The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan
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Dirty Little Secrets
New Chinese Fighter Succeeds By Failing
Discussion Board on this DLS topic
by James Dunnigan
June 6, 2005
China has had a squadron of J10 fighter bombers in service for six months now.
The J10 was designed and built in China, in an attempt to create a modern
fighter-bomber that could compete with foreign designs. The experiment was not
completely successful. Work on the J10 began twenty years ago, in an attempt to
develop an aircraft that could compete with the Russian MiG-29s and Su-27s, and
the American F-16.
But the first prototype did not fly until 1998. There
were problems, and it wasn’t until 2000 that the basic design flaws were fixed.
By 2002, nine prototypes had been built, and flight testing was going forward to
find, and fix, hundreds of smaller problems. It was a great learning experience
for Chinese engineers, but it was becoming apparent that the J10 was not going
to be competitive with the Su-27s/30s China was buying from Russia.
J10 looks something like the American F-16, and weighs about the same (19 tons).
Like the F-16, and unlike the Su-27, the J10 has only one engine. 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. China has been striving for
decades to develop the ability to manufacture high-performance jet engines. The
WS10A is something of an acid test for them, as it is a powerful military
engine, and a complex piece of work. Russia refused to license China to produce
the AL-31FN, so the Chinese stole as much of the technology as they could and
designed the WS10A. This engine has been tested, but apparently still has
quality control and performance problems.
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 (the F-16 and F-15 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.)
It appears that
the J10 does not perform as well as the Su-27 for air combat, so the Chinese are
reconfiguring the aircraft as a fighter-bomber. The J10 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 similar
to the Israeli Litening, and were showing it off as early as 1998. American
warplanes use a later version of the Litening.