A long-sought picture of China's Chengdu J-10 fighter has come to light as the latest in a long-line of internet-related leaks of military information that has bedevilled Chinese authorities.
Industry observers note that the picture appeared shortly after the first flight of India's Light Combat Aircraft earlier this month. Chengdu is responsible for the faltering FC-1 programme to be co-developed with Pakistan, and the J-10 has long been viewed as an FC-1 rival. The leak could be linked to industrial rivalries.
The aircraft pictured is likely to be an early prototype - the J-10 first flew in March 1998. Four or five prototypes have been built, and there are suggestions that one has crashed after a fly-by-wire failure.
Dating back to the late 1970s, the J-10 grew out of the J-9 canard fighter, as a defence against Soviet aircraft. China's requirements have subsequently changed, increasingly stressing long-range offensive fighters such as the Sukhoi Su-30.
A Chinese design, the J-10 has benefited from Israeli design and fly-by-wire technology, Russian engine knowledge and, most likely, a combination of Israeli, Russian and Chinese systems. The picture's sensitivity meant it was quickly removed by the Chinese web censor.
Source: Flight International