June 01, 2007

Chengdu J-10

The Chengdu J-10 is a multirole fighter aircraft designed and produced by the People's Republic of China's Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC) for the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
Chengdu J-10 thumbnail image Designed to be equally useful in both the fighter and light bomber roles, the J-10 is optimized for all-weather day/night missions. The J-10 next-generation fighter program remained a top-secret classified project until 2006-12-29, in which the Xinhua News Agency officially disclosed its active duty status in the PLAAF.

Chengdu J-10 History
The program started in 1986, to counter new fourth generation fighters then being introduced by the USSR (namely, the MiG-29 and Su-27). Initially designed as a specialized counter-air fighter, it was later remade into a multirole aircraft capable of both anti-air combat and ground attack missions.

Although the existence of J-10 has long been reported both inside and outside of China, the Chinese government did not officially admit so until January 2007, when the first photographs of the J-10 were allowed to be published to the public by the Xinhua News Agency. Having been designed under such secrecy, before its official disclosure, many details of the J-10 were subject to much speculation. One version of the J-10 development history is: The first flight of the J-10 took place sometime in 1996, the program suffered a major delay due to a fatal accident which occurred in 1997, and a redesigned prototype flew in 1998, resuming flight testing of the aircraft. (There is evidence, albeit inconclusive, that only one prototype was flying; the other was a ground static testbed. Hence, no crash occurred.)

However, the rumored crash has been openly denied by the government of China after the official governmental acknowledgement of the existence of J-10: on 2007-01-15, both the Xinhua News Agency and the PLA Daily have claimed/reported the accomplishments of one of the test pilots of the J-10, Mr. Li Zhonghua, and, in these reports, one of the accomplishments quoted was that there was not a single crash since the project began. According to Chinese media reports, the first plane, "J-10 01", rolled out in November 1997, and the first flight of "J-10 01" was on 1998-03-23. No incident has been reported. After 18 years in development, the J-10 finally entered service in 2004.

The most frequently mentioned potential J-10 export customer is the Pakistan Air Force (PAF); in April 2006, the media reported that the Pakistani government intents to procure at least 36 J-10s (with designation of "FC-20" or "FC-10", depending on the report). The "Business Recorder" claims that the Pakistan official document it obtained said the Cabinet "has allowed PAF to set up Joint Working Group (JWG) with CATIC for procurement of 36 FC-20 aircraft".

Other media reports cited Pakistan Information Minister Sheikh Rashid in saying the Cabinet has approved the purchase of J-10 from China, in addition to the JF-17. On 2007-03-31, Pakistan Air Force Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed said, "PAF would soon induct fourth and fifth generation high-tech fleet of fighter-bomber aircraft with the aim to modernize the country’s air force which includes the induction of 2 squadrons of Chengdu J-10 aircrafts.". The J-10 export deal is estimated to cost $1.5 billion USD total with a flyaway price of $41 million USD for each J-10 fighter with maintenance and parts inclusive.

It was reported by Jane's Defence Weekly on 2006-01-09 that a more advanced version of the J-10 is planned, "referred to as the Super-10, with a more powerful engine, thrust-vector control, stronger airframe and passive phased-array radar.

Chengdu J-10 image

Two Chengdu J-10 fighters being towed at sunset,
with others parked on the left (Photo courtesy Xinhua News Agency)

Chengdu J-10 Engine Design
The J-10 is a single-seat, delta winged aircraft powered by a single, Russian-built AL-31FN turbofan (maximum static power output of 12,500 kgf (123 kN, 27,600 lbf)) or Chinese-built Woshan WS-10A "Taihang" turbofan (13,200 kgf (129 kN, 29,101 lbf)).

However, after the government's official acknowledgement of the existence of the J-10, an interview with J-10 pilots (such as test pilot Mr. Li Cunbao) revealed that a domestic engine is highly unlikely to be equipped in J-10s in the near future. In this interview publicized in January 2007, the pilots claimed that though the domestic Chinese engine could match the performance of the Russian one in every parameter, there was a very serious drawback: the domestic Chinese engine, the WS-10, took much longer to reach the same level of performance as its Russian counterpart. (According to Mr. Li Cunbao's experience, as well as other pilots who flew the J-10 with the WS-10A, it took at least 50% longer, and in many other aspects, almost 100% longer.)

Although this only meant one minute difference at most, it was more-than-enough to make a difference between allowing the pilots to safely recover the aircraft by restarting the engine than abandonning the aircraft in a forced ejection. Another problem of the domestic Chinese engine is its lack of FADEC, which is needed for having a same or better aircraft performance when compared with an aircraft with a Russian engine. However, the current WS-10 version available with FADEC is not reliable enough to be accepted into service, and currently all of the matured WS-10s lack FADEC.

It was rumored that in November 2005 the first batch of Russian AL-31FN thrust vectoring engines had already been received for use in J-10s. A second batch was supposed to arrive later that year, and the rest would arrive by mid-2006. On 2006-01-09, it was claimed that these new engines were actually termed AL-31FN M1, and would be used in a new advanced version of the J-10 called the "Super-10". Regardless of how they are eventually used, thrust vectoring will undoubtedly boost the J-10's maneuverability.

Chengdu J-10 Airframe, aerodynamics and flight control
The airframe possesses a large vertical tail, as well as canards placed near the cockpit. The air intake is rectangular in shape, and is located beneath the fuselage. Construction likely incorporates much use of composite materials, as well as more conventional metals. Performance is generally speculated to be within the class of a late-model F-16, although maneuverability is thought to be superior (possibly within the range of some early fifth-generation Western fighters).

A bubble canopy provides 360 degrees of visual coverage for the pilot. The aircraft is designed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute, a subordinate research institute of Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation, but in a rather unusual arrangement, the single seat version of the J-10 and the twin seater version of J-10 were designed by two different general designers: the general designer for the single seater version of J-10 was Mr. Song Wencong, while the twin seater version of J-10 was designed by a younger person, the general designer of the JF-17 Thunder Mr. Yang Wei. Mr. Yang is the chief designer of the fully digitized fly-by-wire control systems for both versions of J-10.

This is disputed by analyst Richard Fisher who credits Israeli consultants for developing the system. For both single seater and twin seater versions, the chief engineer was Mr. Xue Chishou, who was also the deputy general manager of Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation, and the chief test engineer was Mr. Zhou Ziquan, who was also the deputy director of Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute.

A digital, quadruplex fly-by-wire system aids the pilot in flying the aircraft. Information is provided visually to the pilot, in the form of three liquid crystal Multi-Functional Displays (LCD MFDs) within the cockpit. Western-style HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) controls are incorporated in the J-10's design.

The radar type equipping the J-10 is not yet known; possible candidates include the Russian RP-35, the Israeli EL/M-2035, the Italian Grifo 2000 and the Chinese/Pakistani JL-10A. (Note: most likely, the production version is fitted with a 147x series fire control radar from NRIET.)

In January 2007, scientists/engineers at Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation revealed to the public that the current radar of J-10 is slotted planar array with capabilities to simultaneously track 10 targets and engaging 4 of the 10 tracked. However, the scientists/engineers stopped short of revealing the exact designation of the radar, only claimed that development was in progress to arm the aircraft with a passive electronically scanned array airborne radar. It is rumored the passive phased array radar is either Russian or jointly developed with Russian. A comprehensive ECM (Electronic Countermeasures) package is likely to be present, including active jammers.

Note: As of 2005, the JL-10A fire control radar (FCR) has been incorporated into the JH-7A (JH-7, the evaluation batch, uses Type 232H FCR). Some evidence suggests that a derivative of the Type 1421 on later J-8 models has been selected. This could be the KLJ-3 FCR.

Source: Wikipedia - Chengdu_J-10

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