Warplanes: J-10 Production Increasing

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May 30,2008: Satellite photos of China show construction of what appears to be a base for a fourth squadron of J-10 fighters. That would mean about 130 in service by the end of the year. Each squadron has 28 J-10s. There are a few other aircraft assigned to training centers. At least one more squadron is expected to appear next year.

The J10 looks something like the American F-16, and weighs about the same (19 tons). Like the F-16 the J10 has only one engine (built in Russia). It's no accident that the J10 resembles the F-16, because Israel apparently sold them technology for their Lavi jet fighter, a "super-F-16" that Israel abandoned because it was too expensive.

Despite the help from Israel and Russia, the J10 turned out to perform poorly in air-to-air combat. In response, the Chinese have been reconfiguring some of them as a fighter-bombers (the J-10C). This two seat version can carry over four tons of bombs and missiles and has been equipped with a fire control system for delivering missiles and smart bombs. The J10C will have a weapons officer to concentrate on hitting things on the ground.

While the recent earthquake in central China damaged several of the plants building J-10 components, this is not expected to slow down production significantly. China is seeking export sales for the J-10, selling the aircraft as an "F-16 replacement", but for half the price.

 


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