Fighters II

Together with J-20/FC-31 (4th generation), J-10B/C, J-11D and Su-35 (3.5th generation) will replace the remaining J-7/8 series as well as the original Su-27 fighters and form the backbone of Chinese fighter force in a new high-low combination during the first half of the 21st century.

J-10/10A Vigorous Dragon/Firebird

A PLAAF J-10A was photographed while carrying training rounds of PL-8 and PL-12 AAMs. J-10 (K/JJ10?) is a multi-functional single-engine fighter being developed by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) and 611 Institute. It has been selected by PLAAF as the next generation fighter to replace the obsolete J-7 fighter and Q-5 attack aircraft. The aircraft appears to have an Su-27 style nose and rectangular air intake, an AL-31F type engine, twin nose wheels, and a distinct low-visibility camouflage color scheme. The aircraft also has a large vertical tail plus twin F-16 style ventral stabilizers believed to provide greater stability at high AoA. Its fuselage looks considerably longer compared to Israeli Lavi. Unlike J-7E with double-delta wings, it appears to have a pair of inverted gull wings (i.e. the inner upper portion extends slightly downward, while the outer portion extends flat). The J-10 project was conceived in the 1984 based on the experience (tailless delta wing and canard foreplanes) with J-9 which was cancelled in 1980 in favor of the less risky J-7C/MIG-21MF project. An early model of J-10 revealed a Mirage 2000 style intake with a center shock cone for better high speed performance and a Lavi style tail section, suggesting a possible connection with the cancelled Israeli fighter (however this was firmly denied by both parties). The change indicates that J-10 has gone through at least one major redesign in its 18-year development period from the initial conventional layout as an air-superiority fighter to the latest semi-stealthy design as a multi-role fighter. This change may reflect a shift of its potential adversaries from former Soviet Mig-29/Su-27 to current American F-15/16/18 after end of the Cold War. The new design is certainly fitted with advanced avionics including a "glass cockpit" (1 wide-angle HUD + 2 monochrome MFD + 1 color MFD), HMS, HOTAS, GPS/INS, air data computer, ARW9101A RWR, Type 634 digital quadruplex FBW, digital fuel management system, mission management system, ARINC429 databus, and a detachable IFR probe. A new PD fire-control radar (Type 1473, search >120km, track 4-6, engage 2 simultaneously) is also fitted, which was based on Israeli EL/M 2035 radar for its cancelled Lavi fighter. A variety of newly developed air-to-air (e.g. PL-8 short-range IR guided AAM and PL-12 medium-range active radar guided AAM) and air-to-surface weapons can be carried under 11 hardpoints including LS-500J LGBs and K/JDC01A FLIR/laser designator pod. A new twin-rail missile launch pylon was developed to increase the total number of PL-12 MRAAMs it can carry from 2 to 4. The aircraft has been powered by a 127kN thrust AL-31FN turbofan engine, a modified AL-31F which powers Su-27/J-11, and Russia reportedly had denied China the license to produce the engine locally. As the result, the indigenous WS-10 engine has been used on the J-11 series only and not on the J-10 series. Some western military analysts believed that J-10 could pose a serious challenge to F/A-18C in terms of maneuverability. Some specifications of J-10 are (estimated): length 17.1m, height 5.4m, wingspan 9.8m, normal TO weight 12,400kg, max TO weight 18,600kg, internal fuel 4,500kg, max external load 6,600kg, g load +9/-3, max speed Mach 2.0 (high altitude)/Mach 1.2 (1,450km/h @ sea level), TO distance 400m, combat radius 1,100km, static ceiling 18,000m, ferry range 3,200km. The development of J-10 has not been smooth. A full-scale mock-up was built in 1991. The first prototype was set to fly in 1996, powered by a newly developed WS-10 turbofan based on the CFM56 engine core technology. However the development of this indigenous engine suffered serious difficulties and thus the rear fuselage and engine intake were forced to be redesigned in order to accommodate an alternative AL-31FN engine imported from Russia. After a 15-month delay, the first prototype (01/1001) was rolled out in June 1997. It made its maiden flight on March 23, 1998, two years behind the schedule. 6 prototypes (serial numbers 1002-1009) were built undergoing various static and flight tests at CAC in Chengdu and at the CFTE in Yanliang. Subsequently 3 more prototypes were built (1013-1016) as the project was moving into the pre-production phase while PLAAF remained fully committed. The flight test of J-10 was completed by the end of 2003 and the serial production started earlier that year. Approximately two are being produced each month, depending on the supply of AL-31FN engine from Russia. A total of 300 were planned. The first J-10 in production standard flew on June 28, 2002. The initial batches of 50 (54 AL-31FNs were imported between 2002 and 2004) have been produced by CAC, wearing a new gray/light blue paint scheme. Currently the production continues at a rate of 2-4 per month. The first 9 (?) were delivered to the PLAAF Flight Test & Training Base for evaluation starting from February 2003. After some delay due the problems of fire-control system, J-10 was finally certified by the end of 2003. The first J-10 regiment was established in 2004 in the PLAAF 44th Division stationed in Yunnan Province facing India. Around 100 may have been produced by 2006 (01-03 batch, S/N 50x5x, 10x4x, 10x3x, 10x2x, 20x0x, 73x5x). J-10 was officially declassified on December 29, 2006. Some improvements have been made during the production, including a WL-9 radio compass antenna dish behind the canopy. A tandem-seat trainer version (J-10S) has been developed too (see below). Further improved variants including J-10A (improved glass cockpit and fire control radar/1473G? able to fire 4 PL-12 AAMs) and J-10B (JF-17 style cockpit, IRST/LR, PESA radar, DSI engine intake, RAM coating, see below) have been developed. Currently J-10A is in service with PLAAF (04 batch, S/N 50x5x, 30x5x, 20x6x, 78x1x). The August 1 Aerobatic Demonstration Team also flies J-10AY (05 batch) to replace the old J-7GB. Recent images confirmed that PLAN is receiving its first batch of J-10As (06 batch, dubbed J-10AH, S/N 83x4x) which have been deployed at the eastern China coast facing Japan. They could be modified to carry YJ-83K AShMs in the future. The last batch of J-10As (07 batch) were produced for both the existing as well as new J-10 units (S/N 20x3x) by early 2014. The production has been switched to J-10B by the end of 2014. Recent images indicated some J-10As have been upgraded with a new dorsal UHF/VHF antenna as well as VLOC antennas on top of the vertical tailfin. J-10A was officially promoted on the international market in February 2016 at the Singapore Airshow as FC-20. However as a third generation fighter powered by a foreign engine, the prospect of FC-20 may not be as bright as AVIC has hoped.
- Last Updated 8/6/16

J-10S Vigorous Dragon/Firebird

A PLAAF J-10S (K/JJ10S/JJ-10?) advanced trainer was taking off (S: tandem). This version features a stretched forward fuselage and a bubble canopy which can be opened as a single piece. An excellent 360° outside view in the rear cockpit is clearly shown in the photo. Its dorsal spine appears to have been enlarged to accommodate electronics displaced by the rear cockpit. In addition to being a trainer for J-10 pilots, J-10S was speculated to be converted into an attack aircraft or EW/Wild Weasel anti-radiation aircraft, but this has not materialized. First Flight of 01 prototype took place on December 26, 2003. Two prototypes (01/1021 & 03/1023) were built undergoing various flight tests. J-10S passed the state certification in late 2005 and has entered service with PLAAF (S/N 10x4x, 50x5x, 10x3x, 20x0x, 20x6x, 30x5x, 78x1x, 20x3x, 73x5x, 78x6x). In addition, the August 1 Aerobatic Demonstration Team has been flying J-10SY since mid-2010. In late 2010 the first batch of J-10Ss are entering the service with PLAN (dubbed J-10SH? S/N 83x4x) along with J-10As. Recent images indicated that some J-10Ss have been upgraded with a new dorsal UHF/VHF antenna as well as VLOC antennas on top of the vertical tail fin.
- Last Updated 8/18/15

J-10B Vigorous Dragon/Firebird

A J-10B (K/JJ10B?) multirole fighter was photographed in the sky over Chengdu before it was handed over to PLAAF. This much improved variant made its maiden flight on December 23, 2008, powered by a Russian AL-31FN engine (1031 prototype). The improvements include a DSI/"Bump" inlet which not only cuts weight but also reduces RCS, after a similar design was first tested onboard FC-1/JF-17. The aircraft also features a new indigenous IRST/LR in front of the canopy, a white IFR probe light on the starboard side of the nose, a JF-17 style glass cockpit with a wide-angle holographic HUD, three large color MFDs and an HMDS. The new IRST allows passive detection of enemy aircraft, making J-10B more stealthy in combat. Its nose appears flatter too, similar to that of American F-16, housing a new fire-control radar which is thought to be an X-band PESA developed by the 607 Institute (track 10, engage 4 simultaneously), the first of such type ever being developed for a Chinese fighter aircraft, giving J-10B a stronger multi-target engagement and ECCM capability. It was rumored that initially the aircraft was planned to be fitted with an AESA developed by the 14th Institute but the radar was not ready by the time the aircraft was ready for production. An ECM antenna can also be seen right in front of the canard foreplane on the 1035 prototype. The tip of vertical tailfin was redesigned as well, featuring a long compartment housing communication and ECM antennas, which resembles that of French Mirage 2000. A rear facing MAWS sensor can be seen underneath the parachute boom. A similar system was tested onboard FC-1/JF-17. RAM coating is also expected in certain areas such as engine inlet and wing leading edges to reduce RCS. All these improvements suggest that J-10B is equipped with a new generation of integrated electronic system connected via an optic HSDB, ranging from radar to EW system. Its mission may be changed from air-superiority to multi-role, such as CAS or EW. For air-superiority mission, normally 6 AAMs (PL-12x4 + PL-8x2, PL-12s are carried underneath the dual missile launch rails) are carried. The aircraft can also carry the latest PL-10 AAM, making it currently the most lethal fighter aircraft in PLAAF's arsenal. For CAS missions, normally 2 KD-88 AGMs, or 2 LS-500J LGBs, or 2 new GB1/TG500 500kg LGBs can be carried. 2 YJ-91s can be carried for SEAD missions. The laser designator pod is thought to be OC5 . Overall J-10B is thought to be comparable to American F-16E/Block 60. The 03 prototype (1033) first flew in August 2009, with the pitot tube removed from the nose tip. Both 1031 & 1034 prototypes were tested at CFTE. An indigenous WS-10B turbofan engine was tested for some time on 1035 in 2011 but did not proceed forward.  J-10B is likely to serve as a testbed for various advanced technologies adopted by the 4th generation J-20 currently under development at CAC thus may not enter the service in large quantity with PLAAF. In March 2013 the 1031 prototype was seen with ECM antennas installed ahead of the canard foreplanes similar to those onboard 1035, which represents the final configuration before the production. The production of J-10B finally started in 2013 after the delivery of a new batch of AL-31FN Series 3 engines (13.7t with A/B). By May 2015 around 53 01 batch J-10Bs had been produced and the delivery started in 2014, possibly to the PLAAF Flight Test & Training Base, PLAAF 2nd Division and 21st Division (S/N 78x1x, 10x3x, 3xx0x, 30x2x, 78x7x?). Meanwhile a further upgraded variant (J-10C) with an AESA radar was under development (see below). Recent images (September 2015) indicated that the improved WS-10B turbofan with FADEC has been installed onboard the last two J-10Bs of the 01 batch (#0155 & 0156, S/N 78x1x?), suggesting the engine has finally overcome the reliability issues and is ready to power the remaining batches of J-10Cs. J-10B was officially unveiled at the 2016 Zhuhai Airshow, carrying dual PL-12 missile launch rails.
 - Last Updated 12/21/16

J-10C Vigorous Dragon/Firebird

It was first rumored in June 2013 that a "full standard" variant (J-10C) with enhanced 4th generation electronics including an AESA radar, which is finally available, was under development. The J-10C (K/JJ10C?) #201 prototype (later renumbered as #1051) took to the sky for the first time on December 31, 2013, powered by an AL-31FN Series 3 engine. The aircraft appears to have close similarity with J-10B except for an additional datalink antenna on its spine ahead of the vertical tailfin. The aircraft is capable of firing the latest PL-10 and PL-12G AAMs. It was speculated that the 02 batch would be J-10Cs instead of J-10Bs. Recent images taken in November 2015 indicated that the production of the 02 batch has begun. They are thought to be J-10Cs with VLOC antennas installed on top of the vertical tailfin and without the rear MAWS sensors on the tail (reason unknown). The aircraft is still powered by AL-31FN Series 3 turbofan and it is unclear when WS-10B will be fitted. Recent images (February 2016) indicated that J-10C is getting ready to enter the service with PLAAF Flight Test & Training Base (S/N 78x1x? 78x7x? 5xx5x?). The latest rumor (April 2016) suggested that 611 is developing another upgraded variant (J-10D?) which might feature CFTs to increase its range as well as a more powerful WS-10IPE (14t class?) turbofan engine with a stealth nozzle to reduce its radar and IR signatures.
 - Last Updated 12/6/16

Su-27SK/J-11/11A Flanker

A PLAAF J-11 (K/JJ11?) was proudly displaying its Golden Helmet badges painted next to the cockpit and on the vertical tailfin. A total three batches of Su-27s were imported. The first batch of 26 (20 SK & 6 UBK, S: serial, K: commercial, $32m each) were acquired starting 1992. The second batch of 24 (16 Su-27SK and 6 Su-27UBK) were acquired starting 1996. The third batch of 28 Su-27UBKs ($35m each) were acquired starting 2000 to speed up the training of qualified pilots. This heavy air-superiority fighter, combined with up to 10 AA-10 (R-27T1/R1, IR/SAR homing to 30/35km), AA-11 (R-73, IR homing to 15km) AAMs, NSts-27 HMS and Gardeniya wingtip ECM pods, gave PLAAF for the first time a truly offensive capability both in long-range BVR attack and short-range dog fight. Its N001 radar can track ten and engage one target at a time. The third batch UBKs are believed to have the improved N001VE radar installed which is able to engage two targets simultaneously using R-27 and the R-77 active radar homing AAM. Chinese Su-27/J-11s were also seen participating in attacking ground targets using unguided rockets and free-fall bombs. However this has raised doubts among some western observers over the soundness of risking such high value assets to fly the dangerous ground attack mission. In a shocking accident, 5 Su-27s were seriously damaged during a typhoon in 1998. A few more are believed to have been lost during the years of service. They were first replaced by the imported Su-27s from Russia then later by locally assembled J-11s from Shenyang. More significantly, a $1.2 billion contract to license-build 200 Su-27s (under the designation of J-11 domestic use only, no exports) at Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) was reached in late 1995 and finalized at the end of 1996. Nevertheless this co-production plan would inevitably cost much of the limited resource available to PLAAF and to Chinese aviation industry, thus may have made some negative impact on other indigenous fighter projects, such as J-10. The first two J-11s rolled out in December 1998 using the kit supplied by KnAAPO but were reported to have suffered QC problems. An annual production rate between 15 and 20 was achieved by 2003. A total of 95 kits were delivered from KnAAPO by summer 2004. The use of domestically made parts will begin after the first 60 are assembled using Russian kits and eventually 60-70% of the parts will be manufactured in China (excluding AL-31F engine, which was denied by Russia for the license). J-11 was later upgraded with Russian assistance which features two color MFDs in the cockpit replacing the old monochrome radar scope. One normally serves as a digital moving map display (coupled with GPS). The aircraft can also fire the newly acquired R-27RE1 SARH AAM with an extended range of 66km. This variant (dubbed J-11A?) first flew in December 1999. Recent images indicated that J-11A can also fire the actively guided R-77, suggesting an improved fire-control system with new software and hardware. This may have been the result of assistance from Ukraine or Belarus. A further upgraded variant dubbed J-11B was developed as well (see below). The first phase production concluded by the end of 2006 after a total of 105 J-11s were produced in 4 batches. The production has been switched to J-11B in the subsequent phase. Recent images (November 2014) indicated that some (S/N 20x5x, 11x3x) have been upgraded with two UV band MAWS antennas behind the cockpit plus two on the vertical tailfins to provide coverage for both forward and rear hemispheres.
- Last Updated 9/12/16

J-11B Flanker

A PLAAF J-11B (K/JJ11B?) was landing carrying PL-8 and PL-12 AAMs underneath its wings. This demonstrates Chinese effort to integrate their own weapon systems into a classic Russian design in order to further boost its combat capability and survivability. Their effort includes a Chinese multifunction PD radar (Type 1493? search >150km, track 6-8, engage 4 simultaneously) and ARINC429 data bus compatible with PL-8, PL-12, and the newest PL-15 AAM, a Chinese made IRST/LR, as well as a redesigned glass cockpit featuring 5 MFDs and a new wide-angle holographic HUD. A new Chinese ECM system was installed internally thus the wingtip ECM pods are no longer needed. The aircraft also has a new UV band missile approach warning system (MAWS). Two sensors are installed on both sides of the tail sting to provide coverage for the rear hemisphere. Its weight has been reduced by 700kg by using composite materials at various places. The Russian AL-31F engine was replaced by the indigenous WS-10. One WS-10 (Taihang 13,200kg class initially) turbofan was tested on a CFTE J-11WS engine testbed in June 2002. The first J-11B prototype powered by WS-10 flew in 2004. 3 prototypes were tested at CFTE (#523-525), each has different configurations to test individual subsystems in order to speed up the development. At least one prototype (#524) was involved in the takeoff experiments from a land-based ski-jump for the J-15 carrier-borne fighter project (see below). The first batch of J-11B entered the service with PLAAF 1st Division (S/N 10x2x) in late 2007. However the initial batch of J-11Bs powered by the indigenous WS-10 turbofans were quickly grounded due to the poor quality of the engine. They were forced to be powered by Russian AL-31F turbofans until WS-10's reliability problem was solved. By the end of 2009 it appeared that the engine quality problem was solved and the aircraft (02 and later batches) has started to fly with WS-10 installed. The latest batches are thought to have been fitted with further improved WS-10 turbofans with a higher thrust (13,700kg?) and FADEC. More J-11Bs are in the service with PLAAF (S/N 10x8x, 31x0x, 40x1x, 40x3x, 60x5x, 70x0x, 72x2x, 78x6x) powered by WS-10 engines. In spring 2010 PLAN started to receive land-based J-11Bs (as J-11BH?), wearing a light gray camouflage (S/N 81x8x, 81x9x, 83x8x). Some of them have been stationed on Paracel Islands in South China Sea facing Vietnam and Philippines. The latest news (June 2016) suggested that some J-11As have been upgraded with an indigenous datalink similar to American Link-16.
- Last Updated 10/17/16

J-11BS Flanker

One of the first batch of PLAAF J-11BS (K/JJ11BS?) fighter trainers was preparing for takeoff. Based on J-11B, this tandem-seat trainer version is also powered by two WS-10 turbofan engines and features similar indigenous avionics including a glass cockpit. It can also carry a similar weapon package including PL-8A and PL-12 AAM. The first prototype was built by the end of 2007. The aircraft is believed to feature a new indigenous digital FBW system which suffered some reliability problems initially. It was rumored that one J-11BS prototype (#532?) crashed during a test flight at CFTE in 2009 due to the FBW system failure. Additional prototypes (#533) have been flying at CFTE. J-11BS was reportedly to have been certified in May 2010. Previous speculations suggesting J-11BS as a fighter bomber turned out to be inaccurate. Instead a dedicated attack variant was developed (see J-16). Currently J-11BS is in service with PLAAF (S/N 10x2x, 10x8x, 20x5x, 31x0x, 40x3x, 70x0x, 72x2x, 10x7x, 78x2x), and is replacing the old Su-27UBK. Meanwhile PLAN is operating some J-11BSs (J-11BSH? S/N 81x8x, 81x9x, 83x8x) as well to train its J-11BH pilots.
- Last Updated 12/5/16

J-11D Flanker

A further improved variant of J-11B has been under development at 601/SAC as J-11D. Compared to J-11B, it features a new AESA radar in a reshaped nose cone and an improved digital FBW system which are similar to those of J-16. J-11D can also carry new generation of AAMs including PL-10 and PL-12G. Two extra hardpoints were added to the inner wings. As the result up to 12 AAMs can be carried. More composite material was used in its wing and tail sections in order to reduce weight. It might also have a RAM coating to reduce the RCS but this has not been confirmed. The AESA radar was speculated to have been developed by the 14th Institute and was tested onboard a J-11B radar testbed in 2014. The first J-11D prototype (D1101) took off for the first time from the SAC airfield on April 29, 2015, powered by two WS-10 turbofans. Similar to J-16an IFR probe was installed on the port side of the windshield, while the IRST/LR was offset to the starboard side. There was a rumor that the engines could be the upgraded WS-10X with a max thrust of 14t but this has yet to be confirmed. A further upgraded WS-10 with TVC could be fitted in the future. It has been speculated that  the earlier J-11Bs could be upgraded to the D standard (mainly the AESA radar due to different structural designs) in the future. J-11D is thought to be in the same class of American F/A-18E and Russian Su-35 thus it might have complicated the possible acquisition of Su-35. A recent rumor suggested that the 1102 prototype flew for the first time on October 27, 2015 at SAC and the 1101 prototype has been transferred to CFTE for further testing. The latest rumor (July 2016) that the 1103 prototype just flew for the first time.
- Last Updated 7/19/16

J-15/15S/15A Flying Shark/Flanker

The J-15 production model #108 was landing at the SAC airfield. J-15 (K/JJ15?) is the first generation of Chinese carrier-borne fighter aircraft being developed by both 601 Institute and SAC for PLAN's first generation aircraft carriers including Liaoning. In order to save time and cut cost, the aircraft was developed based on Russian Su-33 in terms of structural configuration and flight control system as well as domestic J-11B (see above) in terms of radar and weapon systems. Similar to Su-33, J-15 features enlarged folding wings/horizontal tailfins, strengthened landing gears with twin nose wheels, an arresting hook, a pair of small canard foreplanes to improve its low speed handling and shortened tailcone to avoid tail-strike during high AoA landing. Composite materials are used in certain areas such as vertical tailfins to reduce weight. Some key shipborne aircraft technologies such as landing/navigational systems are believed to have been obtained from Russia and Ukraine. The aircraft also features a retractable IFR probe on the port side and can carry a Russian UPAZ-1A buddy refueling pod under the centerline station. This enables J-15 to take off with a full weapon load and fly a long-range attack/interception mission via inflight refueling from another dedicated J-15 tanker. One Su-33 prototype (T-10K-3) was acquired from Ukraine around 2001 and has been studied extensively. Some components onboard J-15 are based on those of J-11B, such as the glass cockpit, MAWS sensors on the tail sting as well as the improved WS-10H turbofan engine with a higher TO thrust (12,800kg) and better acceleration in order to achieve full-load taking off from the ski-jump. In addition it appears to have a new indigenous IRST/LR installed. Its fire-control radar is thought to be based on the Type 1493 PD radar with enhanced air-to-sea capability. It can also carry a variety of Chinese designed precision weapons, including PL-8, PL-12, PL-10 and PL-15 AAMs, KD-88 ASM, YJ-83K AShM and YJ-91 ARM. There was a rumor that J-15 is able to carry the new YJ-12 supersonic AShM under its centerline station but this has not been confirmed. Overall J-15 is believed to be in the same class of American F/A-18C, thus more versatile than Su-33. However J-15 is expected to have a limited production and deployment since its technology is no longer state of the art, but it is also expected to be upgraded in the future with an AESA radar similar to the one installed on J-11D. The next generation carrier-based stealth fighter design was rumored to be under development based on either J-20 or FC-31 but the finalized configuration is still unknown. A twin-seat trainer version  (dubbed J-15S) has been under development too. Its prototype first took off from SAC airfield on November 3, 2012. Similar to J-16 for PLAAF, J-15S is powered by WS-10H engines (14t class?) and features a modified canopy for better forward view from the back seat. The twin-seater could evolve into a dedicated EW aircraft in the same class of American EA-18G based on similar technology onboard J-16D. Currently one J-15S prototype is being evaluated at CFTE, wearing a standard "Flying Shark" naval blue color scheme. Some specifications of J-15 (estimated): max speed Mach 2.17, max combat radius 1,270km, weapon load 6.5t. The first prototype was assembled at SAC in 2008. Its maiden flight took place on August 31, 2009, powered by two Russian AL-31F turbofan engines. The first takeoff from a land based simulated ski-jump occurred on May 6, 2010 at CFTE. Additional J-15 prototypes (#554 & 557?) were seen wearing a light naval blue color scheme and powered by two WS-10H engines. However the WS-10H onboard #554 were later replaced by the more reliable AL-31F turbofan. At least 7 prototypes (S/N 551-557) were undergoing various tests on the simulated flight decks on land, mostly powered by Russian AL-31F turbofans. It started to practice touch-and-go landings on the deck of Liaoning during her sea trials in summer 2012. On November 23,  2012 J-15 prototypes #552 and 553 landed and took off officially for the first time on Liaoning, marking a concrete step for both J-15 and the aircraft carrier to achieve full operation status. J-15 prototypes were seen conducting taking off and landing tests onboard Liaoning carrying various air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons in September 2013. The 01 batch J-15s (S/N 100-109) started to be handed over to PLAN Carrier Fighter Group in late 2013, carrying a 3-digit serial number and powered by AL-31F engines. They have been stationed onboard Liaoning since late 2014. Recent images (October 2015) indicated that the first few of 02 batch (S/N 110-?) J-15s have been delivered to PLAN and are being operated from Liaoning. It was first rumored in October 2014 that another CATOBAR variant is being co-developed by the 601 Institute and CSIC 704 Institute. This variant features a further strengthened forward landing gear in order to withstand the high-g force during the acceleration. In July 2016 the first prototype of the CATOBAR variant (J-15A? #5xx) flew for the first time, powered by two indigenous WS-10H engines. It features a nose landing gear with a much longer and wider drag strut. An AESA radar might have been installed as well. The production units are expected to be stationed onboard the third Type 002 aircraft carrier to be constructed in the future. A recent rumor claimed that a prototype of the EW variant (J-15D?) just flew for the first time on October 25, 2016. The latest rumor (November 2016) claimed that a J-15A took off for the first time from a ground-based electromagnetic catapult (EMALS).
- Last Updated 12/23/16

FC-1/JF-17 Fierce Dragon/Thunder
First revealed in 1995 as the successor of the cancelled Sino-US Super-7 project, FC-1 (Fighter China-1, max TO weight 12,700kg, max speed M 1.8, service ceiling 16,920m, max external load 4,600kg, ferry range 3,480km, combat radius 1,352km, max g load +8.5) is being developed by CAC/611 Institute (with some technical assistance from Russian Mikoyan OKB) as a "medium tech", light weight fighter/ground attack aircraft carrying a relatively cheap price tag (~$20m). As a fighter designed for export, its main customer is expected to be Pakistan who also shares 50% of the total cost (around $150m). It may also compete with second-hand F-16s to seize the market created by the retirement of Mig-21s, Mirage III and F-5s. Currently powered by a Russian RD-93 turbofan (upgraded RD-33, rated 8,795kg with A/B), it would also be powered by a locally produced WS-13 Taishan once the engine is ready. The A-6 style "V" shaped air-intakes are believed to provide smooth air flow to the engine at high AoA. The fire control radar is thought to be a Chinese KLJ-7V2 X-band multi-functional PD radar (track 10 and engage 2 simultaneously, look-up range 110km for RCS=3m2). A Chinese AESA radar might be installed in later batches. Other electronics include an NVG compatible glass cockpit (EFIS) with three 8"x6" color MFDs, HOTAS, AIFF, 1553B databus and INS/GPS. Weapon load includes both short (PL-5EII/PL-9C/AIM-9M) and medium-range AAMs (SD-10A). LGBs (LT-2/LT-3/GBU-12), GPS/INS guided bombs (LS-6 or MK8x-REK), 500kg dispensors (GB6/TL500), ASMs (C705KD), anti-radiation missiles (Brazilian MAR-1 or Chinese LD-10/CM102) and IRST/laser designation pod (WMD-7) can also be carried for ground attack missions. Up to 2 C-802AK AShMs can be carried for anti-ship missions. For high value fixed targets, up to 2 CM-400AKG standoff supersonic ASMs can be carried. For self-protection purpose a KG300G or KG600 ECM pod can be carried. The development schedule of FC-1 was repeatedly delayed caused by various problems, such as lack of funding, the reluctance of western countries to supply advanced avionics, as well as the revised specifications set by PAF to counter the threat from India's LCAs. These specifications included a true BVR attack capability with active radar guided medium-range AAMs (SD-10A). However, FC-1's prospect in the domestic market had diminished, as PLAAF had committed to the more advanced J-10 as its new generation fighter along with J-11 and was reluctant to acquire any FC-1s due to its less advanced design and a Russian engine. After lengthy negotiations, Pakistani government finally signed the contract with CATIC and CAC/611 in 1999 and gave the "go ahead" order to the much delayed project. The development was further accelerated after PAF recommitted the project and confirmed FC-1's technical specifications in detail in February 2001. A full-scale mock-up was quickly constructed. A total of 6 prototypes (01-06) were built at CAC. The 01 prototype rolled down the assembly line on May 31, 2003 with two small wing fences. Its maiden flight took place on August 25, 2003. The 03 prototype first flew on April 9, 2004 without the two small wing fences. The 04 prototype was expected to fly by the end of 2005 with full suite of avionics but this was delayed until April 2006 due to several structural modifications. They include new diverterless supersonic inlets (DSI/Bump) similar to those of American F-35 to reduce weight and achieve better performance. A large rectangular-shaped fairing is installed on top of the vertical tailfin which may house ECM equipment. Its flight control includes a Type 634 quadruplex digital FBW in pitch axis and a duplex analog FBW in roll axis. A UV band MAWS has been installed at the root of the vertical tailfin to provide rear hemisphere coverage. Two enlarged F/A-18 style LERX are thought to offer higher AOA as well. The first flight of 04 prototype took place on April 28, 2006, and 06 prototype on September 10, 2006. The first two pre-production JF-17s (PAF designation Joint Fighter-17 Block I, 00 batch/07-101 & 102) were delivered to Pakistan on March 2, 2007, with the nose-tip pitot tube removed. The 01 batch of 6 JF-17s (08-103 -- 08-108) were delivered between March and April 2008. The contract for PAF to acquire another 42 JF-17s assembled by PAC was singed on March 7, 2009. The first two (09-109 & 110) were built by CAC. The first JF-17 (09-111) in the batch of 4 assembled by PAC rolled out on November 23, 2009. The production of the 50 Block I concluded by the end of 2013 with another 50 Block II to follow in 2014. Besides Pakistan, several Asian, African and South America countries also expressed interest in FC-1/JF-17, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Argentina, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. FC-1 passed design appraisal in December 2009. The first taxiing test of FC-1 powered by an indigenous WS-13 took place on March 18, 2010, but the results were unsatisfactory. A further upgraded variant (JF-17 Block II/JF-17A?) featuring a detachable IFR probe on the starboard side of the cockpit, similar to that of J-10, improved avionics (including secure datalink with ZDK-03) and enhanced precision-guided weapon capability has been under development as well. The aircraft may also fly ESM/ECM missions with a new EW podA probe light was installed on top of the right engine intake behind the IFR probe to illuminate both the probe and the drogue from the tanker during night operations. All Block IIs starting from 16-229 will have the IFR probe light installed. The aircraft is to be supported by the PAF Il-78MP tanker. The Block II variant is expected to be followed by the Block III, which might feature a more powerful engine (WS-13E?), a new AESA radar developed by NETRI/14th Institute (KLJ-7A, range 170km, track 15, engage 4), IRST, HMD, full authority digital FBW and additional types of weapons. A tandem-seat trainer version (JF-17B) was first unveiled at the 2013 Paris Airshow by CATIC. JF-17B is likely to be based on the Block II configuration with a IFR probe and a slightly taller and more swept vertical tailfin. The 01 prototype of JF-17B was constructed in December 2016 and the first flight is expected during early 2017. The assembling of the first three JF-17 Block IIs (S/N 15-20x) started at PAC in mid-2014. First flight of 15-201 took place on February 9, 2015. It is expected that all the Block I JF-17s will be upgraded to the Block II standard. It was reported in June 2015 that JF-17 just secured its first export contract from an Asian customer which is believed to be Myanmar. The $560m contract could involve an initial batch of 16 aircraft and the delivery could start in 2017. A recent image (July 2016) suggested that the 04 prototype has been wearing a new blue color scheme based upon customer's requirements. Recent news (September 2016) indicated that Nigerian AF has decided to acquire JF-17. The first batch of 3 could be delivered in early 2017. The latest report (November 2016) suggested that 611 Institute is studying a semi-stealth concept of FC-1 (JF-17 Block IV?) to further extend its export potential. The aircraft might have certain stealth features such as a redesigned stealth nose with a one-piece F-22 style canopy. 
- Last Updated 1/15/17

Su-35 Flanker

The first image of a PLAAF Su-35 taken on the day when it was delivered from Russia is shown here. It was reported in November 2015 that China finally signed the contract with Russia to acquire 24 Su-35s (Su-35SK?) for $2b after years of rumors.  The delivery of the first 4 took place on December 25, 2016 (4 in 2016, 10 in 2017, 10 in 2018), wearing a Russian style blue/gray camouflage. They were rumored to enter the service with PLAAF 2nd Division facing the South China Sea. It might provide  long-range escort for the H-6K cruise missile carrier patrolling over the West Pacific and over the South China Sea. Compared to Su-35S in service with Russian Air Force, the Chinese Su-35 has the middle navigational antenna removed from the rear edge of its right vertical tail fin.
- Last Updated 12/30/16