The Chengdu J-10 (simplified Chinese: 歼-10; traditional Chinese: 殲-10, NATO Code: Firebird) is a lightweight multirole fighter aircraft capable of all-weather operation, configured with a delta wing and canard design, with fly-by-wire flight controls, and produced by the People's Republic of China's Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) for the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
The program was authorized by Deng Xiaoping who allocated ¥ 0.5 billion to develop an indigenous aircraft. Work on Project #10started several years later in January 1988, as a response to the Mikoyan MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27 then being introduced by the USSR, and F-15, F-16 already in service in the United States. Development was delegated to the 611 Institute, also known as the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute and Song Wencong was nominated as the chief designer, as he had previously been the chief designer of the J-7III. The aircraft was initially designed as a specialized fighter, but later became a multirole aircraft capable of both air-to-air combat and ground attack missions.
The J-10 resembles the IAI Lavi The general designer Song Wencong said that J-10 was a development of the indigenous J-9 which preceded the Lavi. This was echoed by a PLAAF's major Zhang Weigang in a 2012 interview.
In 2006, the Russian Siberian Aeronautical Research Institute (SibNIA) confirmed its participation in the J-10 program; SibNIA claimed to have only observed and instructed as "scientific guides", while its engineers also believed the J-10 was "more or less a version" of the Lavi design, incorporating "a melting pot of foreign technology and acquired design methods".
The J-10 was officially unveiled by the Chinese government in January 2007, when photographs were published by Xinhua News Agency. The aircraft's existence was known long before the announcement, although concrete details remained scarce due to secrecy. A J-10 prototype was speculated to have possibly crashed during flight testing. Xinhua News Agency and the PLA Daily denied such rumors, and listed this as one of the test pilots' accomplishments.
The prototype "J-10 01" was rolled out in November 1997 and first flown on 23 March 1998 in a twenty-minute flight.
AVIC plans to market an upgraded J-10 for export, most likely the J-10B, once development is complete. Several countries have shown interest.
In 2015, China Military Online published an analysis advocating Argentina's adoption of the J-10, claiming that while the operational range of current versions could not yet allow it to reach the Falkland Islands, the aircraft, particularly its radar, were superior to the Typhoon and that tanker aircraft could place the islands within range. China has been promoting the J-10 to the Argentine republic and during a February 2015 visit to China by President Kirchner established a joint fighter aircraft working group.
The first aircraft were delivered to the 13th Test Regiment on 23 February 2003. The aircraft was declared 'operational' in December of the same year, after 18 years in development. The first operational regiment was the 131st Regiment of the 44th Division.
In February 2006, then-President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, toured the J-10 and JF-17 production facilities on a trip to China during which the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was offered the J-10, and the purchase of 36 FC-20s, a Pakistan-specific J-10B variant, was approved in April 2006.In November 2009, Pakistan signed a deal with China to buy 36 J-10B fighters in a deal worth around $1.4 billion.
In July 2011, Daily Jang reported that China will give a squadron of the advanced J-10B fighter aircraft to Pakistan. According to the report,"the offer was made by senior Chinese military leaders to visiting Pakistan Army's Chief of General Staff, Lt Gen Waheed Arshad". In March 2012, talks were held between the two countries to discuss the delivery of latest J-10B fighter jets to Pakistan. However, this has been cancelled as of 2016. Pakistan Air Force is focussing on JF-17 Block 3 and in future it is looking to procure the export version of J-31, the FC-31 stealth fighter. 40 jets are to be procured initially.
Since 2007, there have been rumors that Iran is interested in purchasing J-10 from China for orders numbering between 24 and 150 jets. This claim was again mentioned in mid-2015.
J-10 was designed and developed by the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (CADI), a subsidiary of Chengdu Aircraft Corporation.
The airframe is constructed from metal alloys and composite materials for high strength and low weight, the airframe's aerodynamic layout adopts a "tail-less canard delta" wing configuration. A large delta wing is mid-mounted towards the rear of the fuselage, while a pair of canards (or foreplanes) are mounted higher up and towards the front of the fuselage, behind and below the cockpit. This configuration provides very high agility, especially at low speeds, and also reduces stall speed, allowing for a lower airspeed during instrument approaches. A large vertical tail is present on top of the fuselage and small ventral fins underneath the fuselage provide further stability.
A rectangular air intake ramp and a Splitter plate (only on J-10A) are located underneath the fuselage, providing the air supply to the engine. Also under the fuselage and wings are 11 hardpoints, used for carrying various types of weaponry and drop-tanks containing extra fuel.
The retractable undercarriage comprises a steerable pair of nose-wheels underneath the air intake and two main gear wheels towards the rear of the fuselage.
The cockpit is covered by a two-piece bubble canopy providing 360 degrees of visual coverage for the pilot. The canopy lifts upwards to permit cockpit entry and exit. The Controls take the form of a conventional centre stick and a throttle stick located to the left of the pilot. These also incorporate "hands on throttle and stick" (HOTAS) controls. A zero-zero ejection seat is provided for the pilot, permitting safe ejection in an emergency even at zero altitude and zero speed.
Due to the J-10's aerodynamically unstable design, a digital quadruplex-redundant fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system (FCS) aids the pilot in flying the aircraft. The FCS typically monitors pilot control inputs, preventing the pilot from accidentally exiting the flight envelope from applying too much control input during high performance flight situations. This is critical in canard wing aircraft, as they are capable of turning in a much tighter radius than conventional aircraft. The massive control surfaces are capable of moving so far that they can completely destroy the aircraft in flight at high airspeeds if not kept in check by the FCS.
The cockpit has three liquid crystal (LCD) Multi-function displays (MFD) along with a Chinese developed holographic head-up display (HUD), all of which are fully compatible with a domestic Chinese advanced helmet mounted sight (HMS), claimed by Chinese to be superior to the HMS on the Sukhoi Su-27 sold to China.