Chengdu J-10

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J-10 Vigorous Dragon
F-10 Vanguard
J-10a zhas.png
A J-10A of the People's Liberation Army Air Force seen at the Zhuhai Airshow
Role Multirole combat aircraft
National origin China
Manufacturer Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group
Designer Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute
First flight 23 March 1998[1]
Introduction 2005[2]
Status In service
Primary user People's Liberation Army Air Force
Produced 2002 – present[3]
Number built 400 [4]
Program cost 500 million RMB allocated in 1982[1] (Project #10)
Unit cost
190 million RMB (27.84 million USD; 2010)[5]
Developed from Chengdu J-9[6]

The Chengdu J-10 (simplified Chinese: 歼-10; traditional Chinese: 殲-10, Known in the West as the "Vigorous Dragon",[7] or by the NATO Reporting Name Firebird) is a lightweight multirole fighter aircraft capable of all-weather operation, configured with a delta wing and canard design,[8] with fly-by-wire flight controls, and produced by the People's Republic of China's Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) for the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The Pakistan Air Force is the only export customer for the J-10.[9][10]


The program was authorized by Deng Xiaoping who allocated ¥ 0.5 billion to develop an indigenous aircraft. Work on Project #10[1] started several years later in January 1988,[11] as a response to the Mikoyan MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27 then being introduced by the USSR, and F-15, F-16 being introduced by the USA. Development was delegated to the 611 Institute, also known as the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute and Song Wencong was nominated as the chief designer, as he had previously been the chief designer of the J-7III. The aircraft was initially designed as a specialized fighter, but later became a multirole aircraft capable of both air-to-air combat and ground attack missions.

The J-10 resembles the IAI Lavi[12] and is reported to be developed from the US F-16 with assistance from Israeli engineers.[13][14] The general designer Song Wencong said that J-10 was a development of the indigenous J-9 which preceded the Lavi.[15][16] This was echoed by a PLAAF's major Zhang Weigang in a 2012 interview.[17]

In 2006, the Russian Siberian Aeronautical Research Institute (SibNIA) confirmed its participation in the J-10 program; SibNIA claimed to have only observed and instructed as "scientific guides", while its engineers also believed the J-10 was "more or less a version" of the Lavi design, incorporating "a melting pot of foreign technology and acquired design methods".[18]

The J-10 was officially unveiled by the Chinese government in January 2007, when photographs were published by Xinhua News Agency. The aircraft's existence was known long before the announcement, although concrete details remained scarce due to secrecy. A J-10 prototype was speculated to have possibly crashed during flight testing.[19] Xinhua News Agency and the PLA Daily denied such rumors, and listed this as one of the test pilots' accomplishments.[20]

The prototype "J-10 01" was rolled out in November 1997 and first flown on 23 March 1998[1][21] in a twenty-minute flight.

AVIC plans to market an upgraded J-10 for export, most likely the J-10B, once development is complete. Several countries have shown interest.[22]

In 2015, China Military Online published an analysis advocating Argentina's adoption of the J-10, claiming that while the operational range of current versions could not yet allow it to reach the Falkland Islands, the aircraft, particularly its radar, were superior to the Typhoon and that tanker aircraft could place the islands within range. China has been promoting the J-10 to the Argentine republic and during a February 2015 visit to China by President Kirchner established a joint fighter aircraft working group.[23]

Operational history[edit]


August 1st aerobatics team

The first aircraft were delivered to the 13th Test Regiment on 23 February 2003. The aircraft was declared 'operational' in December of the same year, after 18 years in development.[1][12] The first operational regiment was the 131st Regiment of the 44th Division.


In February 2006, then-President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, toured the J-10 and JF-17 production facilities on a trip to China during which the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was offered the J-10,[24][25] and the purchase of 36 FC-20s, a Pakistan-specific J-10B variant, was approved in April 2006.[25] In November 2009, Pakistan signed a deal with China to buy 36 J-10B fighters in a deal worth around $1.4 billion.[26][27]

In July 2011, Daily Jang reported that China will give a squadron of the advanced J-10B fighter aircraft to Pakistan. According to the report,"the offer was made by senior Chinese military leaders to visiting Pakistan Army's Chief of General Staff, Lt Gen Waheed Arshad".[28][29] In March 2012, talks were held between the two countries to discuss the delivery of latest J-10B fighter jets to Pakistan.[30]


Since 2007, there have been rumors that Iran is interested in purchasing J-10 from China for orders numbering between 24 to 150 jets. This claim is again mentioned in mid-2015.[31]


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.[citation needed]

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. Also under the fuselage and wings are 11 hardpoints, used for carrying various types of weaponry and drop-tanks containing extra fuel.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

PLAAF Chengdu J-10AY

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.[citation needed] A zero-zero ejection seat is provided for the pilot, permitting safe ejection in an emergency even at zero altitude and zero speed.[citation needed]

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, (similar in purpose to a high performance vehicle equipped with electronic stability control) preventing the pilot from accidentally exiting the flight envelope from applying too much control input during high performance flight situations.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]


The cockpit had 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.[32][33]


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.[34]

For J-10B, the nose cone is modified to accommodate an active phased array airborne radar (AESA) radar.[35][36] 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.[37] 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.[38]


A J-10 powered by an AL-31FN turbofan engine

The J-10A is powered by a single Russian Lyulka-Saturn AL-31FN turbofan engine giving a maximum static thrust of 12,500 kgf.[39] The AL-31FN is based on the AL-31F which was designed for a twin engine aircraft such as the Su-27, to fit the smaller J-10 the engine parts have been moved and re-designed to fit the smaller engine bay in the J-10.

The J-10 was intended to be powered by the Chinese WS-10 Taihang turbofan, but development difficulties forced the J-10A to use a Russian engine instead.[40] Future J-10 will likely be equipped with an improved WS-10 type engine designed specifically for it, as the Chinese aeroengine industry matures and political/military pressure to indigenize increases.[41]

In April 2014, China have entered into a contract with NPO Saturn to purchase the upgraded AL-31FN Series 3 that provides 13,700 kgf thrust and a 2,250-hour service life for future deliveries. Prior, the AL-31FN Series 3 had accumulated 750 hours of test operation on the J-10 aircraft in a test programme.[42]

Weaponry and external loads[edit]

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)[43] 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-9, medium-range radar-guided air-to-air missiles such as the PL-11 and PL-12, unguided and precision guided munitions such as laser-guided bombs, anti-ship missiles such as the YJ-9K and anti-radiation missiles such as the PJ-9.[citation needed]


J-10AY of the August 1st aerobatics team
J-10B, featuring a diverterless supersonic inlet.
  • J-10A: Single seat multi-role variant. The export designation is F-10A.[44]
  • J-10B/C: An upgraded J-10, initially identified as "Super-10".[45] It features a lighter and stealthier diverterless supersonic inlet, a longer nose radome possibly housing an active electronically scanned array radar, upgraded cockpit with a wide-angle holographic HUD and large displays, a rear-facing MAW system, integrated solid-state electronics connected via optic high-speed data bus, an electro-optic targeting sensor (IRST, and laser rangefinder,) and a new electronic warning or countermeasures pod atop the vertical stabiliser.[46] The aircraft is powered by the AL-31FN M1;[46] one unit was flown with a WS-10A in July 2011 but that engine was not selected for the initial production batch.[47] The aircraft's first flight occurred no later than December 2008.[48] Some latest sources showed that J-10B has being flying with an upgraded WS-10 engine since early 2015.[49][50]
  • F-10 Vanguard: An export variant of the J-10B designed for the Pakistan Air Force.[51] First flight took place in 2009.[52]


 People's Republic of China

Accidents and incidents[edit]

On 15 November 2014, a J-10B crashed in Pi County (Pi Xian) near Chengdu city in Sichuan province with the pilot ejecting safely. Coming down in an artificial lake near a newly built residential compound, the accident injured at least seven on the ground. The aircraft was painted yellow, indicating it was either a new aircraft or a prototype.[55]

On 17 December 2015, a PLANAF J-10 crashed in Zhejiang Province, the crew of two ejected.[56][57]

Specifications (J-10A)[edit]

J-10SY of the August 1st aerobatics team
An orthographically projected diagram of the Chengdu J-10

General characteristics




See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


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External links[edit]