The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) began promoting the Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (CAC) J-10C for export. Designated as the FC-20E, AVIC put a model of the fighter on display at its pavilion at the 2019 Dubai Air Show, which was held from 17-21 November 2019.
The J-10 is one of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF) mainstay multi-role fighters, serving as a light-to-mediumweight complement to its large and varied Flanker fleet.
The J-10C is the latest production variant of the J-10, following the J-10B, which introduced multiple key improvements, such as a diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) and electronically scanning radar.
In April 2018, China’s Ministry of Defence announced that the PLAAF’s J-10Cs began taking on operational duties, indicating that the aircraft’s production and induction are both in full swing.
Marquee features of the J-10C reportedly include an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar with 1,200 transmit/receive modules (TRM) with compatibility with long-range beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missiles (AAM). The J-10C was also reportedly photographed with the WS-10 turbofan engine, with at least one unit boasting a thrust-vector control (TVC)-equipped system.
Until recently, AVIC had been promoting the J-10A-based FC-20 for export, but with the FC-20E, it is clear that China’s aerospace giant is looking to market a solution that better matches its competitors’ offerings.
With the FC-20E, AVIC is taking direct aim at markets the Russians and Americans are looking to access with the MiG-35 and F-16 Block-70/72, respectively. These markets are generally looking for modern, but cost-effective multi-role fighters with contemporary sub-systems, such as AESA radars.
However, in most cases, AVIC’s main competition will be Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), which is marketing the MiG-35 as a lower-cost alternative to Western fighters, especially in Africa.
According to an apparent promotional flyer of the FC-20E (previously termed as the J-10CE), the fighter’s specifications are as follows:
Notes & Comments:
Under its original plan for 2015, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had intended to procure 36 FC-20 (i.e., J-10A) to carry its “deep strike” objectives. However, a shortage of funding and, apparently, greater confidence in the JF-17 program (or the J-10A not offering enough benefits for the added cost) shelved those plans.
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Today, it appears that the PAF has largely shelved its plans for an off-the-shelf fighter. Rather, it seems to have opted to focus on developing the JF-17 and, for the future, invest in a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) program under Project Azm. In other words, it will eschew importing fighters.
However, these plans can change. As an example, the previous Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Sohail Aman stated, “Pakistan definitely has to induct new aircraft. We have both Chinese and Russian options.” Thus, with altered circumstances (such as the risk of frequent escalations with India or delays in Project Azm) could see the PAF change tracts again depending on its threat-assessments.
 Alan Warnes. “The Pakistan Air Force – 1998-2008: A New Dawn”. 2009. p18-20