The Latest Intel On China's J-10 Fighters

Chengdu J-10

Technical Report APA-TR-2007-0107

by Dr Carlo Kopp, SMAIAA, MIEEE, PEng
January, 2007
Updated August 2009
Updated August 2010
Text © 2007 – 2010 Carlo Kopp
Line Artwork © 2007 Carlo Kopp

Chengdu J-10A and J-10S Canard fighters of the 132nd Fighter Regiment of the 44th Air Division, based at Luliang AB, Yunnan. Both are armed with a mix of Chinese built  PL-11 Aspide and PL-8 Python 3 AAMs (Chinese internet images).


The pinnacle of indigenous Chinese fighter design is the Chengdu J-10, a single engine delta-canard agile multirole fighter which was alleged to be a clone of the IAI Lavi design, enhanced through alleged access to Pakistani F-16A examples. Even cursory comparison of the J-10 and Lavi indicates that ‘Lavi-cloning’ is not the case, even if the fighters share the same general configuration [1], [2]. The nose and vertical tail shape are however near enough to the F-16 to raise serious questions.

Development of the J-10 commenced in 1988, with the first prototype flying in 1996, and production planned to commence in 2005. The J-10 occupies the same niche as the F-16C/D/E/F and the Rafale, being smaller than the F/A-18E/F and Eurofighter. It is to form the low end of a hi-lo mix with the Su-27SK/J-11/Su-30MKK and be used for air combat and strike roles, replacing the J-6, Q-5 and J-7 in frontline combat regiments.

Early models are powered by the Russian AL-31F common to the Su-27/30, with Chinse sources claiming the indigenous WS-10 fan will be introduced later. The design is claimed to use a quadruplex digital fly-by-wire control system, a glass cockpit similar in layout to the Gripen is employed, and a HMS is expected to be used. Chinese sources claim the Phazotron Zhuk series and indigenous JL-10A to be the likely candidate radars for production.

The J-10 represents an important milestone for China’s industry – it is modern combat aircraft competitive in cardinal parameters with current EU production technology, and is clearly a unique indigenous design despite the comments of Western critics. Just like the Su-27/MiG-29 blended the best ideas in the teen series types, the J-10 blends the best ideas from the Eurocanard series and the F-16, to produce a high performance low cost mass production fighter.

While the J-10 will not have the strategic impact of the long range Sukhois, it is well matched to the PLA-AF’s established Soviet-like all-arms warfare doctrine, providing local air superiority over land forces and close air support / battlefield interdiction capabilities. With the likelihood of large scale production, we could see in time well over a thousand airframes built and exports made to various established PRC clients in the region.

In close combat the J-10 is apt to match or outperform the teen series fighters, and match the Eurocanards. Its principal limitation will be in its sizing and combat radius performance – the top end roles being ceded to the Sukhois.

With the J-10 China has finally joined the club of nations capable of designing a modern agile combat aircraft.


Australian Aviation  – August 2004 – The Sleeping Giant Awakens (PLA-AF/PLA-N)
Australian Aviation  – July 2004 – Asia’s Advanced Precision Guided Munitions
Defence Today – January/February 2006  –  Regional Precision Guided Munitions Survey
Defence Today – Sept  2004 – 2010+ Regional Futures
Defence Today – January/February 2006  – Regional Developments 2005

J-10A Single Seat Variant




The J-10 glass cockpit is unique  and differs from the design in the Su-30MKK/MK2 and

A H-6U tanker of the PLA-AF refuels a J-10A of the 5th Fighter Regiment, 2nd Air Division,

Guangzhou (image PLA-AF).

Above: unpainted factory aircraft fitted with three external fuel tanks and PL-8 Python 3  inert AAMs; below: a pair of operational aircraft in early production camouflage, equipped with external tanks, PL-8 Python 3 and PL-11 Aspide AAMs (Chinese internet).

J-10B Advanced Single Seat Variant

In early 2009 images of the first prototype of the advanced J-10B variant emerged

 on a number of Chinese websites.

The design has a number of prominent changes which will improve performance

and capabilities. The radome geometry has been altered with a new tilted bulkhead

which will

reduce radar bay RCS. Aft of the radome is mounted a new electro-optical sensor

turret, most likely an Infra-Red Search / Track (IRST) set. The dark colour could

be a painted dummy optical dome, or a Germanium longwave dome.

The most important design change is the completely revised higher massflow

inlet design. The new inlet combines two design features observed in earlier US

designs, a general arrangement similar to the F-8U3 Crusader III prototype, and

a diverterless inlet bulge design similar to the F-16 demonstrator used to prove

the inlet design for the X-35 JSF demonstrators. The inlet to fuselage join will s

ignificantly reduce the radar signature of the forward fuselage in the upper

bands. Other interesting changes include an extended antenna fairing on the

vertical fin, and large inboard pylons – or instrumentation pods – with what

appear to be dielectric radomes over the front and aft of the pylon. The prototype

carries inert PL-8 Python 3 rounds.

To date no performance figures have been disclosed. What is clear is that this

design has been engineered to be fitted with a more powerful engine and radar

than the J-10A.

Vought XF-8U3 Crusader III prototype (US Navy).

F-16C diverterless inlet demonstrator. The J-10B design lacks the clever edge alignment of the Lockheed-Martin design (LM photo).

J-10B Prototypes (Late)

J-10B Prototypes (Early)


J-10S Dual Seat Variant

A H-6U tanker of the PLA-AF refuels a J-10S combat capable trainer over the Guangzhou MR Coast (image PLA-AF).

A H-6U tanker of the PLA-AF refuels a J-10S combat capable trainer over the Guangzhou MR Coast (image PLA-AF).

Above, below, a pair of  J-10S combat capable trainers line up on a H-6U tanker of the PLA-AF over the Guangzhou MR Coast (image PLA-AF).

New build Chengdu J-10A Canard fighter.

Imagery Sources: Xinhua;; other Internet sources.

Technical Report APA-TR-2007-0107


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