Tags: Chinese | Air | Force | Gets | New | Jet

Chinese Air Force Gets New Jet

Thursday, 07 November 2002 12:00 AM

The People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is expected to unveil its long-anticipated fourth-generation combat jet this week during the Zhuhai air show. Despite being touted as the first indigenous fighter, the J-10 is filled with a combination of technologies either bought or stolen from America.

The Chengdu J-10 advanced combat fighter is clearly a product of years of military cooperation between Israel and China, taking much of its design from the now defunct U.S.-Israeli Lavi project.

The exact amount of Israeli support for the J-10 project is debatable; however, there is overwhelming evidence that much of the new jet fighter's design comes from the joint U.S.-Israeli project from the 1980s.

Externally, the J-10 appears to be almost an exact copy of the Israeli/U.S.-designed Lavi fighter. The aircraft is a single-seat, multi-role, delta-canard fighter design equipped with a digital fly-by-wire system for control.

Chinese engineers, working with Russian counterparts, modified the aircraft to be powered by a single Saturn Lyuika Al-31 power plant. The new power plant, more powerful that the U.S.-made engine designed for the Lavi, gives the J-10 a higher top speed and longer-range performance.

In addition, China has added several features that were directly reverse-engineered from a U.S.-made F-16 Falcon jet fighter provided to Beijing by Pakistan.

The Pakistani F-16, sold to Islamabad during the 1980s, was given to the PLAAF as part of a secret military trade deal between Pakistan and China. In return for the U.S.-made F-16 jet, Pakistan received a deep discount on the purchase of Chinese-made M-11 ballistic missiles.

The new Chinese J-10 supersonic fighter is designed to take on and defeat U.S.-built F-16 and F-18 fighters that make up the bulk of American airpower. Western sources estimate that Chengdu will manufacture over 1,000 of the delta-winged fighters to replace aging MiG-21 and MiG-19 fighter designs that currently make up the vast majority of China's air force.

Western intelligence sources noted that China has been flying about a half-dozen J-10 prototypes for at least two years, and the fighter is not slated to join the PLAAF until 2007. Prototypes of the J-10 that have been seen were armed with the PL-9 air-to-air missile, a Chinese copy of the Israeli Rafael Python 3.

Exactly what kind of radar the new J-10 will be equipped with, however, is still under debate. The new fighter was thought to be equipped with a version of the Israeli-made Elbit ELM-2021 radar system, which can track multiple aerial targets simultaneously.

Russian sources now indicate the J-10 will be equipped with a version of the Phazotron Zhemchoung radar, which has both an air-to-air and air-to-ground targeting capability. The new Russian-made radar system for the J-10 will complement existing N-001 radars supplied to the PLAAF for its Sukhoi SU-30MK twin-seat strike fighter.

In fact, the new J-10 fighter is expected to serve alongside the PLAAF's most advanced strike fighter, the SU-30MK. The PLAAF's recent acquisition of the SU-30MK from Russia has given China the capability to fire advanced cruise missiles at Taiwan.

One such advanced missile supplied as part of the Russian SU-30MK deal is the ramjet-powered Krypton. Both the SU-30MK N-001 and the J-10 Zhemchoung radars are designed to support the advanced Zvezda Kh-31 Krypton cruise missile supplied by Russia to the PLAAF.

Ironically, the Krypton would not have been available to China without the assistance of the Clinton administration in developing the Russian missile. In 1995, according to official U.S. Navy documentation, McDonnell Douglas proceeded under Clinton administration orders to help Russia develop the Krypton missile as part of a U.S. Navy target drone project.

According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, U.S. Navy and McDonnell Douglas engineers suggested a series of "P3I" or "pre-planned product improvements" to extend the range of the Krypton, improve its flight performance and enable jet fighters to safely fire the weapon.

"The MA-31 [Krypton] target will need [pre-planned product improvements] P3I in order to meet the range and ground/surface launch requirements for the Supersonic Sea Skimming Target program [SSST]. The range of the MA-31 target in its FCT configuration is approximately 15 nm [nautical miles] at low altitude," states the 1995 review document.

According to the 1995 McDonnell Douglas review, one "extended range option" given to the Russian contractor Zvezda "adds an auxiliary fuel tank, a reduced drag nose cone, changes the fuel to JP-10 [which has a higher specific energy content than the Russian fuel], and modifies the ramjet nozzle. The extended range modification is intended to increase range to approximately 42 nm [nautical miles] at 10m [meter] altitude."

Another more crucial design improvement given to Russia involved "Ground Jettison Testing" done by the U.S. defense contractor against the Russian missile. According to a 1995 program review document, the Russian-built AKY-58M missile launcher for the Krypton was fatally flawed and could destroy the firing plane.

"Two jettisons were planned; four completed," states the 1995 review document. "An anomaly was encountered during testing of the emergency jettison sequence. The lanyard which, during normal launch, remains with the launch rail and pulls the Booster Safe/Arm Plug which arms the booster for ignition, is supposed to remain with the target during Emergency Jettison. In three emergency jettison tests, the lanyard stayed with the launch rail instead of with the target. In all cases the booster would have been armed, and ignition could have occurred for any of several reasons."

"[McDonnell Douglas] MDAC has determined that use of a longer lanyard and slower separation velocity would allow proper operation of the emergency jettison sequence. The problem has been turned over to the Russians for resolution," states the 1995 review document.

As soon as Russian and U.S. engineers worked out all the bugs in the Krypton, Russia began to market the missile on the open market. In 1999, Russia negotiated a multibillion-dollar arms deal with China for the newly-improved Krypton.

In fact, according to the new Russian weapons pact with Beijing, China will eventually manufacture and export the improved Krypton under license to the Middle East and Asia.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin can take great pride in the giant leap forward the PLAAF has made during his term of office. Without the crucial assistance of his friends in America, neither the Krypton missile nor the new J-10 fighter would have been ready for delivery to the Chinese air force.

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The People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is expected to unveil its long-anticipated fourth-generation combat jet this week during the Zhuhai air show.Despite being touted as the first indigenous fighter, the J-10 is filled with a combination of technologies either...
Thursday, 07 November 2002 12:00 AM
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