As China’s first advance indigenous fighter jet project, the J-10 program is one of the most important program of PLA. The most recent variant of J-10B made its first maiden flight in December of 2008, but CAC has been producing J-10A as recent as first half of this year.
Most recently, news came out of Chinese bbs that the first batch of production J-10Bs have started to make test flights. This news was not surprising since we had already seen pictures of J-10B production units inside CAC factory a couple of months ago. At the current rate, this first batch of J-10B should be delivered to the first regiment by the end of the year. Even though a lot of us were hoping that J-10B would be able to go into service by the end of 2011, it has taken 5 years for this to happen. When it goes into service, J-10B should be equipped with a new generation of integrated electronics systems consisting of PLAAF’s first fighter jet AESA radar, IRST, EW suite and new software architecture. J-10B is likely to serve as a testbed for various new technologies for J-20. In terms of engine, it will still be some version of AL-31FN for the first batch. AL-31FN has been improving with each batch, so it’s unknown if these new engines will bring additional thrust needed to carry the likely greater payload. There is also a speculated J-10C variant that is rumoured to make first flight later this year. It will be interesting to see how this variant will be different from J-10B.
As J-10A program draws to a close, the question we get is often how many are actually in service. We know that they have one PLANAF regiment of 24 J-10s. There are also 12 J-10AY and J-10SY serving at the August First Aerobatic Demonstration Team. Within PLAAF, there are 8 regiments (44th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 24th, 9th, 15th and 12th) of 28 aircraft each along with probably 16 to 24 J-10s serving with FTTC. Based on the above, there are around 280 J-10s of various J-10/A/S units in service.