In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Grande Strategy

The Dragon's New Claws: The J-10B Emerging


by Meinhaj Hussain, m.hussain@grandestrategy.com

In December 2008, rumors were rife of the J-10's latest incarnation, the J-10B, had taken off for the first time. Now in April 2009, we see the initial leak of images for this plane. The J-10B appears as the next iteration of China's vaunted 4th Generation fighter and looks to take the J-10 to the 4.5 Generation level.

The differences that have been identified from the earlier J-10 include a DSI intake, similar to the one on the FC-1/JF-17. The nose is now oval, more similar to an F-16's and is slightly canted downwards. An IRST similar to the J-11Bs also feature on top of the nose. Slanted radome paint along with some of the other features suggest an AESA radar.

Deino's graphical representation of possible AESA


The J-10B incorporates a new small ECM housing on the vertical stabilizer and this stabilizer also appears to be longer and ending in a "shark-fin". The ECM housing is similar to the housing on the JF-17. The two ventral fins are also extended further and are larger irrespective of the shark-fin. The aerodynamic refinements of the longer vertical stabilizer and the ventral fins appear to be a result of the DSI intakes which create greater lateral forces on the aircraft.

The wide angle HUD featured on the J-11Bs seem to have also appeared on the J-10B. While it cannot be confirmed, it appears that the cockpit itself has been redesigned extensively. Other than the new ECM housing on the vertical stabilizer, new MAWs appear on the tail bump. Just below these, curious breaks appear on the fuselage that some observers are referring to as possible formation lights "slime lights", but expert opinion from a Lockheed Martin source suggest that they are FLIR sensors. A redesigned satellite communication unit appears right behind the cockpit.

A retractable refueling probe is likely, given the development of the J-10 thus far, and is possibly located on the port side, not visible in the latest photographs. The photographs also suggest new under-wing pylons. These appear to be strengthened for a variety of possible uses, ranging from larger drop tanks to ASMs.

The engine is likely to be either a redesigned WS-10A (B?) or possibly the WS-15, a new generation engine currently in advanced development. This would not only have higher thrust than the AL-31s, but also feature TVCs, giving the J-10Bs vaunted agility an even greater boost. The actual engine on the aircraft presently on the released pictures, is the AL-31.

Like the J-10S, a J-10BS is also eventually likely. This would be an advanced trainer with the 360 degree view similar to the J-10S. EW/Wild Weasel variants could also eventually be possible.

Deino's graphical representation of the changes


PAF

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has shown a great deal of interest in the J-10 project as a possible substitute for Western combat aircraft for its high end requirements. The PAF, however, wanted a more modern version. Just as the FC-1s (and before the FC-1, the F-7s) were significantly upgraded due to the PAF's push for improvements, the J-10 appears to be going through a similar phase. The reason for this is that the PAF has a far closer view of Western technologies and trends and thus can provide deeper insight than more insulated Chinese expertise. The J-10B in all likelihood has had major input from the PAF and is the FC-20 that the PAF has ordered.

While there were rumors of the PAF receiving its first J-10s as early as 2009, the purchase has been delayed to 2014/2015. However, there is no doubt that the PAF sees its future inextricably linked to the J-10Bs/FC-20s. Informed sources suggest that PAF is not only looking to purchase, but to set up the necessary infrastructure to maintain and upgrade these birds. According to well informed sources, the aforementioned delay is primarily as a result of engine issues. The AL-31 would create maintenance and logistics problems for the PAF, given the lack of a working relationship with Russia. The WS-10A/B has not met quality standards. This leaves the PAF high and dry for now vis-a-vis the J-10. Their engine options now are to either to wait for a more reliable WS-10A version or to go for the WS-15, a new generation engine with similar dimensions.

WS-15 Milestone Celebration

The delay in procurement is critical for PAF as it needs a quality high end to counter the larger IAF with her MKIs, Mirage-2000s and MRCA. With a new sensor rich environment dominated by AWACS on both sides and a large number of BVR platforms, higher altitude BVR engagements would become vital. J-10s are ideally suited for such combat given their aerodynamics including low wing loading in an A2A configuration. The instantaneous turn rates achievable on the J-10 (or the Euro canards) are likely to give an advantage in such engagements, as opposed to the high wing loadings on the over-evolved F-16s which were essentially designed for turning dog fights rather than high altitude BVR slash and dash maneuvers.

With the AESA equipped new J-10Bs, higher thrust engines and better EW/Avionics, PAF would reclaim the qualitative edge over the IAF. These J-10s would be superior in air combat than anything that the IAF fields today and would only be matched by a possible MRCA acquisition by India. Even then, with the 5 present contenders left in the MRCA, only the Eurofighter (assuming AESA radars) would be able to match the J-10 in air-to-air combat.

The PAF is looking for a total of 150 high end aircraft like the F-16 Block 52s and the FC-20 (J-10Bs or J-10Ps). The FC-20s could be procured in greater numbers, depending on relations with the U.S. and the operability of the F-16s. The J-10Ps and the JF-17s make a perfect pair - one ideal for high altitude air superiority and deep strike missions while the other ideal as a true multirole fighter. Where the J-10 lacks in deep strike, the F-16s make up for it. Where the J-10s lack in CAS, the JF-17s make up for it. Where the JF-17 lacks in high altitude BVR engagements, the J-10s make up for it.

The J-10s, F-16s and JF-17s also fit into the AFDP-2019 requirements. The AFDP-2019 is the core document on the strategic planning of Pakistan's armed forces over 15 years. While this document is not available in the public domain, informed sources note that the PAF has been assigned procurement of only single engine combat aircraft. The J-10Ps/FC-20s coupled with the JF-17s and F-16s thus ideally meet these requirements.

In the event that the Indian Air Force decides to procure massive numbers of Western 4.5 generation fighters, beyond the 126 MRCA, while increasing the Su-30MKI numbers and upgrades their MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s, the PAF has a clear charted path in increasing JF-17s and FC-20s, having by then set up the infrastructure and training for these planes. Further, the JF-17s would not only allow PAF to counter numbers, but also allow her to maintain larger numbers of FC-20s and F-16s for war-time and lower their depreciation - providing a low cost training aircraft to fly liberally during peacetime. This would be a similar arrangement to how the Israeli Air Force uses F-16s to keep meet the flight time allocations of its F-15 pilots.

The PAF is looking to add as much potency as possible, within its budget constraints; shopping for avionics from Western sources to add further potential to its JF-17s and FC-20s. Thus far, Chinese developments have been so rapid that by the time decisions were to be made at the PAF, the Chinese would meet or exceed requirements and the competition at a lower price. It remains to be seen if this can be pulled off again by the Chinese when PAF goes shopping for the next block of JF-17s and the new FC-20s. For the FC-20s, EW, cockpit interface and reliability of the new Chinese AESA radar will play a critical role. The PAF is meanwhile keeping open options with European equivalents, including the M-AESA (Multi-role Active Electronically Scanned Antenna) being developed by Saab and Selex and a French AESA, yet to be revealed.

By 2014, some of PAF's F-16s would be ready for retirement as well. While they have been better kept than many other air forces, some of these birds would by then have been in service for more than 30 years. FC-20s could also be used to replace these.

J-10Bs for Iran?

There have been some reports of Iran being interested in purchasing the J-10Bs from China. Looking at Iran's present arsenal, there is no doubt Iran needs new planes. In fact, it has been seen as surprising that Iran has not procured new fighter planes from China since a small purchase of J-7s. They certainly have shown interest in the new J-7Gs and the JH-7s, both perfect substitutes for Iranian F-5s, Su-24s and F-4s. With some Israeli lineage in the J-10s, some commentators have questioned if their may not be an agreement that these birds never be sold to Iran, as a condition for Israeli technical help. Another reason is that Iran and China have not always seen eye-to-eye on patent related issues. Life is stranger than fiction it appears, as China has had issues with its products being reverse-engineered by Iran.



J-10 Vs F-16 Technical Comparison

The F-16 was designed from the outset as a dog-fighter. The moderate sweep of the wings and aspect ratios were ideal for this. The trade-off however, was greater supersonic resistance. The thrust offered by the two engine options on the F-16 is impressive even to this day. TWR in air combat is about 1.15, ensuring impressive climbing rates and sustained turn rates. As noted, the F-16 sacrificed supersonic performance, not only in its wing design but also in its fixed air intakes. In supersonic flight, engine thrust is lost. While it can reach Mach 2.0, pragmatically it has poor supersonic performance.

While the F-16 sacrificed supersonic performance for subsonic dogfighting, the J-10 did not make the same sacrifice. Thus, while when the F-16 was designed, turning dogfights were what was projected as the bread and butter of air combat, when the J-10 was being designed, the BVR era had arrived (or re-arrived). The J-10s aerodynamic design, including wing design and inlet design, take this into account. For instance, the J-10 visibly has greater wing sweep and a variable inlet. With the J-10B, a DSI intake. While the J-10B sacrifices maximum theoretical top speeds with its DSI intakes, for all relevant combat speeds, it gives the J-10 superior performance.

Under modern BVR conditions and higher altitude combat, the J-10 is significantly superior to the F-16. This is also reflected in its higher instantaneous turn rates. The Mirage-2000s have been a point of major concern both for the Pakistanis and the Turkish air forces, because of these aerodynamic issues, despite the Mirages weak engines. The Greeks, who operated both the Mirage 2000 and F-16C considered the F-16 to be better at low altitude, low speed, hard turning fights, and Mirage 2000 to be superior at hi-hi.The F-16 would have to attempt to survive the first merge in an air combat scenario, which becomes increasingly suicidal with high off-bore sight missiles. BVR further compounds these problems for the F-16s. In previous eras, flying hi and fast was fine, but you often had to come down low to engage a low flying enemy aircraft. Today, that becomes less relevant with longer range BVR missiles and look-down shoot-down capabilities.

The F-16 has also been adding weight over time and attempting to counterbalance this with increased engine thrust. However, since wing area remained the same, maneuverability has been sacrificed. Higher wing loading is particularly detrimental for higher altitude maneuverability. The J-10 on the other hand, has all the wing area it could ever need with a delta canard layout.

The newer block F-16s however, are great for low altitude air-to-ground missions. The high wing loading favors low fliers and the moderate wing sweep helps handling at lower speeds often necessary during ordnance delivery. The J-10 is thus not ideal for the CAS role. However, because of the range and payload advantages, the J-10 can be considered an effective deep striker. CAS was never a pressing need for the PLAAF, and the PAF has the JF-17 which is ideal for that role.




Three Different J-10s?

The reported total estimated number of J-10s is 1,200. This figure is according to Russian sources from the Moscow Airshow and is also reported in the Department of Defense annual reports to the U.S. Congress on Chinese military modernization. Given these numbers would go to the various J-10 variants. This author's view is that China has no limits set for the production of J-10s. They'll take as many as Chengdu can produce. However, the real question is - which J-10?

Firstly, we have the First Generation J-10s with AL-31 engines. Chengdu was to follow these with a J-10A with WS-10A engines. This evolution has encountered obstacles related to reliability issues. The J-10B, represents a 4.5 generation plane but it remains to be seen what engine is used with this plane. Meanwhile, according to informed commentators, a J-10C with twin engines around the size of RD-33s and incorporating similar features to the J-10B has arrived. This is supposedly a direct competitor to the Eurofighter and has the same layout - twin engined canard delta with a single tail. The PLAAF will have to decide whether to go with the J-10B or the J-10C at some point. Pakistan will not go for the J-10C as the twin engines do not comply with their doctrine of single-engined fighters and with the AFDP-2019.

A carrier based J-10 has also been reported but this is in direct competition with the J-13, a dedicated 4.5++ carrier fighter with a conventional layout similar to the F/A-18 Super Hornets. Lastly, we have a stealth 5th Generation evolution of the delta canard, but this has reportedly lost out to a conventional layout based on the F-22. Chengdu has reportedly not lost out completely but is taking part in the project jointly with Shenyang.



Possible layout of the J-13


Chinese 5th Gen

The 5th Generation Chinese stealth plane is what would eventually close down J-10 production. The XXJ or J-XX as it is often referred to, has been the subject of intense competition between China's two premier fighter design institutions - CAC and SAC. While CAC's 611 Institute lost the bid to SAC's 601 Institute, both entities have begun joint development of the new fighter. How the rivalry plays out remains to be seen. It appears Chengdu has the upper hand as it is perceived to have been more successful. J-10 program director Liu Gaozhou recently stated that, " we are researching and developing a fourth generation to meet the requirements of defending the motherland." China's fourth generation is of course, the 5th generation we refer to in the West.

The design is a conventional
layout in direct similarity to the F-22. The J-XX will be powered by the WS-15, a new generation engine in development. Normal TO weight would roughly measure to 20 tons and thus be in the heavy fighter class.The J-XX would possibly be superior to all but the PAKFA and the F-22, being inferior to the latter.

What has escaped most observer radars is the MiG-E and a yet unnamed fighter from China that represent a direct counterpart to the F-35. According to an informed source, the configuration of the MiG-E is a canard delta while the configuration for the Chinese equivalent is hitherto not known.
It is however, this author's opinion that we will not see (as in leaked photographs on the internet) any development on the 5th Generation front for at least the next decade. Meanwhile, we will see steady evolution of the J-10 and J-11 with every new block and reworked configurations.



Credits:
Forums: Keypublishing Forums, Defence.pk, Sino Defence Forums, China-Defense Forums

Special Credits:
Crobato
Deino
FaisalK (Mark Sein)
Farooq
GAF
Huitong
Jawad
Murad (Muradk)
Munir
Pinko, CDF
vikasrehman
Zia ul haq


Vision Without Glasses

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

very comprehensive but question is, how far will the assumptions play out?

Anonymous said...

Author is wrong, India will have the edge with the MRCA which will be better than the FC-20s

Eric Z said...

Author is right, the only other fighter that may be better than FC-20's (if both have AESA), will be the Mig 35 and Eurofighter.
And even then it would be close.
If none of the fighters (MRCA and FC-20s) get TVC, then the FC-20 will probably be the most manouverable.

M. Hussain, what "other features" and the redesigned radome suggest an existence of an AESA? Many people have claimed this but I am skeptical. How does an angled radome mean that there's an AESA there?

Anonymous said...

hussain u must be kidding me

M. Hussain said...

Eric, the picture depiction by Deino is most helpful. Take a closer look. Of course it could also as easily be a PESA, but China has not taken the PESA route at all but invested in AESA. I therefore conclude that it is most likely an AESA.

Anonymous said...

hussian there should b a limit for a joke..can u compare j-10 jets like f-18,f-16,sukhoi-27,migs-29/35...by the way India LCA is more superion then chinees j-10 bcoz it will install elta-aesa radar..either ej200(with TVC) or ge-f-404 engine..

Anonymous said...

pls save LCA joke to yourself. B4 u want to install fancy radar/engine, serious issues need to be fixed for LCA to be able do a simple dog fight.

Anonymous said...

ej200 n elta-AESA r fancy ???so u wnt 2 say chines product are best in the world based copy-peast technology otherwise called reverse engineering. LCA primery role is dogfight and secoundry ground attck...Indians r built it 2 replace their mig-21 interceptor... i watch some video of LCA n mig-35 fulcrm F.they r awasome and mig-35 itz just superb

Eric Z said...

Hussain, I saw the picture, but how does a slanted radome mean it's an ESA radar? It could easily be mechanically scanned couldn't it?

And to all anonymous's who say the J-10 is uncomparable to the Flankers, Migs and american teen fighters... Read this article by a Russian journalist. Most russians are skeptical about any chinese products but this one is interesting. http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2008/11/dispatch-from-zhuhai-chinas-j1.html
LCA if equipped with an AESA and a TVC engine will still be not as good as a J-10 with those added too. If you compare current LCA to currnet J-10A, the J-10A is obviously more manouverable and superior in every other way.

M. Hussain said...

Eric, look at it this way, have you ever seen a mechanically scanned radar that looks anything like the picture of the J-10B?

M. Hussain

ao said...

Lol... I'm Canadian and I still think the Chinese pwn the Indians in aviation hands down.

1) The Chinese are developing WS-15 for J-xx

2) The Indians are buying F-404 for Tejas.

What more can I say...?

Max said...

All of you have forgotten some things named Su-35S and Su-30MKI. Su-30MKI can easily be brought up to Su-35S standard and Su-35S is currently the most capable Generation 4++ plane: longest-ranging radar, Thrust Vectoring engines with supersonic cruise capability, significantly superior range and maximum speed as well as safety of having 2 engines. I also think its rather likely to have rear-facing radar. All the talk of reduced RCS on non-LO shaped planes is silly: as soon as you load them with weapons, they are very visible. Even clean they still present around 1 Square Metre RCS. The OLS-35 is extremely good and for China to make something to exceed this would be VERY VERY hard as they have very little experience in that sort of thing. Most their tech is born from the experience of reverse-engineering Su-30MKK and Su-27SKM. WHile J-10B will be very good in close-quarter dogfight with guns and short-range AAMs, its radar size will not allow it to have massive range that is there in Flankers, Eagles, Raptors and other large fighters. Dr Carlo Kopp has analysed the capability growth prospects of large fighters vs small ones and without significant alteration of structure this Fulcrum/Typhoon/Rafale-sized fighter will always play support role to large fighters in a grand scheme of things. A fighter to saturate skies with. Its a contender to MiG-35, Typhoon, Gripen, Rafale. Not big boys.

Shahid Mahmood said...

hussain,let me say that writing revealing all this chinese achievements you dispatch left right combination of slaps over indian LCA.times remains changed,once PAF faced 1990 as lost decade,now it seems PAF would get inducted large number of A/cs from china,at about half price of USA,west A/CS of same category,surely indians are boiling,immoral indians had done to stop any delivery of aircraft both from USA and Europe few weeks back france halted sale of equipments for PAF JF17s,reason is that,BANIA airforce had $10 billion to buy A/cssilly indians made it condition that potential seller would not sell any thing to Pakistan,there game is over as chinese are different peoples.

Anonymous said...

Well Done! Great Achievement ! Bulla OH Akbar

Anonymous said...

The J 10B and JF 17 combo supplimnted with F 16 blk 52 will easily counter anything Indians can throw at Pakistan. And for the jealous Indians burning with rage, trying to glorify their failure of an aircraft the Looser Crappy Antique, India is itself not buying it in mentionable numbers. The IAF is buying just ~40 to save them the humiliation of wasting billions and 3 decades.

Sandipan Bhattcharya said...

Shahid mahmood
Please don"t tell about the Indians because Pakistan is such a cheater that it should not tell about others

puppo said...

my dear S Bhattachsrya,The hard fact of life is contrary to india,china adopted a respectful,prestigious,sane,rationale approach buy few good technologies,then develope it further to make superior then original and start production in bulk,The day is not to far when chinese airforce would be numerically world largest air force with equal (if not superior) in Lethality to USA and West,indian should start striving for spare parts for the aircraft,purchasing from USA right now.INDIAN GOVT made IAF restless by sanctioning about money for 126 A/cs,soon they sleep with reief that the money ,is gone,

puppo said...

Anonymous6-12-2010,not BULLA oh Akbar correct is
JODHA KO Akbar,result was saleem.shame on you first ,having not courage to reveal identity andthen making fun of others sacred sentiments.

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