|J-10 Vigorous Dragon |
|A J-10B carrying PL-8 and PL-12 air-to-air missiles|
|Manufacturer||Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group|
|Design group||Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute|
|First flight||23 March 1998|
|Primary user||People's Liberation Army Air Force|
|Produced||2002 – present|
|Number built||468 as of 2020|
The Chengdu J-10 (simplified Chinese: 歼-10; traditional Chinese: 殲-10; also known as Vigorous Dragon (Chinese: 猛龙; pinyin: Měnglóng), is a single-engine, lightweight multirole fighter capable of all-weather operation, configured with a delta wing and canard design, with fly-by-wire flight controls, and produced by the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) for the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The J-10 is mainly designed for air-to-air combat, but may also perform strike missions.
In 1981, PLAAF Commander Zhang Tingfa submitted a proposal to Deng Xiaoping for the development of a third-generation fighter for CN¥ 500 million; it was accepted later that year by the Central Military Commission (CMC). It was the first Chinese aircraft program to incorporate modern development and acquisition processes. In one departure from the past, the supplier was now responsible directly to the customer; this allowed the PLAAF to communicate its requirements and ensure they were met; previously suppliers were responsible to their managing agency, which could produce products that failed to meet end user requirements. Another difference was the selection of a design through competition, rather than allocating a project to an institute and using whatever design that institute created.
Design proposals were made by the three major aircraft design institutes. Shenyang's proposal was based on its cancelled J-13 with a F-16-like strake-wing. Hongdu's proposal was MiG-23/Su-24-like with variable-sweep wing. Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute's (CADI) proposal was a Saab 37 Viggen-like design based on its cancelled J-9. CADI's proposal was selected in February 1984. The following month, CADI and Chengdu Fighter Factory were formally directed to develop and manufacture the aircraft, respectively. Song Wencong (宋文骢) became chief designer.
The engine was selected during the design proposal stage. Candidates were an improved Woshan WS-6, the WP-15, or a new engine. The new engine - ultimately the Shenyang WS-10 - was chosen in 1983.
The State Council and the CMC approved the program in 1986, code-naming it "No. 10 Project". Interest waned in the following years which constrained funding and prolonged development. The Gulf War renewed interest and brought adequate resourcing. Unlike earlier programs, the J-10 avoided crippling requirement creep.
Technical development was difficult. The J-10 represented a far higher level of complexity than earlier generations of Chinese aircraft. About 60% of the aircraft required new technology and parts, instead of - according to Chengdu - the usual 30% for new aircraft; the high proportion reflected both requirements and limited domestic capability. Development and modernization of China's aviation industry occurred alongside the J-10; the program was an early Chinese user of digital design, modelling, and testing including computer-aided design (CAD) and computational fluid dynamics. The J-10 was the first Chinese aircraft to make major use of computer-aided design (CAD) for its structural design, allowing the detailed design to be completed in 1994. The hydraulics system was tested with physical models because of limited digital modelling capabilities.
The first J-10 was assembled in June 1997. Lei Qiang flew the first flight on 23 March 1998; Lei was chosen for his experience with modern, foreign, third generation aircraft. PLA training units received the J-10 ahead of schedule starting in 2003. Weapons tests occurred in the fall of that year. The design was finalized in 2004. Rumors of crashes during flight testing were actually mishaps related to the AL-31 engine.
According to the images posted by China National Radio of a PLAAF live-firing exercise at an unspecified location in May 2021, J-10C Vigorous Dragons were equipped with distinctive exhaust nozzles of the WS-10B Taihang turbofan engine. This marks the first time the WS-10 has been officially seen on an operational J-10.
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J-10 was designed and developed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (CADI), a subsidiary of Chengdu Aircraft Corporation.
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 (or foreplanes) 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 (only on J-10A) 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 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" (HOTAS) 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 (FBW) flight control system (FCS) aids the pilot in flying the aircraft. The FCS typically monitors pilot control inputs, preventing the pilot from accidentally exiting the flight envelope from applying too much control input during high performance flight situations. This is critical in canard wing aircraft, as they are capable of turning in a much tighter radius than conventional aircraft. The massive control surfaces are capable of moving so far that they can completely destroy the aircraft in flight at high airspeeds if not kept in check by the FCS.
The cockpit has three liquid crystal (LCD) Multi-function displays (MFD) along with a Chinese developed holographic head-up display (HUD), all of which are fully compatible with a domestic Chinese advanced helmet mounted sight (HMS), claimed by Chinese to be superior to the HMS on the Sukhoi Su-27 sold to China.
According to Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation officials the J-10 uses a multi-mode fire-control radar designed in China. The radar has a mechanically scanned planar array antenna and is capable of tracking 10 targets. Of the 10 targets tracked, 2 can be engaged simultaneously with semi-active radar homing missiles or 4 can be engaged with active radar homing missiles.
For J-10B, the nose cone is modified to accommodate an active phased array airborne radar (AESA) radar. The general designer of AESA for J-10B is Mr. Zhang Kunhui (张昆辉, 1963 -), the head of 607 Research Institute in Neijiang, Sichuan. Mr. Zhang Kunhui became the deputy head of 607th Research Institute in 1997, and four years later in 2001, he became the head of the institute, when the AESA program for J-10B started. The primary contractor of this AESA is the Radar and Electronic Equipment Research Academy of Aviation Industry Corporation of China located in Sichuan, formed in March 2004 by combining the 607th Research Institute and 171st Factory together with Mr. Zhang Kunhui was named as the head of the research academy. According to Chinese governmental media, the AESA for J-10B took 8 years to develop, finally completed in 2008, and Chinese fighter radars hence achieved a quantum leap in that it went from mechanically scanned planar slotted array directly into AESA, skipping the passive phased array PESA radar. Many suspected the radar is a PESA, but during its brief debuts in the 7th China International Defense Electronics Exhibition (CIDEX) in May 2010 and the 6th International Conference on Radar held in Beijing in Sept 2011, Chinese official sources have claimed it is an AESA.
The J-10 is powered by a single turbofan.
The J-10 entered production with the Russian Lyulka-Saturn AL-31FN Series 3. The initial version generated a maximum static thrust of 12,500 kgf (123 kN). In December 2013, Saturn reported it was testing an upgraded Series 3 for China with 250 hours more life and 1000 kg/f more thrust. The AL-31F was fitted to the J-10 by rotating the gearbox and accessory pack to the underside. The air intake has a similar shape to one used on the Sukhoi Su-27.
The J-10s intended engine is the Chinese Shenyang WS-10. The WS-10 suffered development difficulties and production of the aircraft went ahead with the Saturn AL-31 as a substitute. A pre-production J-10C flew with a WS-10 at the 2018 China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition; the engine nozzle was modified for stealth and thrust vectoring (TVC). In March 2020, a video from Chinese state media showed a J-10C in PLAAF livery equipped with a WS-10. The J-10C uses a diverterless air intake.
Weaponry and external loads
The aircraft's internal armament consists of a Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23 twin-barrel cannon, located underneath the port side of the intake. Other weaponry and equipment is mounted externally on 11 hardpoints, to which 6,000 kg (13,228 lb) of either missiles and bombs, drop-tanks containing fuel, or other equipment such as avionics pods can be attached.
Air-to-air missiles deployed may include short-range air-to-air missiles such as the PL-8 and PL-10 (on J-10C), medium-range radar-guided air-to-air missiles such as the PL-12 and PL-15 (on J-10C), unguided and precision guided munitions such as laser-guided bombs, air-to-surface missile such as KD-88, anti-ship missiles such as the YJ-91A and anti-radiation missiles such as the YJ-91.
The J-10C entered combat service in April 2018.
The J-10 is externally similar to the IAI Lavi. In 2006, SibNIA engineers believed that the aircraft was "more or less a version" of the Lavi, incorporating "a melting pot of foreign technology and acquired design methods." In 2008, Janes claimed the J-10 benefited from technical information from the Lavi project, citing senior Russian engineers who said they had heard this from Chinese colleagues. The memoirs of Gu Songfen, one of the J-10's designers, indirectly imply Israeli assistance.
In 2007, Song Wencong, the aircraft's Chief Designer, denied any connection with the Lavi, pointing to similarities with the Chengdu's previous J-9 from the 1960s. This was echoed by PLAAF Major Zhang Weigang in a 2012 interview.
There have been no public statements or formal claims along those lines; by 2000, however, openly disclosed advanced technology transfer of any origin had become anathema to the United States, which forced Israel to cancel a sale of Phalcon airborne early warning planes.
- J-10A: Single seat variant. The export designation is F-10A.
- J-10AH: Naval version of J-10A.
- FC-20: Single seat fighter jet, the export version of the J-10.
- J-10S: Tandem-seated trainer variant of J-10A.
- J-10SH: Naval version of J-10S.
- J-10B: An upgraded J-10, initially identified as "Super-10". It features a lighter and stealthier diverterless supersonic inlet, a longer nose radome possibly housing an active electronically scanned array radar, an electro-optic targeting sensor (IRST, and laser rangefinder,) and a new electronic warning or countermeasures pod atop the vertical stabiliser. The aircraft is powered by the AL-31FN M1; one unit was flown with a WS-10A in July 2011 but that engine was not selected for the initial production batch. The aircraft's first flight occurred no later than December 2008.
- J-10B TVC Demonstrator: A prototype fighter based on J-10B that is equipped with WS-10B thrust-vectoring control engine. The fighter has supermaneuverability, capable of performing Cobra maneuver.
- J-10C: An upgraded version of J-10B, it is equipped with an indigenous Active electronically scanned array (AESA) fire-control radar and is equipped with imaging infrared seeker (IIR) PL-10 and new long range dual pulse rocket motor PL-15 air-to-air missile (AAM).
- J-10CE: Export version of J-10C. May also be known as FC-20E.
- People's Liberation Army Air Force: 240 J-10A, 56 J-10B, 80 J-10C as of 2018
- People's Liberation Army Navy: 16 J-10AH, 8 J-10SH as of 2018
Accidents and incidents
Data from
- Crew: 1
- Length: 16.43 m (53 ft 11 in)
- Wingspan: 9.75 m (32 ft 0 in)
- Height: 5.43 m (17 ft 10 in)
- Wing area: 33 m2 (360 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 8,850 kg (19,511 lb) 
- Gross weight: 13,500 kg (29,762 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 23,000 kg (50,706 lb) 
- Powerplant: 1 × Saturn-Lyulka AL-31FN afterburning turbofan engines, 79.43 kN (17,860 lbf) thrust (or WS-10A) dry, 125 kN (28,000 lbf) with afterburner
- Maximum speed: 2,550 km/h (1,580 mph, 1,380 kn)
- Maximum speed: Mach 2.2
- Stall speed: 200 km/h (120 mph, 110 kn)
- Range: 3,800 km (2,400 mi, 2,100 nmi) 
- Combat range: 1,450 km (900 mi, 780 nmi) 
- Ferry range: 6,000 km (3,700 mi, 3,200 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 18,000 m (59,000 ft) 
- g limits: +9 –3
- Rate of climb: 300 m/s (59,000 ft/min) 
- Wing loading: 381 kg/m2 (78 lb/sq ft)
- Thrust/weight: 1.15 (with Saturn AL-31FN3); 1.16 (with WS-10A)
- Instantaneous Turn Rate: 30 degrees per second
- Roll Rate: 300+ degrees per second 
- Guns: 1× Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23
- Hardpoints: 11 in total (6× under-wing, 2× under-intake and 3× under-fuselage) with a capacity of 7,000 kg (15,400 lb) external fuel and ordnance,
- Rockets: 90 mm unguided rocket pods
Laser-guided bombs: (LT-2)
Glide bombs: (LS-6, GB3, GB2A, GB3A)
Satellite-guided bombs: (FT-1)
Unguided bombs: 250 kg, 500 kg
- Up to 3 external fuel drop-tanks (1× under-fuselage, 2× under-wing) for extended range and loitering time
- Type 1473H pulse-doppler fire control radar (J-10A)
- Externally mounted avionics pods:
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chengdu J-10.|
- AirForceWorld.com J-10 article
- J-10B fighter jet article
- GlobalSecurity.org article on the J-10
- SinoDefence.com J-10 factsheet and pictures
- Chinese Military Aviation at Stormpages.com
- Milavia.com J-10 article and pictures (includes J-10 specifications from Air Forces Monthly magazine)
- SinoDefence.com article on J-10B
- Jane's Defence article on J-10B