Iran is rumored
to be buying 150 Chengdu J-10
fighters from China. Reports from 2007
alleged that China planned to sell 24 of the fighters to Iran, however the Chinese government subsequently denied these claims. Pakistan is also a possible regional customer for the J-10, with reports in November 2009
indicating that a deal had been signed for 36 of the jets. The J-10B model entered mass production last year
, with China looking
to develop an indigenous engine to power the fighter to get around Russian objections to the export of its AL31FN-S3 engines currently powering the J-10.
The Chinese J-10 is based on plans sold by the Israelis in the 1980s, after their Lavi fighter program had been canceled. The massacre at Tiananmen Square ended cooperation with western aerospace firms, however, forcing China to install Russian AL-31FN engines instead of American F100/F110s. This in turn forced a slew of alternations owing to changes to the aircraft’s new inlet requirements, weight distribution, center of gravity, et. al. Russian avionics with their own set of space requirements also had to be installed and tested to replace American/Israeli equipment, which led to further design changes. Then there were the indigenous Chinese efforts, including the Type 1473 pulse-Doppler (PD) fire-control radar to replace Israel’s Elta or the American APG-68. The end result entered service in 2003 after well over a decade in development, and is a rather different aircraft than the Lavi. Nonetheless, it retains the aircraft’s canard-delta layout and some of its capabilities, and its aerodynamic layout and known/reported characteristics suggest an aircraft that is equal or slightly superior to American F-16 C/Ds. This could complicate Israeli strikes on targets related to Iran’s nuclear program, though many other variables would also come into play for such scenarios.
If the deal pans out at all… recent reports have thrown it into question.