that your CFD works well at those points and then you interpolate at all the variations in between, which is its key advantage - being able to run lots of simulation-based tests that you have a reasonable amount of confidence on.
My only gripe with a 1/3rd scale is that you can't really fly it with human inside cockpit or carry on realistic tests. But definitely, before any kind of prototype, a scale model shall be built for wind tunnel tests etc. Hopefully, they will be doing something like that circa 2023. Just my wish.
True. But on the other hand you save a lot of complexity and cost by removing the human and reducing the size. And you can try crazy and preprogrammed tests that a human cannot either reliably replicate or will be dangerous to recover from. We are investing in all this infrastructure for UAVs so it won't be that out there in terms of tech.

From what the latest article said I don't expect to see any kind of prototype before 2025.
 

GriffinsRule

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I think we have an example of Korea and the problems it ran into manufacturing KFX and how that program ran into delays and issues, even with support from Lockheed. Korea is certainly ahead of Pakistan in the tech and manufacturing space but similar to them, we will have AVIC helping us in our effort, and possibly Turkey. Id even say ask Koreans to help in tech that is homegrown for them and not the US.
For the part PAF feels most confident about, the airframe, will have to be mostly made up of composites as well and there, JF-17 airframe production will not be as big of a help as we assume.
Its in the software and avionics that I feel we will have larger success at local level.
 

Falcon26

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I think we have an example of Korea and the problems it ran into manufacturing KFX and how that program ran into delays and issues, even with support from Lockheed. Korea is certainly ahead of Pakistan in the tech and manufacturing space but similar to them, we will have AVIC helping us in our effort, and possibly Turkey. Id even say ask Koreans to help in tech that is homegrown for them and not the US.
For the part PAF feels most confident about, the airframe, will have to be mostly made up of composites as well and there, JF-17 airframe production will not be as big of a help as we assume.
Its in the software and avionics that I feel we will have larger success at local level.
Wouldn’t it make sense for Pakistan to work with Turkey and China on the flight control system, AESA radar, avionics, composite materials and bring those capabilities in house? This way TFX & project Azm can be separate but similar projects.
 

GriffinsRule

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Wouldn’t it make sense for Pakistan to work with Turkey and China on the flight control system, AESA radar, avionics, composite materials and bring those capabilities in house? This way TFX & project Azm can be separate but similar projects.
They are already bringing some of those inhouse, including the manufacturing of the AESA radar at Kamra. Composites however should be our goal and it has implications/uses in the commercial space as well.
 

Ali_Baba

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Wouldn’t it make sense for Pakistan to work with Turkey and China on the flight control system, AESA radar, avionics, composite materials and bring those capabilities in house? This way TFX & project Azm can be separate but similar projects.
It really depends on how much of the Block III avionics and radar will make it into Azm. It is possible that PAF is looking to reuse AESA Radars, Mission Computers, Avonics and Software into Azm since it has access to the source code and associated TOT, so the puzzles for PAF is airframe(of which it says it is comfortable, engines(unknown) and FBW(which it will need China's or Turkeys help on(are PAF and Turkey working on this already or does Turkeys deal with BAe prohibit this ?? ) ).

I would not be suprised if Block III avionics core is part of Azm.... (it would suprise me if it was not in fact ).

Block III has taken a long time to mature, i do "hope" the reason was to cater for the network centric warfare requirements of Azm.

If you look at the core of the F15EX, and Super Hornet, you can see the ancestry of their avonics with previous generations. Only the F35 has had a clean sheet ground up implementation, and well, it has a lot of bugs..

Lets see.
 

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