The Chengdu J-10 (Jian-10, or F-10 in its export name) is a
single-engine, all-weather, high-performance multirole fighter aircraft
capable of both air-to-air and air-to-ground roles. The aircraft was
designed by Chengdu-based 611 Aircraft Design Institute and
manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAIC). The
aircraft is available in single-sear fighter (A variant) and tandem
two-seat fighter-trainer (B variant) versions. The aircraft first flew
in 1998 and entered the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) service in 2003. About
50~70 examples are expected to have been delivered by 2006. These
planes are powered by a Russian-made AL-31FN turbofan engine, while on
later production variants this will be replaced by Chinese indigenous
WS-10A Ã¢â‚¬Å“TaiHangÃ¢â‚¬Â� turbofan. The total number of production
may be as many as 300.
The J-10 development programme, also known as Ã¢â‚¬Å“Project
8610Ã¢â‚¬Â�, officially began in 1986 to counter the fourth-generation
fighters such as MiG-29 and Su-27 then being introduced by the Soviet
Union. The aircraft was initially designed as an air-superiority
fighter aircraft but changing requirements later shift the development
towards a multirole fighter. It was widely speculated that the
J-10Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s initial design was based on the cancelled Israeli
Aerospace Industry (IAI) Lavi lightweight fighter. Despite the denial
by both Chinese and Israelis, the high resemblance of the two aircraft
appears to support this claim. Russia provided key assistance to the
aircraft development after 1990 by helping Chengdu engineers integrate
the Lyulka-Saturn AL-31F turbofan engine into the aircraft.
The J-10 is single-engine fighter with a rectangle belly air intake,
low-mounted delta wings, and front canard wings. The airframe possesses
a large vertical tail, as well as canards placed near the cockpit. The
air intake is rectangular in shape, and is located beneath the
fuselage. The aircraft is the first Chinese-made fighter to be fitted
with a large two-piece bubble canopy to provide 360 degrees of visual
coverage for the pilot. If necessary, the aircraft could be fitted with
an in-flight refuelling probe.
The J-10 fighter represents the highest achievement of the Chinese
aviation industry today. The aircraft achieves high manoeuvrability by
using a large amount of composite materials in its fuselage and wing
structures to reduce the its overall weight and thus increase the
thrust-to-weight ratio. The aircraft design is aerodynamically
unstable, to provide a high level of agility, low drag and enhanced
lift. The pilot controls the aircraft through a computerised digital,
quadruplex (four-channel) Ã¢â‚¬Å“fly-by-wireÃ¢â‚¬Â� (FBW) system, which
provides artificial stabilisation and gust elevation to give good
control characteristics throughout the flight envelope. The
aircraftÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cockpit avionics and fire-control system are also
believed to be superior to those of other Chinese indigenous fighter
In the late 1990s, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence estimated that
the J-10 could be as manoeuvrable as the U.S. F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
With its advanced Ã¢â‚¬Å“fly-by-wireÃ¢â‚¬Â� system, the J-10 may have a
better aerodynamic performance compared to the Russian Su-27, which
still uses the conventional control method. The Hong Kong-based
newspaper Sing Tao Jih Pao reported on 29 May 2004 that during an
aerial war game conducted by the PLAAF, the J-10 fighter has beaten the
Su-27 fighter in all three rounds of Ã¢â‚¬Å“dogfightÃ¢â‚¬Â� in the
The J-10A single-seat fighter entered service with the PLAAF in 2003,
with 50~70 examples delivered so far. The production continues at a
rate of 2~3 units per month. The two-seat variant J-10B joined the
service In 2006. The aircraft may become available for export market by
The fixed weapon on the J-10 includes a single-barrel 23mm internal cannon.
The aircraft has 11 stores stations Ã¢â‚¬â€œ six under the wing and
three under the fuselage. The inner wing and centre fuselage stations
are plumped to carry external fuel tanks.
The aircraft carries a range of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons
for different mission profiles. For interception and air-superiority
mission, the aircraft carries the indigenous 2~4 PL-12 active
radar-homing medium-range air-to-air missile and 2 PL-8 infrared-homing
short-range air-to-air missiles. It is not clear whether the aircraft
is equipped with helmet-mounted sight (HMS) but the technology is
For ground attack roles, the J-10 will carry 500kg laser-guided bombs
(LGB), free-fall bombs, and 90mm unguided rocket launcher pods.
The two front hardpoints under the fuselage can be used to carry target acquisition and navigation pods.
The initial production variant J-10s are powered by the Russian
Lyulka-Saturn AL-31F turbofan rated at 17,857lb (79.43kN) dry and
27,557lb st (122.58kN) with afterburning. The same powerplant is also
being used by the PLAAF’s Su-27 and Su-30 fighters. The AL-31FN model
used by the J-10 has been specially modified to fit the
aircraftÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fuselage. Lyulka-Saturn delivered 54 AL-31F turbofan
engines to China between 2002 and 2004 for the initial batch of the
In July 2005, China ordered an additional 100 AL-31FN engines for more
J-10 productions. Some reports suggested that these could be the
improved model with increased thrust and possibly a fully variable,
all-aspect thrust vector control (TVC) nozzle. Lyulka-Saturn
demonstrated a TVC-equipped AL-31FN during the 2002 Zhuhai Air Show.
The TVC capability would further enhance the aircraft’s manoeuvrability.
Shenyang-based AVIC1 Aviation Engine Institute has been developing the
indigenous WS-10A turbofan engine, which is also known as
Ã¢â‚¬ËœTaihangÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ in its commercial name. Reportedly based on some
AL-31F technologies, the engine is rated at 73.5kN dry and 110kN with
The WS-10A development was completed in December 2005 and the engines
may be ready for batch production soon. It was reported that the later
variants of the J-10 and J-11 fighters will be powered by the WS-10A.