Type: Multirole fighter Designer: AVIC Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (611 Institute) Manufacturer: AVIC Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) First flight: December 2008 (J-10B); December 2013 (J-10C) Introduction: 2014 (J-10B); 2016 (J-10C) Operators: PLA Air Force, PLA Navy Crew: 1 In-flight refuelling: Yes (fixed probe)
The J-10B/C are the latest development variants of the Chengdu J-10 fighter family, with substantial upgrade and redesign in airframe, avionics, and weapon systems. The variant currently in production is the J-10C, which first flew in December 2013 and entered operational service in 2016. The aircraft, equipped with an AESA radar and new-generation air-to-air missiles, is regarded as approaching the 4.5-generation fighter standards.
The improved J-10B single-seat fighter began flight test in December 2008. The most distinctive feature of this variant is its chin-mounted diffuser supersonic inlet (DSI), which employs a one-piece bump at the top of the inlet replacing the original movable ramp on the basic variant J-10. This eliminates all moving parts on the inlet, lightening the overall weight and reducing the aircraft’s radar signature.
The J-10B has been added with an electronic-optic targeting system (EOTS). Placed forward of the cockpit canopy to the right, the system comprises an infrared search and track (IRST) sensor and a laser rangefinder, which can detect enemy targets passively without requiring to turn on the fire-control radar, thus reducing the chance of the aircraft being detected.
The aircraft has also been upgraded with an improved suite of avionics, including an indigenous passive electronically scanned array (PESA) fire-control radar, capable of engaging 4 targets simultaneously. The upper edge of the aircraft’s tailfin is curved, in contrast to the straight-edged tailfin of the J-10. A large fairing is added to the tip of the tailfin to accommodate electronic warfare and countermeasures (EW/ECM) equipment. There are also four black electronic countermeasures (ECM) antenna arrays attached externally to the fuselage, a larger one on either side of the cockpit and a smaller one on either side of the rear fuselage near the engine nozzle.
After years of flight testing and evaluation, the J-10B finally entered operational service with the PLAAF in 2014, when the production of the basic variant J-10A stopped. The J-10B production continued until May 2015, after some 50 examples had been delivered. The production has subsequently switched to the newer J-10C variant.
The latest addition to the J-10 family is the J-10C single-seat fighter, which made first flight in December 2013. This variant is almost identical to the B variant in appearance, but features an indigenous active electronically scanned array (AESA) fire-control radar and increased use of composite materials in its airframe for reduced radar cross section (RCS) profile. The aircraft began delivery to the PLAAF in late 2016, and was first unveiled during the flypast on 30 July 2017 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PLA.
Fixed armaments of the J-10 include an internally-mounted Type 23-3 twin-barrel 23mm cannon, located on the port side of the front landing gear. 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 an 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.
For air-to-air missions, the aircraft can carry PL-8 IR-homing SRAAM, PL-10 IIR-homing SRAAM, PL-12 active radar-homing MRAAM (70—10 km range), and PL-15 active radar-homing LRAAM (>200 km range).
For ground/surface strike missions, the aircraft can carry YJ-83K anti-ship missile (active radar-homing, 180 km range), KD-88 air-launched cruise missile (TV/IIR-homing, 180—200 km range), YJ-91 anti-radiation missile (120 km range), 250 kg Laser-guided bombs, 250 kg low-drag general-purpose bombs, and 90-mm unguided rocket pods. For delivering precision-guided munitions, the aircraft can carry various Chinese indigenous targeting pods.
A recent photo on the Chinese social media shows the J-10B in a suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) mission configuration, with two YJ-91 ARMs carried on the inbound wing stations, two PL-8 SRAAMs on the outbound wing stations, as well as a KG500 electronic countermeasures (ECM) pod and a targeting pod on the under-fuselage stations.
The J-10B/C retained the same powerplant configuration as the basic variant J-10, with a single AL-31FN turbofan engine built by Moscow-based Salyut Machine Building Enterprise (now NPO Saturn), rated at 76.2 kN (7,770 kg, 17,130 lb) dry and 122.55 kN (12,500 kg, 27,557 lb) with afterburning. The aircraft can be fitted with a fixed in-flight refuelling probe, allowing it to be refuelled by the Xi’an HY-6 tanker.