China’s J-10 fighter jet may be getting some impressive upgrades to make it more stealthy

A Chengdu J-10 seen at Zhuhai airshow in 2009.

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A Chengdu J-10 seen at Zhuhai airshow in 2009.
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Wikimedia commons

  • A photo on a Chinese defense magazine suggests that China’s main fighter jet, the J-10, is being tested with new upgrades that will increase its maneuverability and make it more stealthy.
  • The upgrades appear to be the addition of a new type of thrust vectoring nozzle, as well as physical changes to parts of the jet.
  • China has been aggressively pursuing stealth capabilities and the image suggests that China is looking for ways to make their aircraft deadlier.

China’s Chengdu J-10 multirole fighter jet may be getting an engine upgrade that will increase its maneuverability and make it harder to detect on radar.

Defense News reports that a photo of a J-10C in an unknown Chinese defense magazine features an engine that appears to be equipped with a thrust vectoring nozzle. The engine also appears to have sawtooth edges, according to Defense News, and the bottom part of the compartment that houses the fighter’s drogue parachute removed.

The new nozzle will enable the J-10 to be capable of thrust vectoring, sometimes referred to as thrust vector control or TVC. TVC happens when the engine itself is directed in different directions, directly manipulating the thrust generated from the engine.

This gives the pilot greater control of altitude and angular velocity, and enables the aircraft to make better turns substantially increasing maneuverability.

The new nozzle suggests that the Chinese have made gains in their attempts to add TVC technology to fighter jets.

But increased maneuverability is not the only thing that the engine provides. The sawtooth edges around the nozzle are similar to those used by other stealth aircraft like the F-35 and F-22. Russia’s Sukhoi Su-30/35 Flanker series of fighters also utilize the same edges.

The J-10C is actually an improved version of the J-10. It features enhanced 4th generation electronics like an active electronically scanned array radar, and also has a diverterless supersonic inlet, an air intake system that diverts boundary layer airflow away from the aircraft’s engine lowering its radar cross section.

The J-10 itself is rumored to be a Chinese copy of the American F-16.

In the 1990s, Israel was hoping to make its own domestic fighter jet that could compete on the international market. It required assistance from US companies and ended up making the IAI Lavi, a fighter that heavily resembled the F-16.

After it was discovered that up to $1.3 billion of US aid to Israel was spent on the development of the Lavi, and that the US was essentially funding a potential competitor, the project was canceled.

The plans for the fighter were then said to have been sold to China. Some US government officials even believed that Israel and China were collaborating with each other to develop the fighter. China and Israel have both denied all such claims.

China has been aggresively pursuing stealth capability for its jets. Last September, the government officially announced that its stealth fighter jet, the J-20, was in active service.