The J-10 Fighter is China’s F-16 (And Now Its For Sale)

Sebastien Roblin

China has been showcasing its Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon single-engine fighters prominently since 2018. The latest J-10C model is comparable with modernized variants of the classic American F-16 Fighting Falcon tactical fighter with capabilities including beyond-visual-range engagement, precision air-to-ground strike, digital glass cockpit instruments, in-flight refueling and electronic warfare.

In November 2019, the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group hawked an export model at the Dubai airshow dubbed the J-10CE, (model pictured here). But while the 1980-era F-16 continues to be exported forty years after its introduction and remains widely operated in over two dozen air forces, Beijing is still looking for its first J-10 export customer.

It’s unclear what alterations are implied in the CE model from J-10C baseline, but typically export aircraft are downgraded with the removal of the most sensitive systems.

In this earlier article, you can read about how the J-10 likely has DNA in an Israeli light jet fighter prototype called the IAI Lavi, including its underbelly intake, distinctive canards (small additional wings near the nose for added lift and maneuverability) and lack of horizontal tail stabilizers. However, the J-10 is considerably larger than the Lavi and has different wings.

Like the F-16, the J-10 boasts a highly agile, aerodynamically unstable airframe which is stabilized by a computer in its fly-by-wire flight control system. However, the J-10 has had its share of growing pains, and between 2014-2018 at least eight J-10s crashed out, in one incident killing one of China’s first female fighter pilots.

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