Project Sabre II

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F-7S Sabre II
Role Multi-role combat aircraft
Manufacturer Pakistan Aeronautical Complex
Introduction 1987
Status Cancelled, replaced by FC-1
Primary user Pakistan Air Force
Developed from Chengdu F-7M
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.

Project Sabre II was an attempt to develop a low-cost multi-role combat aircraft based on an existing design, the Chengdu F-7M (a Chinese derivative of the MiG-21). The project was initiated by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and the Grumman Aerospace Corporation was contracted to work with specialists from the PAF and China to define and develop the concept. The PAF had left the project by March 1989 because it was considered uneconomic.[2] [3] In November 1988 it was reported that Grumman and CATIC would begin a new study to upgrade the F-7M into the Super 7.[4] Grumman pulled out when the United States placed sanctions on China after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. China continued with the project until it was re-branded as the FC-1 in the early 1990s.


In 1984 the latest export version of the Chengdu F-7, an extensively upgraded form of the F-7B incorporating various Western systems and designated F-7M Airguard, was released. Pakistan was interested in developing and manufacturing an improved version of the F-7M to replace its large fleet of Shenyang F-6 and move Pakistan's aviation industry forward. Grumman Aerospace of the United States was contracted to do a 5-month feasibility study and in September 1987 the F-7 Sabre II was revealed.[5]

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) started looking for a new fighter to replace their large fleet of Shenyang F-6,[5] which were approaching the end of their service lives, in the late 1980s.[6] After becoming interested in the F-7M, the PAF initiated Project Sabre II to re-design and upgrade the Chengdu F-7M.[5][7]

In January 1987, a contract was awarded to Grumman Aerospace of Bethpage, New York, to study and define the Sabre II concept with cooperation from CAC and PAF specialists. The study was completed after seven months and concluded 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.[6]

In September 1987 it was reported that a 5-month feasibility study had been completed by Grumman, working in cooperation with CAC, CATIC and the PAF, in which the Chengdu F-7M was radically upgraded. Known as Sabre II, the upgrade involved fitting the F-7M with modern Western radar, avionics, engine and a re-designed forward fuselage. It was stated that Sabre II would replace 150 Shenyang F-6 in PAF 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.[8]

Under Project Sabre II, considered 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 F-20 Tigershark. 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,[9] would have looked much like the Guizhou JL-9 (or FTC-2000) jet trainer / fighter aircraft.

The Pratt & Whitney PW1216, an afterburning 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.[10][11] Fitting the APG-66 radar was also planned.[12]

Project Sabre II was terminated in 1989, due to the breaking of relations between the United States and China after the Tiananmen Square protest and the subsequent US-imposed sanctions that prevented access to any US technology in the project. Sanctions for Pakistan followed soon after, with Pakistan's on-going nuclear program, about which the US had known for some years, cited as the reason. The Nuclear 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,[13] it tolerated the its nuclear program during the 80's 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).

The PAF decided on a much less expensive solution for replacement of the F-6, the Chengdu F-7P Skybolt, an upgraded version of the F-7M Airguard. The F-7P fleet was to be supported by a fleet of over 100 advanced F-16 Fighting Falcons from the United States, 40 of which had been delivered during the 1980s.

In November 1988 it was reported that Grumman and CATIC were starting a 9-month design study into the Super 7, another F-7M upgraded with side-mounted intakes, a nose radome containing the APG-66 radar, an RB.199 or F404 RM12 turbofan replacing the Chinese WP-7 turbojet, increased wing area, leading-edge slats, combat flaps, two more hardpoints for carrying Sidewinder missiles, single point pressure refuelling system, more fuel storage, stronger landing gear with bigger wheels and nose-wheel steering, windscreen and canopy from F-20 Tigershark, F-16 style cockpit avionics, new ejection seat and new oxygen supply system. Wingspan was to be increased from 23.5 to 26 feet (7.2 to 7.9 m), with increased wing chord. Fuselage length was to be increased from 45.8 to 49.3 feet (14.0 to 15.0 m). A maximum flyaway unit cost was estimated to be $10 million.[4]

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.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Flight International magazine, 19 September 1987, page 11. Link to Flight International archives:
  2. ^ a b "Pakistan Considers new Fighter Plan", Flight International magazine, published 14–20 March 1990, URL: Retrieved: 18 October 2009
  3. ^ "Indian MiG upgrade proposed", URL:
  4. ^ a b "Grumman to upgrade Chinese F-7Ms", Flight International magazine, published 26 November 1988, URL: Retrieved: 15 February 2010
  5. ^ a b c "China: J-7 (MiG-21), Flight International magazine, published 19 August 1989, URL: Retrieved: 18 October 2009
  6. ^ a b Alan Warnes "Pakistan's Vision: Bridging The Capabilities Gap" Air Forces Monthly (Magazine issue: July 2004) Page: 33 (can be viewed at URL:
  7. ^ "Grumman Pursues Pakistan Fighter", Flight International magazine, page 17, issue 13 February 1989, URL:
  8. ^ "Grumman Reveals Sabre II for Pakistan", Flight International magazine, published 19 September 1987, URL: Retrieved: 18 October 2009
  9. ^ Arnett, Eric H. (1997), Military capacity and the risk of war: China, India, Pakistan, and Iran, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-829281-4 , p. 169
  10. ^ "Pratt & Whitney's PW1216 turbojet..."
  11. ^ "1987 | 1859 | Flight Archive". 26 September 1987. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  12. ^ "1991 | 2171 | Flight Archive". Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  13. ^ "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: