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Project Sabre II

F-7S Sabre II
A schematics of F-7P of the PAF.
Role Multi-role combat aircraft
Manufacturer Pakistan Aeronautical Complex
Designer Aeronautical Complex
Introduction 1987
Status Cancelled
Primary user Pakistan Air Force (PAF)
Developed from Chengdu F-7M
Variants Replacement by JF–17 Program
External images
Models of the Sabre II, in PAF markings, and the Chengdu F-7 published in September 1987.[1]
The F-7 Sabre II and the Super 7.

The Project Sabre II was a codename of the Pakistan Air Force's program to developed a feasible and low-cost multirole combat jet based on an existing designs of the Chengdu F-7Skybolt— a Chinese variant of the MiG–21FL.[2][3][4] Initiated by the PAF in 1987, the American consultant, the Grumman Aerospace, was contracted to provide crucial advise to define the concepts of the modern aircraft design with the specialists from the PAF and the Chinese PLAAF.[5][6]

After studying with the Grumman Aerospace, the PAF terminated the program as it was considered unfeasible on economic grounds; the Grumman Aerospace itself ejected from the project as the sanctions were by the United States on China due to student protest in 1989.[7][8] Embargo by the United States on Pakistan further hampered the efforts in 1990s.[9] In 1995, Pakistan and China later evolved the project that ultimately resulted in the successful development of the JF-17 Thunder program.[4][5][6]


  • Program overview 1
    • Origins 1.1
    • Design feasibility 1.2
    • U.S. objections and termination 1.3
    • Evolved into JF–17 1.4
  • See also 2
  • References 3

Program overview


A Pakistani Chengdu F-7PG.

In 1982, the Indian IAF successfully negotiated with the Soviet Union for the procurement of the MiG-29 Fulcrum and began modernize its fighter jets program. During this time, the PAF began to overlook to modernize its fighter program and was looking for a new fighter to replace the aging F–6S jets. By 1984, the F-7P was equipped with Western electronic systems, and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) began working on developing and manufacturing an improved version of the F-7M to replace its large fleet of F-6S whilst move Pakistan's booming aviation industry forward.

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) started looking for a new fighter to replace their large fleet of Shenyang F-6,[10] which were approaching the end of their service lives, in the late 1980s.[11] After becoming interested in the F-7M, the Air HQ of the PAF initiated the Project Sabre–II for the development of the low-cost multirole fighter jet driven on the model of the F-7M.[10][12]

Design feasibility

A schematics of PAF's F-7M, of which its design was studied.

In January 1987, the PAF commissioned New York-based Grumman Aerospace to conduct studies and provide advise on the feasibility of the design concept of the fighter jet; thus PAF awarded Grumman Aerospace a contract to work with PAF's specialists and the Chinese CAC.[4] It took five to seven months to Grumman Aerospace to conclude its studies and advised that the project was a financial risk due to very high costs and other options were much more cost-effective, despite the prospects of producing Sabre II in Pakistan and giving the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex more experience and technical knowledge.[11]

After Grumman completing its feasibility studies in September 1987 with the close coordination with the PAF and the Chinese PLAAF, the F-7M was radically upgraded.[10] Upgrades on the F-7M included the fitting of the modern military avionics, radar system, engine, and a re-designed forward fuselage. The PAF stated that the Sabre II would replace ~150 F-6 in PAF's combat service. A picture showed that the F-7's nose inlet had been replaced with a solid nose radome and a new pair of air inlets were mounted on the sides of the fuselage under the cockpit.[13]

Under Project Sabre II, the consideration of a replacement of the abandoned Super-7 project by the Chinese, the F-7 airframe was redesigned with angled air intakes on the sides of the fuselage replacing the nose intake. The nose intake was replaced by a solid nose radome to house the avionics from the Grumman's F-20. The Chinese WP-7 turbojet engine was planned to be replaced with a modern turbofan engine, either the GE F404 or PW1120, to improve performance. The resulting aircraft, designated F-7M Sabre-II,[14] would have looked much like the Guizhou JL-9 (or FTC-2000) jet trainer / fighter aircraft.

The Pratt & Whitney's PW1216, an after burning derivative of the J52-P-409 turbojet producing 16,000 pounds-force (71 kN) of thrust, was also proposed for installation on the Sabre II. The engine's afterburner was designed in China.[15][16] Fitting the APG-66 radar was also planned.[17]

U.S. objections and termination

As the USSR's ending of the involvement in Afghanistan, the United States interest in Pakistan began to lessen. The PAF terminated the project due to Grumman's urging of financial risk of the feasibility of the project. Upheaval caused in the US–Chinese relations by the student protest further influenced on the project. Subsequent U.S. sanctions prevented the transfer of any American technology. The Grumman Aerospace ejected from the project due to the sanctions.

During the same time, the U.S. placed an economic and military embargo on Pakistan on the suspicions on the secretive atomic bomb program, causing a panic in the military. For the project, the atomic bomb program had an overarching effect on the Super-7 project. While the US exhibited little tolerance with Pakistan's emerging nuclear aspirations after India's low-yield nuclear test in 1974,[18] it tolerated the its atomic bomb programduring the 1980s due to the US desire for Pakistani cooperation, in order to defeat the Soviets in the Afghan Soviet war. Once the Soviet forces retreated, Pakistani cooperation was no longer required and military and economic sanctions were imposed under the Pressler amendment in 1990. This prevented the delivery of F-16 aircraft already paid for by the PAF during the Afghan war, and efforts by the PAF to find a replacement failed (see Pakistan Air Force 1990–2001, the lost decade).

Evolved into JF–17

The sabre-II evolved into the successful development of the JF-17 Thunder, in 2003.

The Grumman Aerospace was no long served as the consultant and the PAF decided on a much less expensive solution for replacement of the F-6, the F-7P Skybolt, an upgraded version of the F-7M Airguard.[19] The F-7P fleet was to be supported by a fleet of over 100 advanced F–16s from the United States, 40 of which had been delivered during the 1980s.[19] The PAF launched a secretive project, ROSE, to procure second-hand Dassault Mirage from various countries as much as possible and upgraded its electronic system.In March 1990 it was reported that after being rejected by the PAF, Sabre II had been superseded by the Super 7 and China was considering continuing its development.[3] The embargo caused a great panic in the Pakistan military, forcing the PAF to come up with innovative solutions to keep all its combat infrastructure operational.[19]

The Russian Mikoyan was hired for the consultation of the program, and the endeavors of the project took place mainly at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.[19] In 1995, PAF decided to resume the program and quickly reached out to the China where the MoUs were reached towards developing the aircraft.[11] This led the successful development of the JF-17 Thunder, introduced in 2003.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Flight International magazine, 19 September 1987, page 11. Link to Flight International archives:
  2. ^ "Indian MiG upgrade proposed", URL:
  3. ^ a b "Pakistan Considers new Fighter Plan", Flight International magazine, published 14–20 March 1990, URL: Retrieved: 18 October 2009
  4. ^ a b c Global Security. "Global Security". Global Security. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Et. Al. "JF-17 Thunder Program". PAF Falcons. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Xiao, Ming. "JF-17 Thunder". Fighter Aircraft. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  7. ^ "Grumman to upgrade Chinese F-7Ms", Flight International magazine, published 26 November 1988, URL: Retrieved: 15 February 2010
  8. ^ Afsir, Karim (1998). Indo-Pak relations: viewpoints, 1989-1996. New Delhi, India: Lancers Publishers.  
  9. ^ Hamid, Jalal (23 February 2010). "JF-17 Thunder – the First Squadron Enters Pakistan Air Force". Jalal Hamid. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c "China: J-7 (MiG-21), Flight International magazine, published 19 August 1989, URL: Retrieved: 18 October 2009
  11. ^ a b c Alan Warnes "Pakistan's Vision: Bridging The Capabilities Gap" Air Forces Monthly (Magazine issue: July 2004) Page: 33 (can be viewed at URL:
  12. ^ "Grumman Pursues Pakistan Fighter", Flight International magazine, page 17, issue 13 February 1989, URL:
  13. ^ "Grumman Reveals Sabre II for Pakistan", Flight International magazine, published 19 September 1987, URL: Retrieved: 18 October 2009
  14. ^ Arnett, Eric H. (1997), Military capacity and the risk of war: China, India, Pakistan, and Iran, Oxford University Press,  , p. 169
  15. ^ "Pratt & Whitney's PW1216 turbojet..."
  16. ^ "1987 | 1859 | Flight Archive". 26 September 1987. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  17. ^ "1991 | 2171 | Flight Archive". Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  18. ^ "Kissinger found Bhutto inflexible and determined to go ahead with the acquisition of the Reprocessing Plant and make Pakistan a nuclear power. Incensed, he warned Bhutto, 'We will make a horrible example of you,' adding menacingly, 'When the railroad is coming, you get out of the way.'", Published 22 September 2009, URL:
  19. ^ a b c d Sheikh, PAF, Air Marshal Rashid (2001). The story of the Pakistan Air Force, 1988-1998 : a battle against odds. Pakistan: Shaheen Foundation. p. 432. ISBN 978-9698553005.
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