The J-10 multi-role fighter is the first Chinese-developed combat aircraft that approaches Western fighters in terms of performance and capabilities.
Development of the J-10 began in 1988. It was intended to counter threat posed by the Soviet forth-generation fighters - the MiG-29 and Su-27. The J-10 was initially planned as an air-superiority fighter, however collapse of the Soviet Union and changing requirements shifted the development towards a multi-role fighter. Aircraft made it's maiden flight in 1998. The whole project was kept under high secrecy. It is worth mentioning, that the first photos of the J-10 came out only 3-4 years after the first flight. Some sources claim that it was influenced by the IAI Lavi. The J-10 multi-role fighter entered service with Chinese air force in 2004, however it was first publicly revealed only in 2006. It is estimated that 300 fighter of this type will be required for Chinese air force and possibly naval aviation too. A number of countries, including Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan and Thailand shown interest in purchasing this aircraft.
The J-10 has a single engine. The first batch of about 50 aircraft is powered by Russian AL-31FN turbofan engines. This batch was delivered to Chinese air force between 2004 and 2006. An indigenous Taihang turbofan is under development.
The J-10 has beyond visual range air combat and surface attack capabilities. Aircraft has 11 external hardpoints for a range of weapons. Alternatively it can carry target acquisition, navigation pods or auxiliary fuel tanks. It is worth mentioning that the J-10 has an in-flight refueling capability.
The main armament on the air-superiority missions are the PL-12 medium-range active radar-homing air-to-air missiles. For close ranges it carries the PL-8 infrared-homing missiles. For surface attack role the J-10 carries up to six 500-kg laser-guided bombs, free-fall bombs or 90-mm unoperated rocket pods. Aircraft is also completed with a single-barrel 23-mm cannon.
The J-10 is fitted with an indigenously designed pulse-doppler fire control radar. It is capable of tracking 10 targets simultaneously and attacking 4 of them. Estimated maximum detection range is 100 km. Aircraft is fitted with a fly-by-wire system.
A two-seat variant, the J-10S fighter-trainer, is available. It is identical to the single-seat variant, but has a stretched fuselage to accommodate second pilot seat. The J-10S can be used for pilot training or as a standard fighter. This aircraft maid it's maiden flight in 2003.
J-10B multi-role fighter, with improved airframe and avionics. It is likely to become a standard production model.