Dispatch from Zhuhai: China’s J-10 fighter is the real deal

Blog contributor Vladimir Karnozov, a Moscow-based aerospace journalist, visited the Zhuhai air show this week, and files this sobering report about the new J-10 fighter.


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ZHUHAI — There is anold anecdote. The optimists around the world learn English. The pessimists,Chinese. But down-to-earth study the Kalashnikov assault rifle.

I think itis time for the down-to-earth crowd to study their rifles using Chinesemanuals!

Two yearsago every important source told me, let’s wait two years and see what comes ofChina‘snew J-10 fighter.

Noweveryone I trust says the Chinese pulled it off, and the J-10 has proven atremendously successful program.

I watchedhow the J-10 flew over Zhuhai, in 30 degree Celsius temperatures and highhumidity.

The pilotdid none of the show tricks like post-stall or tail slide or pitch-back, butturns were very tight, initial rate of turn very high. It was clear there is alot of potential in this airplane to achieve the same maneuvers more quickly.

The pilotrarely used afterburner and the degrees of canard deflection were small. Still,the airplane flew very well. I reckon it will beat F-16C or MiG-29/SMT easily.

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Chinesehave already completed over 100 J-10s and they have bought more Russian enginesfor next series.

I do notthink they would buy more Flankers since the J-10 is as good as the Flanker, tosay the least.

Chinesemilitary said “no” to local engine makers and “no” to local makers of some keysystems, instead buying these critical items directly from Russia.

As forAWACS support, it is present with 4 A-50 equipped with KJ-2000 radars and itseems the Chinese have bought a special version of the Ka-31, although verymuch different from the Indian navy version. Apparently with a new radar.

If propertactics are used, the PLAAF can beat Taiwanese opponents in conventional airwar. Unless the USmakes it into a full scale world-for-world battle, the central committee of theChinese Communist Party does have a chance.

(Photos: Vladimir Karnozov)



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10 Responses to Dispatch from Zhuhai: China’s J-10 fighter is the real deal

  1. Mark 7 November, 2008 at 5:19 pm #

    Explain to me, based on this inept Chinese TV footage, that I should believe this comment about the J-10 Fighter by Vladmir Karnozov, that this demonstrates anything but being a potential TARGET for an AIM-120 AMRAAM?? Give me a break… Mark

  2. Bates Baldwin 7 November, 2008 at 5:30 pm #

    I wasnt very impressed. Looks like an easy target for any western aircraft. Mark is right AIM-120 would blow it out of the sky.

  3. Stephen Trimble 7 November, 2008 at 5:58 pm #

    Vlad might concede the point. Of course, I don’t think he was trying to argue that the J-10 is too good for AMRAAM, but good enough to beat F-16s and MiG-29s in a dogfight. By Chinese standards, this might be considered a “tremendous success”, as Vlad points out. Considering that many have many written off the J-10 as almost incapable of taking off, this would not be such a minor accomplishment, if true.

  4. Royce 7 November, 2008 at 6:08 pm #

    So the J-10 is as good as a flanker and “easily beats” F-16 and a MiG-29. And he’s making this assessment from standing on the ground during an airshow?

  5. Stephen Trimble 7 November, 2008 at 7:34 pm #

    Well, I agree that’s a provocative statement, and not entirely justified by the facts presented. But this is what Vlad’s sources are telling him, and, as my colleague the past five years, I’ve learned Vlad’s sources are well worth listening too. Hope that helps.

  6. Mike Plunkett 8 November, 2008 at 11:45 am #

    Let’s not forget that when the MiG-29 first started displaying in the West there were a lot of people running around declaring that the F-16 had had its day and that Western air forces were obsolete (ok, I exagerate, but not much!) Didn’t really turn out that way, did it? If the J-10 is a F-16/MiG-29 equivalent then that’s a huge improvement for the Chinese, but it’s still at least a generation behind the front line Western aircraft. Whatsmore, whilst the air frame may be great, allowing neat, fancy air show displays, if the avionics/weapons/engines/pilots aren’t up to scratch then it doesn’t really make much difference.

    The statement I found strangest in this piece was the contention that the J-10 will replace the Flanker in future Chinese procurement effects. Surely this misses the whole point of the programme, which was to give the PLAAF a decent high-low mix of fighters, with the J-10 being the F-16 to the Flanker’s F-15.

  7. Jimmy 8 November, 2008 at 4:55 pm #

    well, the answer is obviously for the US to sell advanced fighters to Taiwan. Like, a non-stealthy 4.5th + gen fighter…

    oh wait, we don’t have something like that! snap! another sign of incompetent USAF leadership!

  8. Boris 10 November, 2008 at 2:47 pm #

    No matter how worse you think about this J-10, few points have been proved by this airshow, first, it’s a good design, high performance combat aircraft,can enjoy in any dog fight with any F-15/16, within Chinese land based Radar range, can shot down any F-22/35 without any question,sorry, this is not true within US airspace, if not believe in it, you can try;second, even if one lost, doesn’t means too much for Chinese AF, just build another one. That’s it all and I think it’s enough.

  9. KenMac 12 November, 2008 at 10:00 pm #

    The latest version of the J-10 seems to be a highly-capable aircraft, especially for the price
    (probably around the US$30 million mark, if not including development costs).

    Specs would put it around the block 50/52 f16, or the Mirage 2000-5 Mark 2.

    It’s not a new model flanker, but should be superior to most legacy aircraft.

    The Mig-35 & eurofighter should be quite a bit superior in a similar class, but you can buy 3-4 J-10′s instead of a eurofighter. (i)(Mig-35′s will probably be around the $40-$50 million mark, so that would be a toss-up.) (/i)

    Things to note: a lot of Russian & Isreali help went into making this, & will probably still require Russian help on further engine & airframe development.
    Current Chinese development on Electronics seems to pretty impressive according to most sources.
    What radar goes into it seems to be the big question at the moment.

  10. Eric 19 January, 2009 at 7:50 am #

    Well most people is being quite pessemetic on their views about the J-10. I personally think the Russian is being perfectly reasonable. Everyone was going on about the J-10′s manouverability in close quarters, and this article proves some of the claims.
    As for Russian help, I think that once the engine is Chinese, the aircraft will be fully indigenous.

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