The program was conceived in the early 1980s, to counter new fourth generation fighters then being introduced by the USSR (namely, the MiG-29 and Su-27)
Initially designed as a specialized counter-air fighter, it was later remade into a multirole aircraft capable of both anti-air combat and ground attack missions. It has been argued that the J-10 is based on the now cancelled Israeli Lavi.
Having been designed under much secrecy, many details of the J-10 remain unknown and are subject to much speculation. The first flight of the J-10 took place sometime in 1996, but the program suffered a major delay due to a fatal accident which occurred in 1997. This incident was thought to be the result of errors in the J-10’s fly-by-wire system. (Note, there is evidence, albeit non-conclusive, that only one prototype was flying; the other was a ground static testbed. Hence, no crash occurred.) A redesigned prototype flew in 1998, resuming flight testing of the aircraft. Service entry into the PLAAF occurred in late 2005.
The J-10 is a single-seat, delta winged aircraft powered by a single, Russian-designed AL-31FN turbofan (maximum static power output of 12,500 kgf (123 kN, 27,600 lbf)). The airframe possesses a large vertical tail, as well as canards placed near the cockpit. The air intake is rectangular in shape, and is located beneath the fuselage. Construction likely incorporates much use of composite materials, as well as more conventional metals. Performance is generally speculated to be within the class of a late-model F-16, although maneuverability is thought to be superior (possibly within the range of some early fifth generation Western fighters). A bubble canopy provides 360 degrees of visual coverage for the pilot.
It was reported in November 2005 that a first batch of AL-31FN thrust vectoring engines had already been received from Russia for use in J-10s. A second batch was supposed to arrive later that year, and the rest would arrive by mid-2006. On 9 January 2006, it was claimed that these new engines were actually termed AL-31FN M1, and would be used in a new advanced version of the J-10 called the "Super-10". Regardless of how they are eventually used, thrust vectoring will boost the J-10's maneuverability.
China has made progress toward development of it own WS-10A 'Taihang' turbofan engine. There are plans to produce future variants of J-10 and J-11 using WS-10A engine.
A digital, quadruplex fly-by-wire system aids the pilot in flying the aircraft. Information is provided visually to the pilot, in the form of three liquid crystal Multi-Functional Displays within the cockpit. Western-style HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) controls are incorporated in the J-10's design.
The radar type equipping the J-10 is not yet known; possible candidates include the Russian RP-35, the Israeli EL/M-2035, the Italian Grifo 2000 and the domestic JL-10A. A comprehensive ECM (Electronic countermeasures) package is likely to be present, including active jammers.
It was reported by Jane's Defence Weekly on 9 January 2006, that a more advanced version of the J-10 is planned, "referred to as the Super-10, with a more powerful engine, thrust-vector control, stronger airframe and passive phased-array radar"
So far the J-10 has been offered only to Pakistan for export as the F-10.
On April 12, 2006 the Pakistani cabinet approved the purchase of at least 36 J-10s under the designation FC-10.
The wings provide 11 hardpoints for the attachment of up to 4,500 kg (9,900 lb) of weaponry, fuel tanks, and ECM equipment. Built-in armament consists of a 23 mm cannon, located within the fuselage. External weaponry may include: short-range infrared air-to-air missiles (Chinese PL-8, or the Russian R-73), medium-range radar-guided air-to-air missiles (Chinese PL-11 and PL-12, or the Russian R-77), laser-guided and un-guided bombs, anti-ship missiles (Chinese YJ-9K), and anti-radiation missiles (YJ-9).
Length: 14.57 m (47 ft 10 in)
Wingspan: 8.78 m (28 ft 9 in)
Height: 4.80 m (15 ft 9 in)
Wing area: 33 m² (360 ft²)
Empty weight: 9,750 kg (21,500 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 18,400 kg (40,600 lb)
1× Lyulka-Saturn AL-31FN turbofan
Dry thrust: 79.43 kN (17,860 lbf)
Thrust with afterburner: 123 kN (27,600 lbf)
Maximum speed: Mach 2.0 (2,450 km/h, 1,520 mph) at altitude
g-Limits: +9/-3 g (+88/-29 m/s², +290/-97 ft/s²
Combat radius: 550 km (300 nm, 340 mi)
Maximum range: 1,850 km (1,000 nm, 1,150 mi)
Service ceiling: 18,000 m (59,000 ft)
Minimum thrust/weight With afterburner: 0.68
Guns: 1× 23 mm internal cannon
Hardpoints: 11, 3 under each wing and 5 under the fuselage
Air-to-air: PL-8, PL-11, PL-12, R-73, R-77
Air-to-surface: YJ-9, YJ-9K
Bombs: laser-guided bombs, unguided bombs
www.sinodefence.com (Adapted from http://www.wikipedia.org/ )