J-10 Chengdu Multi Role Fighter Jet of Chinese Air Force – Vigorous Dragon of China – Firebird

J-10 Chengdu Multi Role Fighter of Chinese Air Force is also called as Vigorous dragon of China and its NATO reporting name is Firebird. The J-10 Aircraft is the first Chinese developed combat aircraft that approaches Western fighters in terms of performance and capabilities.

J-10 Chengdu Vigorous Dragon of China Firebird
J-10 Chengdu Vigorous Dragon of China Firebird

The J-10 multi-role fighter is the first Chinese-developed combat aircraft that approaches Western fighters in terms of performance and capabilities. It is known as Meng Long or Vigorous Dragon in China and as Firebird in the West. Development of the J-10 began in 1988. It was intended to counter threat posed by the Soviet forth-generation fighters – the MiG-29 and Su-27.

The J-10 was initially planned as an air-superiority fighter, however collapse of the Soviet Union and changing requirements shifted the development towards a multi-role fighter. Aircraft made its maiden flight in 1998. The whole project was kept under high secrecy. It is worth mentioning, that the first photos of the J-10 came out only 3-4 years after the first flight. Some sources claim that it was influenced by the IAI Lavi.

The J-10 multi-role fighter entered service with Chinese air force in 2004, however it was first publicly revealed only in 2006. Currently around 240 of these aircraft are in service. It is estimated that 300 fighter of this type are required for Chinese air force and possibly naval aviation too. A number of countries, including Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan and Thailand expressed interest in purchasing this aircraft.

   Even though the J-10 is a rather advanced warplane, it can not match performance of similar Western multi-role fighters, such as a US F-16 and Eurofighter Typhoon.

   The J-10 has a single engine. The first batch of about 50 aircraft is powered by Russian AL-31FN turbofan engines. This batch was delivered to Chinese air force between 2004 and 2006. An indigenous turbofan was under development.

   The J-10 has beyond visual range air combat and surface attack capabilities. Aircraft has 11 external hardpoints for a range of weapons. Alternatively it can carry target acquisition, navigation pods or auxiliary fuel tanks. It is worth mentioning that the J-10 has an in-flight refueling capability.

   The main armament on the air-superiority missions are the PL-12 medium-range active radar-homing air-to-air missiles. For close ranges it carries the PL-8 infrared-homing missiles. For surface attack role the J-10 carries up to six 500-kg laser-guided bombs, free-fall bombs, or pods with 90 mm unguided rocket. Aircraft also has a single-barrel 23 mm cannon.

   The J-10 is fitted with an indigenously designed pulse-doppler fire control radar. It is capable of tracking 10 targets simultaneously and attacking 4 of them. Estimated maximum detection range is 100 km. Aircraft is fitted with a fly-by-wire system.

Variants of J-10

A two-seat variant, the J-10S fighter-trainer, is available. It is identical to the single-seat variant, but has a stretched fuselage to accommodate second pilot seat. The J-10S can be used for pilot training or as a standard fighter. This aircraft maid its maiden flight in 2003.

   J-10B multi-role fighter, with improved airframe and avionics. It is powered by Chinese WS-10 turbofan engine. The first J-10 aircraft had Russian engines. TheJ-10B entered service with the China’s air force in 2014. At least 14 aircraft were delivered during the same year. The J-10B is likely to become a standard production model.

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