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F-7P purchase was known as 'Handshake' symbolishing the friendship Pakistan enjoys with China. F-7M was first evaluated by the PAF in early 1987. The evaluation included both air-to-air as well as air-to-ground performance. For that purpose, two aircraft were ferried to Pakistan and trials conducted at Peshawar and Masroor. The PAF's F-7P 'Skybolt' is a variant of the F-7M 'Airguard', which was improved for export to customers familiar with Western aircraft. The two-piece canopy of the F-7M and F-7P has greater bird strike resistance and comes with a GEC Avionics Head Up Display and weapons aiming computer plus other new avionics. Two extra underwing hard points are provided among a range of other improvements. Of these, the most significant for the PAF's Skybolt are the Martin Baker 10L zero-zero ejection seat and the provision for up to four AIM-9L Sidewinders. A radar warning receiver (RWR) was also to be fitted in all the aircraft. Seven PAF pilots, tasked to carry out initial conversion on the F-7Ps, were sent to China on May 8, 1988. Just six weeks later, on June 20, 1988, the first aircraft landed at Rafiqui with Wing Commander Ghazanfar Hussain at the controls. He was the new OC of No. 20 Squadron - the first unit to convert to the F-7P. By late-1988, all 20 of the first batch of aircraft, known as 'Handshake-I' had been delivered to the unit. One of these pilots, Flight Lieutenant Sattar Alvi, had shot down an Israeli Mirage III with a K-13 air-to-air missile while flying a Syrian Mig-21 in 1971. Pakistan ordered twenty F-7Ps and four FT-7 two-seat trainers. They were delivered to No. 20 Squadron in November 1988. 'Handshake-II' comprised some 60 F-7Ps, with deliveries taking place during 1989-90. The second unit to re-equip with the F-7P was Rafiqui-based No. 18 Squadron in 1989, followed by another Rafiqui tenant, No. 19 Squadron, in July 1990. The latter was also the first F-7P Operational Conversion Unit (OCU). The fourth unit was No. 2 Squadron at Masroor, which completed 'Handshake-II' deliveries. Further consignments of F-7Ps came in lots of sixty in 1988-89, fifteen FT-7s in 1990-92, and forty F-7Ps in 1993. All F-7P were ferried from China to Pakistan by the PAF pilots. The last batch of forty F-7s was inducted in 1993 under a cost-effective contract. In order to support the F-7 fleet, an overhauling facility had to be established in Pakistan. The PAF decided to set up this facility at Faisal where most of the engines were overhauled. The available engine test bed was meant for F-6 and not for F-7 aircraft. This posed a unique problem during the engine test runs, when the deflector at the rear of the exhaust tunnel was repeatedly breaking up. The CATIC team came to Pakistan thrice but could only suggest the installation of an independent test bed for the F-7 engine. The matter was discussed at the Air Headquarters level and it was decided to design and manufacture the deflectors locally. The cost came to one tenth of what was quoted by CATIC. The job was completed in three months and the test bed has been functioning satisfactorily ever since - a tribute to the creativity of our engineers.
 
By 1994, Chengdu Aircraft Corporation had developed the new F-7MG (G for gai or updated). This double-delta wing derivative, powered by the WP-13F turbojet engine, could provide a thrust rating of 14,650lbs with full afterburner and compares favourably with the F-7P's WP-7C and -7N's 13,450lbs. Two PAF pilots, Gp Capt Kaiser Tufail and Wg Cdr Jamshad Khan were tasked to test fly the F-7MG in July 1997. The pair planned to fly 12 sorties, to explore the aircraft's flight regime, with a focus on the improvements in performance over the F-7P. The PAF was the first potential foreign customer to evaluate the F-7MG. The F-7MG airframe is essentially the same as the F-7P, the only external difference being the outer wing section, with its reduced 42 degree sweep and automatic manoeuvring flaps. Inside the cockpit was a new layout, while the F-7MG's avionics along with some of its ancillary systems had been modified. The fuel system, weapons payload capacity and internal guns remained much the same as that found on an F-7P. The PAF insisted upon a package of improvements before the F-7PGs were delivered. These included a stores management system, essential for a cockpit-pilot interface which helps to establish the status of stores, including configuration, fusing, weapon codes, a voice warning system, colour video recorder, better cockpit lighting and a jitter-free Angle of Attack probe. The colour Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) includes two displays, one for the heading and navigation sub-systems, such as Automatic Direction Finding (ADF), VHF Omni-directional Range (VOR), Tactical Aid to Navigation (TACAN) and Instrument Landing System (ILS). Following the flight evaluation, around 100 PAF personnel travelled to Chengdu in early 2001 to be trained on the F-7PG. The detachment of pilots left in August 2001 and returned in late October 2001, led by Wg Cdr Tariq Mirza, with Wg Cdr Shahid Alvi as his Flight Commander and also included 13 other pilots. Wg Cdr Tariq Mirza subsequently became the OC of the first F-7PG unit, No. 17 Squadron, on January 8, 2001. Along with his colleagues, he ferried the F-7PGs from Masroor, where they had been assembled after being shipped from China. The first batch of ten were flown to their new base at Samungli on January 19, 2002, folloed by another ten on January 26, 2002. The squadron officially took the F-7PGs on strength on March 27, 2002, when the F-6 were retired. Wg Cdr Shahid Alvi, who had been the Flight Commander with the F-7PG conversion team in China, was attached to PAC Kamra in March 2002 to carry out test flights of all the F-7PG's integrated equipment. He rates the F-7PG as 'something between the MiG-21 and F-16. With an all-aspect missile it can give a tough time to any fourth generation fighter, in close combat'. Initially, No. 17 Squadron was the F-7PG Operational Conversion Unit and half of its Instructor Pilots were moved to No. 23 Squadron in April 2002, after it had replaced its F-6s, to train pilots on the F-7PG. In late 2002, the first of around eight FT-7PGs ordered by the PAF were delivered to No. 17 Squadron. Following the work up of No. 23 Squadron came the conversion of No. 20 Squadron at Rafiqui, which equipped with F-7PGs in October 2002.
   
 
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