Jian-10 Multirole Fighter Aircraft

J-10

The Jian-10 (J-10) is a multirole, all-weather fighter aircraft designed for both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The aircraft was designed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (611 Institute) and built by the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of AVIC. The aircraft has been operational with the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) since 2003. The J-10 is available in the single-seat fighter variant J-10 and two-seater fighter-trainer variant J-10S. A further improved single-seat fighter variant designated J-10B reportedly made its maiden flight in February 2009.

Programme

The programme to develop the J-10, known as Project 8610, started in the mid-1980s. The aircraft was originally intended to be a high-performance air-superiority fighter to counter the then emerging fourth-generation fighters such as F-16 and MiG-29, but the end of the Cold War and changing requirements shifted the development towards a multirole fighter with both air-to-air and ground attack mission capabilities.

The development of the J-10 was reportedly assisted  by Israel, which provided the technologies of its cancelled IAI Lavi lightweight fighter including the aerodynamic design and the software for the “fly-by-wire” flight control system. The development programme faced enormous difficulty in the early 1990s when China faced arms embargo imposed by the United States and European Union. In the mid-1990s Russian became involved in the J-10 development and supplied its AL-31F turbofan jet engine to power the aircraft.

 
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PLAAF J-10 single-seater fighter with PL-8 and PL-11 AAMs (Chinese Internet)

The J-10 was first flown on 22 March 1998, with six prototypes produced for flight tests. Six production examples in the single-seat fighter variant were delivered to the PLAAF Flight Test & Training Base / 13th Test Regiment at Cangzhou Airbase for operational test and evaluation in March 2003. The aircraft was certified for design finalisation in early 2004. The first operational J-10 fighter unit was activated in the PLAAF 44th Air Division / 132nd Fighter Regiment based at Luliang Airbase in the southern Yuannan Province in July 2004. The two-seater J-10S first flew in December 2003 and was certified in 2005.

The initial batch of 100 examples in both single-seat and two-seater variants were delivered to the PLAAF between 2004 and 2006. It was estimated that a total of 300 aircraft may be required by the PLAAF and PLA Navy. A number of countries including Pakistan, Iran, and Thailand have also shown strong interest in the aircraft. In March 2007, the Chief of Air Staff of the Pakistani Air Force told the press that the country was finalising a deal with China to purchase up to 32~40 J-10 fighters, with the delivery expected to take place in 2009. [1]

Design

 
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J-10 fighter with refuelling probe (Chinese Internet)

The J-10 adopts a “tailless delta-canard” aerodynamic layout, which was originally developed for the cancelled J-9 fighter. The aircraft has the horizontal control surfaces moved forward to become a canard in front of the wing. When the aircraft pitches up, instead of forcing the tail down decreasing overall lift, the canard lifts the nose, increasing the overall lift. Because the canard is picking up the fresh air stream instead of the wake behind the main wing, the aircraft can achieve better control authority with a smaller-size control surface, thus resulting in less drag and less weight.

The aircraft employs an adjustable, chin-mounted air intake that supplies air to the single Lyulka-Saturn AL-31FN afterburning turbofan jet engine. The upper portion of the air intake is incorporated with an intake ramp designed to generate a rearward leaning oblique shock wave to aid the inlet compression process. The ramp sits at an acute angle to deflect the intake air stream from the longitudinal direction. This design created a gap between the air intake and the forward fuselage, and requires six small beams to enhance the structure for high-speed flight. This air intake design was reportedly replaced by a diffuser supersonic inlet (DSI) on the latest J-10B variant.

The tailless delta-canard configuration is inherently aerodynamically unstable, which provides a high level of agility, particularly at supersonic speeds. However, this requires a sophisticated computerised control system, or “fly-by-wire” (FBW), to provide artificial stabilisation and gust elevation to give good control characteristics throughout the flight envelope. The J-10 uses a digital quadruplex (four-channel FBW system developed by the 611 Institute. The software for the FBW system was developed by the 611 Institute using ADA language.

The pilot sits in the cockpit located above the air intake and in front of the canard. The two-piece bubble canopy gives the pilot great vision at all directions, a vital feature during air-to-air combat. The onboard digital flight control computer ‘flies’ the aircraft for the pilot, providing automatic flight coordination and keeping the aircraft from entering potentially dangerous situations such as unintentional slops or skids. This therefore frees the pilot to concentrate on his intended tasks during the combat.

 
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J-10S two-seater fighter-trainer (Chinese Internet)

The two-seater J-10S fighter-trainer is identical to the single-seater variant in performance and avionic configuration, but has its forward fuselage stretched to accommodate a second pilot seat. Two pilots sit in tandem in the two-seat cockpit with one single large bubble canopy. An enlarged dorsal spine accommodates additional avionic for the second pilot. The aircraft can be used for pilot training or as a standard fighter.

Radar

CAC revealed that the J-10 is equipped with an indigenous fire-control radar featuring a mechanically slewed planar array antenna, capable of tracking 10 targets and engaging 2 (using semi-active radar-homing AAM) or 4 (using active radar-homing AAM) of them simultaneously. Possibly based on Russian or Israeli technologies, the radar is believed to be comparable to the early 1990s-era Western fighter radar designs. Alternatively the J-10 could be fitted with a range of fire-control radar introduced by Russian, Israeli, and European manufacturers on its export variant.

 
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The glass cockpit in the rear seat of this J-10S fight-trainer is clearly visible (Chinese Internet)

Cockpit

The cockpit of the J-10 features a “Hands On Throttle And Stick” (HOTAS) controls that enable operation of weapon systems while hands remain on these critical aircraft controls. There is one colour and two monochrome liquid crystal multifunctional display (MFD) that allow pilot to view flight data, weapon status, and target information by pressing a button; a wide field of view head-up display (HUD) that displays flight data and target information in front of the pilot. The aircraft could also use the indigenous helmet-mounted sight (HMS) that enables fast reaction in air-to-air combat.

Weapons

Fixed Weapon & Pylons

The fixed armament of the J-10 includes an internally-mounted Type 23-3 twin-barrel 23mm cannon, located on the port side of the front landing gear. The gas-operated cannon has a combat weight of 50.5kg, a length of 1,530mm, and a maximum rate of fire of 3,000~3,4000 rounds/minute. The cannon fires 320g, 23X200mm high-explosive/incendiary with tracer round and armour-piercing round, with a muzzle velocity of 715m/s. The cannon is electric-driven using 27V 8A DC.

The aircraft has 11 external stores stations for weapon carriage, three under each wing and five under the fuselage. The centreline under-fuselage station and the two inbound wing stations are pumped to carry drop tanks, with a 800 litre tank for the centreline station and a 1,700 litre tanks for each of the wing stations. The two under-fuselage stations at front (under air intake) could be used to carry various targeting or navigation pods for operations at night and in complex weather conditions.

 
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J-10 in static display with its air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons (Chinese Internet)

Air-to-Air Mission

For air-superiority and interception missions, the J-10 could carry a mix of medium-range air-to-air missiles (MRAAM), short-range air-to-air missiles (SRAAM) and drop tanks.

Typical air-Superiority and interception weapon configuration:

  • 4X PL-11 / PL-12 MRAAM + 2X PL-8 SRAAM + 1X 800ltr drop tank
  • 2X PL-11 / PL-12 MRAAM + 2X PL-8 SRAAM + 2X 1,600ltr drop tanks + 1X 800ltr drop tank

The J-10 was the first Chinese-made fighter to have surface attack capability in mind right from the design stage. The fighter is fully capable of all-weather offensive strikes, and could be fitted with a forward looking infrared and laser target designator pod. The AVIC I has displayed a model of the J-10 carrying what were believed to be targeting and navigation pods, which would provide the capability of the J-10 to deploy laser and satellite navigation guided weapons.

Ground Attack Mission

 
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A full-scale mockup of the two-seater J-10S with what appear to be forward looking infrared and laser target designator pods under its fuselage (Chinese Internet)

In a typical surface attack mission, the fighter carries up to eight 250kg bombs, along with two drop tanks and two PL-8/9 SRAAMs. Although the PLAAF has already developed the pylon integrated dispenser system (PIDS) that can carry up to six 250kg LDGP bombs for the J-8B fighter and JH-7 fighter-bomber, the similar system has not been seen being equipped by the J-10.

Typical surface attack and interdiction weapon configuration:

  • 2X PL-8 SRAAM + 6X 250kg LDGP bomb + 2X 1,600ltr drop tanks + 1X 800ltr drop tank
  • 2X PL-8 SRAAM + 2X 500kg LGB + 2X 1,600ltr drop tanks + 1X 800ltr drop tank + laser targeting pod

Powerplant

The J-10 was originally planed to be powered by an indigenous WP-15 turbojet engine, but the engine development plan was cancelled. Instead the J-10 was fitted with a Russian Salyut AL-31F turbofan engine rated at 76.2kN (7,770kg, 17,130 lb) dry and 122.55kN (12,500kg, 27,557 lb) with afterburning. The AL-31F is a high-performance jet engine originally developed for the Su-27, Su-30MK and Su-33 fighters and the Su-34 bomber. The version used by the J-10 is the AL-31FN, a modified variant specially tailored for the J-10. In order to fit the engine into the J-10 airframe, Russia engine supplier made necessary modifications on the AL-31F, including relocating the accessory gearbox to be mounted beneath the engine. Accordingly, the J-10 designer also made modifications on the J-10’s airframe and air intake.

The AL-31FN is built by Moscow-based Salyut Machine Building Enterprise. The development of the AL-31FN was completed in 2000. Between 2002 and 2004, Salyut delivered 54 AL-31FN engines to China, with a unit price of US$3 million. A Russian source also confirmed to Interfax that China was seeking to maintain and repair these engines locally in a Chinese plant.

In July 2005, Russian media reported that the state-owned arms trading company Rosoboroneksport has concluded a US$300 million deal with China for the export of an additional 100 units of the AL-31FN engine to be delivered within the next three years. China also reserved the right to order a further 150 units by 2010, and may consider a licensed co-production.

Salyut has also introduced an improved version of the AL-31FN, featuring a fully variable, all-aspect thrust vector control (TVC) nozzle and an increased afterburning thrust of 124.54kN (12,700kg, 27,998lb). Currently Salyut is actively marketing the engine to China, but it is not known whether this engine will be fitted on future production J-10 fighters.

Shenyang-based AVIC Aviation Engine Institute (also known as 606 Institute) and Shenyang Liming Aero-Engine Group carried on the development of the indigenous WS-10 throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The revised design, possibly based on some of the AL-31F technology, was known as WS-10A, or “Taihang” in its commercial name. AVIC I announced that the development of the WS-10A was completed in November 2005.

The WS-10A is slightly larger than the AL-31F in size. The engine is reportedly rated at 73.5kN (7,495kg, 16,523lb) dry and 110kN (11,217kg, 24,729 lb) with afterburning, which may result in slightly reduced aerodynamic performance in the WS-10A-equipped J-10.

Inventory

Division Regiment Serial No. Location Military Region
Air Force Flight Test & Training Base   60X8X Cangzhou AB, Hebei Beijing MRAF
2 Air Division 5 Fighter Regiment 10X3X Guilin AB, Guangxi Guangzhou MRAF
3 Air Division 7 Fighter Regiment 10X4X ? Nanjing MRAF
44 Air Division 132 Fighter Regiment 50X5X Luliang AB, Yunnan Chengdu MRAF

Specifications

Crew: One (J-10); Two (J-10S)
Powerplant: 1X Russian Salyut AL-31FN turbofan
Thrust (dry): 76.2kN (7,770kg, 17,130 lb)
Thrust (afterburning): 122.55kN (12,500kg, 27,557 lb)
In-flight refuelling: Yes
Weapon: 23mm single-barrel cannon
External Hardpoints: 11 (five under the fuselage centerline; six under the wings)

J-10 in the News

References

  1. PAF to seek more Chinese aircraft, says air chief, The News International, 29 Mar 07

Last update: 21 March 2009

     
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