The word is the Pakistan Air Force has decided to pull its MiG-21 Chinese derivative — JF-17 Thunder(bird), built at the Kamra Air Complex from the forthcoming Air Show in Bahrain. (For the list of aircraft on static and dynamic –flying–display, see http://www.bahraininternationalairshow.com/trade/Content/Aircraft/5_7/.) It suggests that PAF both fears comparison with the Indian Tejas, flying under DRDO (not Indian Air Force) aegis, at the air show — they were allotted the same exhibition pad (Number 15) to park the planes in — and competition in terms of flight performance at the show. There were some doubts about the Sino-Pak JF-17 taking to the skies, now it will not even be seen in Bahrain. Discretion being better part of exhibiting a fairly antique combat aircraft, it would have been damned difficult for PAF to sing their plane’s praises and maintain a straight face while seeing the 4th-Gen Tejas pull tight 8-g turns above them, and otherwise impress with its manoevereability and stealth attributes that the Thunderbird can’t match. It would have highlighted the generational difference between these two aircraft. The PAF is apparently prepared to forfeit the unrefundable half a million dollars to reserve exhibition space than risk exposing their bird to expert criticism, and negative contrasting with the Tejas.
Incidentally, of the three test pilots that will be putting the 5th and the 7th of the Tejas prototype series deployed to Bahrain, two are from the Navy, emphasizing the Navy’s belief in and support for the indigenous navalised version of the Tejas aircraft under development. The Navy needs to be commended; IAF needs to hang its head in shame.