Chengdu J-10 Photo Walkaround

A 3-view drawing of the Chengdu J-10A with available weapons options.

Although revelaled to the general public by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) on 29 December 2006 the J-10 first flew on 23 March 1998.  The J-10’s development period was very protracted as is represents a quantum leap in China’s domestic aviation capability. Previous designs of fighter aircraft which were primarily Chinese copies of former Soviet fighter designs.

The J-10 serves with the PLAAF (insert number of aircraft) The J-10 exists in 8 variants:
J-10A: is the first generation version powered by either the WS-10 or AL-31FN turbofan.
J-10S: the combat capable 2-seat version of the A.
J-10AY: a variant unarmed specially developed for the PLAAF’s August 1st display team (similar to the A).
J-10SY: the twin-seat version of the J-10AY.
J-10AH: the single seat variant in service with the PLANAF.
J-10SH: twin seat verision ins service with the PLANAF.
J-10B: an upgraded version of the J-10A.
FC-20: an export version intended for Pakistan.

There are about 300 J-10s (all versions but the J-10B) in service with 10 regiments within the PLAAF (FTTC, 44th, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 24th, 9th, 15th, 12th, 124 brigade) and 1 regiment within the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) (the 4th division 12th regiment).

These photos first here about 16 November 2013. It appears in Chinese and this is the first attempt at putting some of the walkaround into English:

A J-10SY (a J-10S built or modified especially for the PLAAF August 1st display team) illustrates the smoke generator (similar to the PL-9 with the same aerodynamic shape and characteristics).
The twin canopy is also highlighted. The inset details the lightning strike discharger on the J-10A (single seater)
Upper left corner: detail of the J-10s vertical tail. From front to back. Probably an ECM antenna (for front aircraft coverage), a red navigation light, probably “Odd Rods” IFF antenna, a static discharge wick, a rear navigation light, a cover over the ARW-9101 RWR and finally another static discharge wick. Below a closeup of the ventral fins possible containing aerials for communications equipment. Right: (other than what’s already covered) and the parachute housing with ECM transciever below.
This photo illustrates the J-10SY’s zero-zero ejection seat’s attitude sensors. Also note the canopy rear view mirrors. The rear cockpit instrument panel contains a HUD repeater (top) and 3 digital color multi-function displays. Note the construction number on the canopy rail.
Close up detail view of the rear cockpit HTY-5 ejection seat attitude sensor.
Front cockpit HUD (control panel below) and the ejection seat attitude sensor. The construction number is available on the canopy rail.
The KLJ-3 multimode radar. The KLJ-3 is said to be based on the AN/APG-66/88 series. It’s said to have a maximum detection range of 81 miles and an engagement range of 56 miles. It can also track 4 to 6 targets simultaneously and engage 2 targets at one time.
Tangentially located four-petal airbrakes on the rear fuselage (2 are located next to the tail and the other 2 are located between the ventral stabilators.
The J-10’s cruciform braking parachute as deployed on landing.
The J-10’s braking parachute being installed in it’s storage compartment on the aircraft.
A closeup the interior of one of the J-10’s ventral airbrakes. Interiors of airbrakes and bays are painted red as they are on US Navy aircraft to alert groundcrew of deployment.
The segmented afterburner nozzle of the AL-31FN turbofan. The AL-31FN produces 17,857lbs of thrust dry and 27,557lbs of thrust in afterburner.
A close up detail view of the J-10s in-flight refueling probe. The probe itself is fixed but detachable.
Another detail view of the J-10’s bolt-on fixed inflight refueling probe. A illumination light for refueling at night is fitted below the windscreen on the starboard side only.
A closeup of the H-6U tanker’s in-flight refueling hose basket.
The ventral engine intake of the J-10. The 2 segmented inlet ramp is perforated to prevent ingestion of the stagnant boundary layer. The ramp is designed to slow down incoming air to subsonic speeds before the airflow reaches the turbofan engine face. The forward segment of the ramp appears to have a range of motion, at the forward hinge, 30 degrees.
A closeup of the forward inlet ramp’s perforation. Note the red engine air intake cover.
A “down the throat” look at the ventral engine intake (with the AL-31FN engine removed).
Upper left: A detail view of the ground refueling receptacle and some interesting detail of the wing/fuselage junction. Also detail of the parachute housing in the tail.
A look at a few on the ground servicing point of the J-10. The red boxes in the photo highlight the ground refueling receptacle and the open parachute container at the tail.
The standard PLAAF TK-11 helmet with attachment point for a helmet mounted sight receptacle. A YM-6 oxygen mask and various other life support equipment for the pilot including oxyygen hose, koch fittings, and g-suit.
A look up close at the forward fuselage. The 3 struts above the air intake at the lower left. The ECM fairing immediately above in gray. The insignia is that of the August 1st display team. Immediately in front and slightly below the AoA probe and the IFR probe illumination light is above. Further forward and just below the red cheatline is an air data probe for airspeed indication.
Top photo is detail of the 3 struts keeping the intake out of the fuselage boundary layer. The vents on the side provide exhaust for the boundary layer separated by the intake ramp. Next to digit “12” is a green navigation/station keeping light. Also note the numbers on the panels for easier maintenance.
A close up of the J-10s intake struts. These lower the intake out of the boundary layer and help the fuselage/intake section maintain a form of structural rigidity. Behind the struts is another longitudinally mounted separator strut.
Above the person’s head is the air data probe. The lines on the radome are lightning strike dischargers. Between the 2 dischargers is an AoA probe. the the bottom is another probe probably for air pressure and aft of the AoA probe is another airdata probe for the pitot static system.
Other than what’s pointed out in the previous picture, the rectangular antenna is for the UHF/VHF radio.
Forward of the “07” digit is the red navigation/station keeping light. There are various panels around the digits but the arrow points rescue crews to the panel to manually jettison the canopy from the outside. Also visible on the nosegear door is the aircraft construction number (this is an assigned number at the factory) “J10AY0514.” The number is also repeated in the front of the smaller door forward of the nosegear main strut.
A detail view of the port side main gear and associated equipment. The landing light and the various hydraulic and electrical lines.
An in-flight view of the J-10AY from the PLAAF’s August 1st display team. Again immediately behind the canopy, GPS, VHF/UHF, and another navigation equipment antenna (maybe a TACAN or LORAN type instrument?). On the port side wingtip is the green navigation light. Note the dropped leading edge for improved aerodynamic and handling characteristics. Also, note the vapor coming off the leading edge indicating some high-g maneuvering.
An in-flight view of the J-10AY detailing the GPS antenna just aft of the canopy. Note the deflection of the starboard side canard.
A comparison of degree of travel of the leading edge slat. The inset view probably shows the closed position. The main photo shows the leading edge slat about half deployed.
The same J-10AY, this time the aft fuselage and tail section. Noteworthy here is the strut with the ventral fin mounted on it as well as the navigation lights on each wingtip.
Detail view on the main landing gear bay showing pneumatic (black) and hydraulic lines (gray). The large yellow hose looks like an engine bleed air line.
According to the construction number “J100106” on the nosegear door of this J-10A is tail number 50556 it belongs to the 44th Fighter Division, 131st Air Regiment based at Luliang in the Chengdu MR. Also note the landing gear light and oleo strut forward. The green antenna just forward of the gear door is for navigation equipment.

Production of the J-10A recently ended after 7 batches, totaling 300 aircraft. The J-10B entered full production earlier this year after beginning flight test in 2008. The J-10B is the next generation version of the J-10 and is the first Chinese fighter equipped with AESA radar and a number of improvements detailed in the picture below:


There are rumors of the existence of another variant of the J-10 called the J-10C but no details are available.


RE: J-10C. 

Today (31 December 2013) someone  posted this 3 view on a Chinese language defense forum claiming to be the J-10C:


Note the conformal fuel tanks and maybe a different engine. I’m not sure what the appendages are on the wings, maybe ECM but certainly not a BVR AAM. 

However I can’t speak to the image’s authenticity.


International Air Power Review Volume 22.

Modern Chinese Warplanes.

Information Dissemination: 2013 Chinese Air Force Review

J-10 Wikipedia page.

Thanks to friends of the blog, RJL and DKE for assistance with this project.

The Alert 5 site.

Grasping at Shadows, Blindfolded

A special guest post by Kenneth Ellis, “Fringe.”

The hallmark for good analysis of simulation is found from both admitting the functional limitations of the modelling capability and scenario, and by having an intimate understanding of that which is being represented by said model.

Recently, Kyle Mizokami over at War is Boring (by way of Medium and Foreign Policy) presented us with a long series of admissions pertaining to his simulation of a possible engagement within China’s new Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea:

“So what does my simulation of the battle mean for the current situation in the East China Sea? Simply put, China has a chance of pulling off an aerial ambush. If my scenario is realistic. If the game’s modeling is accurate. If the Chinese are little lucky and if U.S. and Japanese commanders make mistakes. And if the first volley of AMRAAMs misses.

To be sure, those are a lot of ifs.”

Measuring the Understatement

The first issue with Mizokami’s exercise is what he presents as a “battle plan”. To understand why, we must look at the defining factors of air to air engagement as they exist in the real world, versus how they are presented in the simulator that he used (Command: Modern/Air Naval Operations, from here designated CMANO), and coupled with his order of battle.

Air operations of the kind presented by Mizokami  are highly dependent on many moving parts and factors, the most important of which is time. In the age of Airborne Early Warning radar (AEW), the ability to detect, identify, and define intent takes place over many hundreds of miles; the further the detection is made against a potentially hostile flight, the longer the amount of time a defender has to position its assets as necessary to construct an effective defense.

To this, certain tactics and and systems can be employed which can minimize this window of response; for example, even against atmospheric reflecting over the horizon radar, low level approach can be used to hide until deep within the radar’s search range. However, the low level ingress eats in to another vital factor of air operations: fuel. Jet aircraft burn more fuel at low altitude by nature of the denser air. Constructing an operation in which a strike package at low level is going to run in at high speed to minimize their chances of exposure demands aircraft with suitably large fuel fractions and combat radius.

The actual strike assortment against the high value targets of China’s eye are the Chengdu J-10. The problem with this representation is that the J-10 has a reported effective radius of 550km when flying a leisurely cruise profile; striking with intent against a Japanese P-3 AND E-2C Hawkeye is anything but a leisurely exercise. With the E-2C orbiting nearly 300 nautical miles away from the closest represented PLA airfield, we have a problem: any dash/tail chase situation on the part of the J-10s against their prey is going to certify that they can’t get home, unless they’re carrying bags (external fuel tanks) to increase their fuel from the reasonable 9900 lbs to something more suitable for the mission profile.

While the need for bags may be a reason why the type, in Mr. Mizokami’s model, were not carrying a larger array of ordnance, it does not appreciably account for the incurred drag penalty having those tanks on the aircraft. Anything hanging off the airframe slows it down, whereas a targeted strike against an airborne target demands maximum haste. When this is contrasted with the premise that the J-10s cruise out to the Eagles, Orions, Hawkeye, and Raptor to engage them without bags, it means that they’re not getting home.

One could make the suggestion that this situation could be resolved through in-flight refueling; however Mizokami has not afforded the PLA assets this resource. Further, as a rule air to air refueling does not take place at low level; given the nature of the refueling approach and the need for options for both the refueling aircraft and its customers in the event of an emergency, such events take place at altitude. This would sacrifice the clandestine nature of the strike package- the instant they dive to hide, the JASDF aircraft in the area would know something was amiss. Groups of aircraft disappearing over contested airspace is a sure way to put people on notice.

Thus we find that given the circumstances that Mizokami has presented, the Chengdu J-10 is not the right tool for the job. That role, however, is more than happy to be filled by the J-11.

The Shenyang J-11 is a license-built copy of the familiar Russian Su-27 Flanker. Built for the air superiority role, and with the intent of minimizing the need for air to air refueling, the Flanker carries a downright prodigious internal fuel fraction– in excess of twenty thousand pounds, or more than double that of the J-10. Further, it can hang a higher amount of air to air ordnance off its pylons than the J-10, and attain a higher top speed. Dismissing the J-10 flight, and replacing it with a matching number of J-11s would go a long way towards solving the underlying failure towards generating operation realism in the scenario. But that is the role of the honest scenario designer, not the person evaluating the analysis.

All that said, the greatest error in the analysis is in not realizing the failures of Command’s model of air combat maneuver.

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack”

To illustrate this, we’ll forego review of the PLA engagements with the JASDF Eagles and move right into Mizokami’s money maker- the engagement between the surviving PLA aircraft and the F-22 Raptors.

In his breakdown, Mizokami states that the F-22 Raptors made a mistake late in their intercept of the inbound PLA aircraft- activating their respective APG-77 radars, allowing for them to be detected by the Chinese. This, as far as the white-sourced world currently knows, is in error.

The APG-77 is what is referred to as a Low Probability of Intercept, or LPI, radar. This means that the radar randomly changes the signal frequencies and widths it sends out hundreds of times per second, across its hundreds of individual active arrays, to keep the aircraft from being detected by way of its emissions. Radar warning receivers function based on recurring patterns of bandwidth frequency, width and power to define the type of threat that is pinging it and determine a relative direction and distance to that emitter. With LPI, the warning receiver is unable to find a pattern on which to designate a specific emitter; instead, even if the emissions are detected based on the bands that the RWR is sensitive to, no consistent pattern is found, and the signal is rejected as background noise.

Simply put- the J-11s can’t see the Raptor by way of RWR, even if they’re “loud”.

Compounding this is the differing nature of RWR sensing versus the required data to put a missile on a target. Whereas the APG-77 can turn another aircraft’s emissions into the type of data that an AIM-120 AMRAAM needs to engage, the N001VE Myech radar of the J-11 cannot. Thus, the pulse Doppler N001VE must be close enough to the F-22 to get some form of return to guide a PL-12 at it. Plugging in even a worst-case return value for the F-22 into the radar equation, that of the F-117 Nighthawk (of which the Raptor’s signature is a mere fraction), it’s still miniscule in the terms of beyond visual range (BVR) warfare.

What’s more, the F-22 carries what is referred to as the IFDL, or Intra-Flight Data Link. This system allows a group of Raptors operating within the same region to share targeting data amongst every other Raptor it wishes, meaning that one F-22 can “paint” a target for his wingman, and that wingman can launch a weapon without ever turning on his own radar.

While CMANO’s model of datalinked launch capability purportedly exists, Mizokami never gave it a chance. Lateral separation between a pair of Raptors means time and lack of full recognition of the threat, at least until J-11s (and J-10s) in his example start spontaneously exploding by way of AIM-120. Properly represented, the PLA aircraft do not know they’re being fired upon; and even if they do, they are attempting to intercept the wrong aircraft, making for an easier attack profile for the incoming AMRAAMs.

Summed, Mizokami’s contention that the “U.S. and Japanese commanders (or, in this case, aircrew) make mistakes” is wrong- they didn’t make the mistake. The mistake is on the part of the model, and ultimately, the analyst.

Further, even a cursory review of CMANO’s interactions within the air combat maneuvering arena find it’s modeling of such events to be suspect. BVR tactics are derived from a series of what are called “poles”-

the A-Pole (the range at which one’s BVR missile goes active and can attack without guidance from you),

E-Pole (minimum range one can be from the enemy and outrun his weapon),

and F-Pole (the range from an aircraft to the enemy when his missile attacks)

In BVR, a pilot wants to maximize the range of his launch, minimize the range of his opponent’s weapons, and maintain distance that allows him to reengage, or escape, as required. Applying tactical control of these “poles” allow a well trained pilot to do just that- engage without being engaged, escape when needed, and press the fight as required.

CMANO doesn’t grasp the poles, or more advanced BVR tactical considerations. Intercepts are purely a function of pointing at the enemy, launching at maximum range, and continuing to close with the opponent at the current speed. Weapon avoidance is unrealistically late, and in no way, shape, or form uses well understood maneuvering techniques to deny the shot. At no time do aircraft within CMANO attempt to maximize their situation by way of offset maneuvering, deceleration post-launch, or any number of other techniques made to make survival possible. It is all left to a pure probability model- that is, chance. Even when a player takes over flying duties through manual overrides, his ability to affect ultimate performance is limited; he can create mismatches, direct specific volumes of weapons to be employed on given targets, but not actually force the method of prosecution. This breaks down even further within visual range.

In essence, air warfare in CMANO is 18th century warfare by formatted lines. Mizokami’s example not only surrendered numerical advantage to the Chinese; by failing to account and allow for the USAF/JASDF to effectively employ the advantages their aircraft hold, the resulting findings are without merit, and without usefulness to the lay person or the professional.

Disingenuity to the Last

Ultimately, the most interesting aspect of this exercise is the fact that in its original home at Medium, the article was inherently unable to receive any sort of peer or communal critique. The need for Twitter to sign in, along with the broken comment methodology permitted on the forum, allowed the presentation time to cement a legitimacy that it is undeserving of. With the disclaimer effectively “ten minutes” below the headline, most would never see it, thus have no opportunity to shade the findings as appropriate.

Contrast this with the honest approach to modeling and simulation required when presenting findings to an audience lacking the knowledge to properly assess the evaluation; the oft-mentioned RAND simulation of the F-35 being trounced in open warfare with China is a perfect example. The model had holes, and these holes were understood in a way to still make the data useful to the Department of Defense. Mizokami either doesn’t recognize the holes in CMANO’s modeling of air combat, or is making a conscious effort to not admit where all of these knowledge bombs lay. Thus, one can quickly ascertain why the “ifs” were held till the end- speaking from a non-authoritative position on the subject matter, when adding in the spice of a F-22 Raptor being shot down, it doesn’t make good copy and fails to generate clicks.

There is a place for honest presentation of military subject matter, and the means to which equipment, training, and readiness combine to effect policy, and vice versa, to the public. Wanton click mongering pays no value to the public at large, nor to the services that must be prepared to take action on policy.

In closing, Mr. Mizokami’s scenario, and his final analysis, are works of bad fiction, and should be treated as such. Japanese Eagles and US Raptors may fall if challenged by the PLA over the East China Sea, but it will not be based on the terms he has offered as an example.