China Begins Delivering ‘Rafale Challenger’ J-10C Fighter Jets To Pakistan? New Images Take Social Media By Storm

Images of what is claimed to be Pakistan’s first two J-10C multi-role fighter jets have surfaced on social media. Islamabad is reportedly acquiring the Chinese-made aircraft in response to India’s purchase of Rafale jets. 

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The first squadron of 25 J-10Cs, the latest variant of China’s J-10, is likely to arrive soon, as previous reports said that these jets will perform a flypast at the Pakistan Day parade on  March 23, 2022. The single-engine medium-weight fighters are being acquired to modernize the Pakistan Air force (PAF).

The order is crucial for the Chinese aerospace sector because it’s the first time the J-10 has been sold outside of China. The images were purportedly shot at the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation’s (CAC) factory in Sichuan province. A jet with the PAF insignia is seen taking a test flight.

The serial numbers 22-102 and 22-106 are also visible in the close-ups, implying that at least two aircraft are being tested. 

Equipped With WS-10B Engine

China is putting a lot of effort to reduce its reliance on Russian engines. One of the J-10s seen in the picture appears to be equipped with a Chinese-made WS-10B Taihang engine. The J-10A and J-10B variants are powered by the Russian AL-31F engine.

A few images doing the rounds on Twitter in December showed several rows of J-10s in CAC’s assembly line, fuelling speculation that they were destined for Pakistan. China has not made any official announcements about the Pakistani order yet. 

J-10C Fighter Jet

Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Sheikh Rashid, told reporters in Rawalpindi on December 29 that a squadron of 25 Chinese-made “JS-10” planes would perform a flypast at the Pakistan Day parade on March 23. According to the ministry, the Chinese jets are being acquired in “reaction to India’s Rafale jets”. 

Previous reports suggested that Pakistan was set to purchase 36 J-10C semi-stealth 4.5 generation aircraft from China, but neither side has confirmed this so far. However, there is no clarity on why this number has been reduced to 25.

These aircraft will join Pakistan’s existing fleet of JF-17 fighter jets, which were jointly developed by Beijing and Islamabad as part of a large-scale program.

China and Pakistan are also producing the latest JF-17 Block III version, which features a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a helmet-mounted display, beyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles, as well as other improvements.

Chengdu 10 (via Wikipedia Commons)

PAF pilots were introduced to the J-10 as part of the Shaheen series of joint Sino-Pakistani exercises. The J-10C is far more advanced in terms of aerodynamics and avionics than the JF-17 and is a considerably bigger jet with a higher payload. 

An infrared search and track and laser rangefinder dome in front of the cockpit and a glass cockpit with a wide-angle holographic head-up display are salient features of the J-10C. 

The diverterless supersonic inlet used on the J-10B has been retained on the new variant. The new AESA radar is housed in the radome and will work with the same active-radar-guided PL-15 air-to-air missiles that the PAF has previously purchased for its latest JF-17 Block III fighters. These missiles have a dual-pulse motor that provides them a longer range 

J-10C To Counter India’s Rafale?

It is said that Pakistan’s decision to buy J-10s is to counter its key regional adversary, India. The Indian Air Force will soon receive the last of the 36 Rafale fighters ordered from France. Furthermore, the country is looking to procure 114 multi-role fighters.

The 4.5-generation Rafale has a number of advantages over the J-10, including improved all-around performance, advanced avionics, electronic warfare systems, and a potentially wider range of weaponry, including ramjet-powered Meteor BVR missiles.

IAF Rafale. (Wikimedia Commons)

Nonetheless, by purchasing a similar ‘4.5 generation’ fighter, PAF is trying to remain as modern as possible. The blend of modern sensors and weapons such as AESA and PL-15 missiles could give PAF J-10C an advantage over other fighter jets in IAF’s inventory.

Considering China-Pakistan’s hostile relations with India, it’s possible that the PAF J-10s could be modified to carry airborne nuclear weapons in the near future. At present, PAF Mirage jets are tasked with such missions, although they are in urgent need of replacements.