The Chengdu J-10, commonly known as the Vigorous Dragon, is a single-engine medium weight fighter capable of flying in all conditions. It has a delta wing and canard design, as well as fly-by-wire flight controls. The Chengdu aviation corporation built the fighter jet for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 1981. For 500 million yuan, PLAAF commander Zhang Tingfa proposed to Deng Xiaoping the development of a third-generation fighter. Later that year, the central military commission approved it (CMC).
The jet was China’s first aircraft program to use contemporary development and procurement methods. The program was accepted by the state council and the CMC in 1986, and it was given the code number 10 project.
For great strength and low weight, the airframe is made of metal alloys and composite materials. It has a tailless canard delta wing arrangement in terms of aerodynamics. A massive delta wing is situated in the middle of the fuselage, behind and below the cockpit, while a pair of canards or four planes are located higher up and towards the front of the fuselage.
This arrangement provides excellent maneuverability, particularly at low speeds, and minimizes stall speed, allowing for slower instrument approaches.
A huge vertical tail is positioned on top of the fuselage, while small ventral fins beneath the fuselage give further stability. A splitter plate and an air intake ramp are located beneath the fuselage, feeding the engine with air. Newer models have a diverter-less intake that eliminates the need for a splitter plate and may lower radar cross signature. There are also 11 hardpoints beneath the fuselage and wings for mounting various types of armament and drop tanks with extra fuel.
The J-10c is the most recent production form of the J-10, succeeding the J-10b, which had a diverter less supersonic inlet (DSI) and electronically scanning radar, among other enhancements. An active electronically scanned array (AESA) is said to be one of the J-10c’s characteristics.
The AESA radar on J-10c took eight years to build, according to Chinese government media, and was ultimately completed in 2008. As a result, Chinese fighter radars have made the quantum jump from mechanically scanned planar slotted array to AESA radar, bypassing the passive phased array pacer radar.
During its brief appearances at the seventh China international military electronics show in May 2010 and the sixth international conference on radar held in Beijing in September 2011, many people assumed the radar was a PESA.
It is an AESA radar, according to Chinese state sources. Since 2018, China has made Chengdu J-10 fierce dragon single-engine fighters a point of the show.
Beyond visual range engagement, precision air to ground strike, digital glass cockpit instruments, in-flight refueling, and electronic warfare are among the capabilities of the latest J-10c model, which is comparable to modernized variants of the classic American F-16 fighting falcon tactical fighter.
The J-10c variant is said to have capabilities comparable to edge 4.5 generation jet fighters. The addition of an active electronically scanned array radar is perhaps the most significant upgrade. By using more non-reflective composite materials and including fewer supersonic Inlets, the J-10c’s radar visibility has been reduced.
Even if these enhancements aren’t quite up to par with those of a real stealth fighter, they do assist to reduce the range at which the J-10c may be detected and targeted.
Similarly, the J-10c carried a variety of weapons with 11 total hardpoints (6x underwing, 2x under intake, and 3x under fuselage) and a fuel and ordnance capacity of 7000 kilograms (15,400) pounds. Long-range pl-15 radar-guided air-to-air missiles have also been seen mounted on J-10cs.
Western military circles have expressed concern about such weapons because they appear to outrange the AIM 120D and the French BVR Meteor missiles. Long-range anti-radiation missiles designed to target land and sea-based air defense radars can also be carried by J-10s. The J-10c was also said to have been pictured with a ws10 turbofan engine.
The TVC nozzle works on the same principle as General Electric’s isometric vectoring exhaust nozzle, which is compatible with Pratt & Whitney pitch-yaw balancing beam nozzles.
The J-10 has a service ceiling of 18,000m and can fly at a maximum speed of 2,327km/h at high altitudes. The aircraft has a range of 1,850 kilometers and a combat radius of 550 kilometers.
The Jet has seen its first international client, Pakistan which has ordered 36 fighter jets in response to India’s Rafale fighter jets. Pakistan is under constraint due to economic problems and all-time low relations with the US. Thus, keeping it away from western technology. The country is already inducting much of the Chinese advanced military equipment. It inducted type-054 frigate, HQ-9 Missile defense system, Z-9 helicopters. While its submarine order is underway from China.
Many questions the wisdom of relying too much on China’s military technology. However, some experts believe that Chinese technology should not be seen under a western lens or its past. China has leapfrogged on technological fronts and hence, Pakistan can benefit from this technology especially with a limited budget.
Syed Ali Abbas is a Research Assistant at the Center for International Strategic Studies Islamabad and co-founding editor of Global Defense Insight. He tweets @smalinaqvi05.