The latest version is the J-10C, which is equipped with a Chinese-made active phased array airborne radar. This fuselage frame uses more composite materials than previous versions. An improved fire control system makes it compatible with PL-15 long-range air-to-air missiles.
The Chengdu J-10 multi-role light fighter is considered the “darling” of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, it carries many of the advanced achievements of the Chinese defense industry.
On January 5, 2007, China officially announced in the media about its newest jet fighter, the Chengdu J-10. According to statements made by officers representing the Chinese air force, this new fighter can perform combat missions and dominate the sky no less than the American F-16C fighters or the French Mirage 2000.
According to sources, as of 2019, the Chinese Air Force has at least 400 Chengdu J-10 fighters, making it one of the country’s most popular fighter jets. In fact, when the secret veil was removed, it can be noticed that the J-10 was not a masterpiece of Chinese engineers’ intelligence as reported by Chinese official sources, but is a product of commercial activities.
In the January 2007 video, we saw footage of Chengdu J-10s flying in an advertising program with acrobatics, missile launch, and flying in parades. Clearly realized, thanks to the aerodynamic design structure, which has a reasonable payload, and is equipped with an afterburning turbofan engine, the new Chinese fighter jet has high maneuverability, and good takeoff speed.
The development history of Chengdu J-10 began in the mid-1980s of the last century. The Chinese aircraft manufacturing industry faced a new problem, it must have a response plan commensurate with the arrival of the new generation Mig-29 and Su-27 Soviet aircraft. At that time, the United States and Israel collaborated to create a fourth-generation multirole fighter, called the Lavi, based on the General Dynamics F-16 fighter platform. However, due to the expensive cost, the US withdrew from the project when the Lavi was incomplete.
A few years after the Lavi project ended, US officials were surprised to find that Israel had transferred the project development plan to China, giving it access to the technologies used to develop F-16 fighter. The United States intervened in Israeli technology supply agreements with China in the 1990s. However, what China gained was enough for them to successfully develop the Chengdu J-10 fighter with appearance and many features similar to F-16. The J-10 has an overwhelming advantage over older fighters in the Chinese air force, gradually becoming an important weapon to significantly improve its combat capability.
The airframe is constructed from metal alloys and composite materials for high strength and low weight, the airframe’s aerodynamic layout adopts a “tail-less canard delta” wing configuration. A large delta wing is mid-mounted towards the rear of the fuselage, while a pair of canards are mounted higher up and towards the front of the fuselage, behind and below the cockpit. This configuration provides very high agility, especially at low speeds, and also reduces stall speed, allowing for a lower airspeed during instrument approaches. A large vertical tail is present on top of the fuselage and small ventral fins underneath the fuselage provide further stability. A rectangular air intake ramp and a Splitter plate are located underneath the fuselage, providing the air supply to the engine. Newer variants use a diverterless intake that does not require a splitter plate, and may reduce radar cross signature. Also under the fuselage and wings are 11 hardpoints, used for carrying various types of weaponry and drop-tanks containing extra fuel. The retractable undercarriage comprises a steerable pair of nose-wheels underneath the air intake and two main gear wheels towards the rear of the fuselage.
The cockpit is covered by a two-piece bubble canopy providing 360 degrees of visual coverage for the pilot. The canopy lifts upwards to permit cockpit entry and exit. The Controls take the form of a conventional centre stick and a throttle stick located to the left of the pilot. These also incorporate “hands on throttle and stick” controls. A zero-zero ejection seat is provided for the pilot, permitting safe ejection in an emergency even at zero altitude and zero speed.
Due to the J-10’s aerodynamically unstable design, a digital quadruplex-redundant fly-by-wire flight control system aids the pilot in flying the aircraft. The cockpit has three liquid crystal Multi-function displays along with a Chinese developed holographic head-up display, all of which are fully compatible with a domestic Chinese advanced helmet mounted sight, claimed by Chinese to be superior to the helmet mounted sight on the Sukhoi Su-27 sold to China.
Although it is a fully domestically produced fighter, the big problem for China is that it has not yet successfully built an engine that is reliable enough. The first version, the J-10A was almost a basic fourth-generation fighter, using a single Russian Lyulka-Saturn AL-31FN jet engine producing a maximum static thrust of 123 kN. The aircraft is equipped with pulse-Doppler Type 1473H fire control radar and a range of infrared search and tracking equipment, electronic reconnaissance, navigation, attack etc. The J-10 can carry a range of Russian and Chinese air-to-air missiles, guided by radar and infrared, and accurate guided bombs.
The latest version is the J-10C, which is equipped with a Chinese-made active phased array airborne radar. This fuselage frame uses more composite materials than previous versions. An improved fire control system makes it compatible with PL-15 long-range air-to-air missiles. According to the National Interest, it is likely that the aircraft uses domestic WS-10 engines, with some improvements.
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Theoretically, the J-10 can reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.2, a range of 3,200km, a service ceiling of 18,000m. The weaponry included a GSh-23 23 mm two-barrel automatic cannon, mounted below the airframe on the light gun mount. The aircraft can carry up to 4,500 kg on 9 hard points, six on the wings, 2 on the air intake and 1 in the middle of the fuselage.With what is happening, the Chengdu J-10 fighter will continue to be the backbone of the Chinese Air Force, in very large numbers. The level of Chinese aircraft engine production is still incomparable with the United States and Russia, Chinese fighters using domestically engines frequently experience technical problems. This is still a critical weakness of the Chinese military aviation industry and the J-10 fighter, if it wants to operate well, still needs to rely on engines imported from Russia.