Iran is believed (at least by
Russian sources) to be buying 24 Chinese made J10 jet fighters. The J-10 looks
something like the American F-16, and weighs about the same (18 tons).
Originally, the J10 used a Russian AL-31FN engine, but China has been working
for a decade to manufacture their own version of this, the WS10A. However, the
WS10A continues to have problem matching the performance of the AL-31FN, which
is still being installed in J10s.
It's It's no accident that the J10 resembles the
F-16, because Israel apparently sold them technology for the Israeli Lavi jet
fighter. Israel abandoned the Lavi project, because of the high cost and
availability of cheaper alternatives (buying F-16s and F-15s from the United
States.) But the Lavi was meant to be a super F-16, and incorporated a lot of
design ideas from the F-16 (which the Israelis were very familiar with, as they
used them, and had developed new components for them.) The Chinese deny any
Israeli contribution. Pakistan is believed to have provided the Chinese with
one of their F-16s for examination. There does appear to be a lot of F-16
technology in the J-10.
It appears that the J10 does not perform all
that well in air combat, so the Chinese
have been reconfiguring some of them as a fighter-bomber (the J-10C). This
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 Chinese
designed targeting pod is similar to the Israeli Litening, and they were
showing it off as early as 1998. American warplanes use a later version of the
Litening. The J10C will have a weapons officer to concentrate on hitting things
on the ground.
It's not known which version the Iranians are
getting, but they will be getting them with the Russian AL-31FN engine. China
already has over 90 J10s in service, and Pakistan has some on order. China denies that it is selling J-10s to Iran,
but something is going on, and China has been supplying Iran with high tech
weapons for decades. Iran is apparently willing to pay over $30 million each
for the J-10s.