The Chinese J-10 was supposed to be an answer to the Russian MiG-29 and the American F-16.

Originally, the J-10 would be the mainstay of the PLA Air Force. There are currently more than 300 J-10s in service, and nearly 25 naval variants in service with the PLA Navy aviation. Chinese J-10s recently caught the eye in a simulated dogfight with the Chinese Su-30MKK, in stormy weather and poor visibility. The J-10’s combat readiness is very positive.

With the advent of more advanced jet fighters such as the J-16 and the fifth-generation J-20, experts continue to raise questions about the J-10’s viability in the PLA Air Force. The J-10 (NATO designation Firebird) is a lightweight, single-engine, all-weather multirole fighter designed for PLAAF air-to-air and strike missions. Similar to the French Rafale fighters, the J-10 uses a large delta wing design and two canards to increase maneuverability. Armament payload similar to MiG-29 and F-16 with three weapon hardpoints on each wing and three in the centerline.

Chinese J-10
Chinese J-10

Variants of the J-10 include: the first improved version J-10A, the naval variant J-10AH, the two-seat trainer variant J-10S, and the upgraded version J- 10B with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and an optical sensor. The newest and most advanced variant is the J-10C, which has recently been powered by the domestic WS-10 Taihang engine.

Compared to the original Russian jet engine AL-31, the nozzle on the WS-10 engine is significantly wider, and has a ring structure inside the nozzle, which the AL-31 does not have. As can be seen, the WS-10 nozzle is somewhat lighter than the Russian engine.

In addition to improved avionics such as the AESA fire control radar and visual infrared seeker, the J-10C is compatible with many new Chinese aviation weapons, including advanced long-range missiles such as the PL-15. As the next step, China is expected to develop more advanced engines with a greater thrust-to-weight ratio; longer service life, more efficient maintenance standards and intelligent control technology to match the needs of next-generation aircraft.

Despite having served the PLA Air Force for more than two decades, the future of the J-10 remains uncertain, as China focuses on advanced fighters such as the J-16 or J-20. Meanwhile, regional rivals such as India and Japan are using Rafale, Su-30MKI, F-15 and even F-35 fighters. The J-16 was developed based on the Soviet Su-27, with improvements hailed by mainland media as the Chinese Su-35.

In addition, the Chinese Air Force also owns many J-11s, with many variations and upgrades, compatible with many old and new attack weapons such as R-77 or PL-10 missiles. The J-11 has also become an important part of the Chinese Air Force with more than 400 in service; while the Navy is operating about 70 of them.

With a focus on stealth technology, China is producing and developing two types of stealth fighters, the J-20 and FC-31. Similar to how the US F-35A will replace the F-16, the FC-31 will likely replace the J-10 in the PLA Air Force.


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