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Will China clear the CAC J-10B for export?
March 27, 2017
Chengdu-J-10B
Chengdu Aircraft Corporation J-10B. Photo Credit: News QQ

Will China clear the CAC J-10B for export?

Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) is offering a static display of its J-10B multi-role fighter at the Zhuhai Air Show, which is taking place this week.

In addition to the fighter, many new and existing air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions were also being shown alongside the People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)’s emerging mainstay fighter.

It does not appear that Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) branded placards are near the J-10B, but it is possible that this fighter could be ready for export in the short-term. Currently, only the J-10A – under the designation FC-20 – is available for export.

It is not clear to what extent the changes to the J-10’s airframe is sensitive in the view of the PLAAF, though the subsystems – i.e. active electronically-scanned array radar and electronic warfare (EW) and electronic countermeasures (ECM) suite – should be of more concern.

However, with the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET) showcasing an overtly export-centric AESA radar for the JF-17, it appears that the Chinese are in the position to release their next-generation subsystems to the market without risking their national security interests.

AVIC will not need to compete on pure performance, but rather, on the reality that it is offering capable solutions with current technologies at an affordable price. An export version of the J-10B would benefit from layers of economies-of-scale thanks to China’s expansive domestic market.

For example, the J-10 platform is the mainstay multi-role fighter platform of the PLAAF. At this stage, the research and development overhead will have been heavily distributed, resulting in a thin added cost to the prospective export-customer (on top of the cost of labour and materials).

It is the same case for the AESA radar and ECM/EW technology onboard the J-10B. The development of these subsystems is not tied to the J-10B but is, in fact, relevant to many applications, including solutions on land and at sea. If not already, the Chinese will be scale this technology expansively, once again putting subsystems from NRIET et. al on a favourable cost footing.

With the next-generation FC-31 being offered for export, it is curious that the J-10B has yet to enter AVIC’s portfolio. Clearly, the Chinese are not hesitant to release their AESA radar and newer EW/ECM technology, lest they would not be offering the FC-31.

In contrast to the FC-31, which has yet to secure backing (much fewer orders) from the PLAAF or People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the J-10B is a complete, adopted, and production ready fighter.

Access to the J-10B does not necessitate a separate investment in research and development (which is the case for the FC-31), and the J-10B already carries industry contemporary subsystems.

For an air force in need of a mature medium-weight fighter platform with qualitative drivers today, such as an AESA radar, the J-10B is more attractive than the FC-31. It is a tangible product.

One can point to Pakistan, but in addition, this fighter could readily attract a wider pool of countries that simply would not have access to the market’s existing AESA radar-equipped medium-weight fighters. The Zhuk-AME-equipped MiG-35 is essentially the only other option for countries such as Algeria or Iran.

The CAC J-10B has potential to secure sales in the short-term, which could be AVIC’s ticket to increase its relevance in the global fighter market.

  • SS_IND

    J-10 is 4.5 gen fighter …facing competition from – Mig – 35, Su-30, F-16V, F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-15 Silent Eagle, Euro Fighter, Rafale and Gripen E. Most nations have already committed to one or more fighters already and even moved to fifth gen fighters. The only nation that has shown interest in J-10 is Iran (which cannot acquire the fighter due to restrictions). So export version even if released would have almost no sales. In fact would be immediately acquired by western forces for training and evaluation. Further the J-10 has not been tested in battle like its competition which are war proven systems. And also countries like India and Pakistan have indigenous Tejas MK-II and JF 17 Block III which are going development with similar technology.

    • Depends on the market.

      For Algeria, American and French fighters are a complete non-factor, and when it comes to Russia, well their last run with Mikoyan wasn’t great. If they wanted a medium weight multi-role fighter, the J-10B would be a strong contender. In fact, Algiers already opened the door to cooperation with the Chinese via a purchase of light frigates not too long ago. As for Iran, the arms embargo is (or at least was) due to end by the early 2020s. Beyond that, the medium weight fighter market isn’t that eventful, I think Egypt could have been a possibility but AVIC missed out on the MiG-29M/M2 (or potentially MiG-35). Beyond that, the potential would have been in the medium-term. The likes of Nigeria, Sudan, Angola, wouldn’t have access to many alternate medium weight fighter options, so it would have been a tussle between China and Russia, and when it comes down to essentials such as credit, offsetting via investments (albeit vertically integrated Chinese investment), etc, Moscow wouldn’t fare too well against Beijing.

      • AMAN

        I agree !!!!

      • Salman Khan

        Yes hopefully it would be the next J-7 as far as export is concerned.

      • Mazhar J

        Bilal, with J10B in reach, why Pakistan still goes out for expensive solutions which look bleak due to our economic situation. JF17 serves totally different purpose, do you think PAF should go for J10B and C when C will be available or opt a different platform like Typhoon Tranche1? Are there any operational similarities between thunder and J10B?

        • At this stage, I wouldn’t say the PAF is actively pursuing anything other than the JF-17 Block-III. We hear about interest in other platforms, but it isn’t serious until both sides confirm talks, and it isn’t done until the ink above the dotted line is dry.

  • AMAN

    PLAAF trusts J-10B more than anyone of it’s fighter jet .(Except-J-20)
    Once J-10B jump into competition – It will cover whole African and Asian market
    It’s so much less costly then it’s competitors.
    The whole region will buy it even Bangladesh too !!!!

    • Bon Plan

      Except j-10s are crashing like dead birds all over the china they are using the AL-31 engine which is not that much reliable and they are using the older version which hasn’t been fixed and upgraded so it’s no wonder they are facing frequent crashes since its a single engine plane and with 4 recorded crashes in 2016 and god knows how many hidden crashes since you know how opaque china is about any information i think pakistan is better of with JF-17 the RD93 is a smoky albeit a reliable engine though and save up funds for the FC-31 since that’s the only 5th generation jet that pakistan is allowed to buy rest are either not allowed or too expensive for pakistan to get so save up till 2025 and give some seed R&D money to china to design and develop the FC-31 and then assemble it in pakistan like the JF-17 it will be the perfect custom tailored solution for PAF.

      • AMAN

        No matter of crashes it is normal with Russian & Chinese jets , they will fix it.
        But despite of crashes All neighboring countries are eager to buy J-10B.
        And i say PAF should Also Procure them when they will be available for export.

        • Bon Plan

          man nobody buys chinese planes except pakistan let alone all neighbouring countries all people who buy chinese goods are short on cash or are banned by west to sensitive technology and no chinese single engine plane is going to make a dent since there are simply too many single engine light to medium weight options you could buy a israeli KFIR fitted with AESA and all the modern ECM and EW suite and a weapons package with 20 million a pop.

          not even PAF chose the j-10 earlier when they trialled it. do you think they will buy it now after rejecting it once? all is not hunky dory with chinese planes and PAF gets a exclusive look at almost every chinese weapon if they reject them than there must be a reason or are you doubting your own air force’s judgement? after all they really trialled the j-10 hard but instead went ahead with FC-1 and with all the money tied in the JF-17 programme PAF will not buy any single engine jet except F-16s that much is clear to anyone however they may buy or will be forced to buy a 5th gen platform which except the F-35 are all dual engine and the only possible candidate is FC-31 unless it is a paper plane because chinese members have mentioned many times that PAF did take a look at FC-31 but hasn’t expressed any interest whatsoever after that.

          maybe they just want to upgrade jf-17 with AESA in third block and focus on that first which is a sound strategy but mark my words PAF is not getting any single engine platform until it has F-16 and JF-17 combo which could be a decade or more until your F16s retire or maybe soon depending on Uncle SAMs mood.

      • noman anis

        Pakistan should not go to the quantity, Pakistan should prefer Western Jet Aircraft like Eurofighter, Mirage 2000, Swedish Gripen, F-16 etc, Chinese or Russian Technology not very reliable, even we have a bitter experience of Chinese technology, till JF17 BlockIII not fully active for Pakistan till then we try to get Western made aircraft

      • noman anis

        Pakistan should think before to buy J-10b……..because the crash ratio of Chinese aircraft J-10 much higher due to its engine fault…J-10B is the variant of J-10…if Pakistan intend to buy J-10B then Pakistan should prefer Western Made Engine and that is near impossible..I think Pakistan should stick with JF-17 Block III Program…try to get avionics from West for JF-!7 Block III,
        http://www.janes.com/article/56791/planaf-j-10-lost-in-crash

    • noman anis

      No country throw its money such unreliable aircraft…we have to check the performance of that plane for few months before to make any decision or comment over J10-B

  • Sami Shahid

    They will export J-10B to Pakistan for sure !

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