From a defence industry standpoint, the 51st edition of the Paris Air Show is unlikely to go down the books as a record-breaking event in terms of novelties and clenched deals. In the sky, the most deafening silence came from the Americans and the Russians. They simply weren’t there. This left the Dassault Rafale all the time to savour the foreign sales victories that sparked off its export life earlier this year when its rivals’ appear to be tapering off. More importantly perhaps from a European point of view, the air display offered a unique opportunity to the A400M, a.k.a. Atlas, to show the world through staggeringly tight sky-cutting manoeuvres that the recent and terribly sad mishap was not the programme’s death knell that was perhaps too rapidly anticipated by a number of reports. As a matter of fact, a seventh Atlas was delivered to France on Friday 19 June.
Tribute must be paid, however, to the Pakistano-Chinese FJ-17, which made its Paris Air Show début. Take or leave a few inches, the JF-17 is roughly the size of a Mirage 2000, but lighter at 12.5 tonnes take-off weight and somewhat shorter on afterburning thrust at 84.5 kN. Ordnance of this all-aluminium no-frills aircraft is typically “Eastern” as evidenced by its 23mm gun to begin with. In the Pakistan Air Force, the JF-17 is intended to complement the service’s f-16s.