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Pakistan Eyes More J-10C Fighters


Nov 13, 2018
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Pakistan Eyes More J-10C Fighters
In 1961, Pakistan, as a major non-NATO ally, received F-104 Starfighters from the USA under the Mutual Assistance Program. The IAF responded by purchasing the Soviet MiG-21, which entered service in 1964.

In 1981, the USA cleared F-16 sales to Pakistan as part of an aid package. India signed for Mirage 2000 in 1982.In 1984, India ordered and became the first international customer of the MiG-29 outside of the Warsaw Pact.

The PAF has been operating the Saab 2000 using the Erieye radar as its primary AEW&C platform since 2009 and the Chinese ZDK-03 AEW&C since 2011. The PAF operates three modified Dassault Falcon 20 aircraft, which have a primary role in electronic warfare. India inducted the Beriev A-50 Phalcon AEW&C in 2009, and the DRDO ‘Netra’ AEW&C was inducted in 2017.

PAF inducted the first JF-17 squadron in February 2010, vis-à-vis IAF inducting LCA Mk1 in January 2015. PAF already has close to 150 of these home-grown fighters. India has built around 50 LCA.

The first batch of JF-17C Block 3 aircraft was inducted in PAF in March 2023. India’s LCA Mk1A will be inducted soon. India signed up for the Rafale in 2015, and Pakistan responded with the purchase of J-10CE, signing the deal in 2021.

J-10 Vigorous Dragon
The Chengdu J-10 is a medium-weight, single-engine, multi-role, all-weather combat aircraft with a delta wing and canard design and fly-by-wire flight controls. It is primarily designed for air-to-air combat but can also perform strike missions.

The aircraft is considered to be of the fourth-plus generation. It made its first flight in 1998 and was inducted into service in 2005. Over 600 aircraft have been built and are flying with the PLAAF, the PLA Navy, and the PAF.

J-10C is the upgraded version. It is powered by a WS-10B thrust-vectoring control engine and equipped with an indigenous AESA fire-control radar, imaging infrared seeker (IIR) PL-10, and long-range PL-15 air-to-air missiles (AAM). J-10CE is the export version of J-10C. The export variant’s radar has a lesser range, and there are weapon sales restrictions. PL-15 is reportedly still not cleared for Pakistan.

Pakistan has selected the Grifo-E AESA-MMR from Italian company Leonardo’s SELEX-ES subsidiary for its J-10CEs. The same radar will be on Chengdu JF-17 Block-3 aircraft.

Pakistani aircraft are being modified for the Link-16 air-to-air/air-to-ground voice/data communications network. Also, the software-defined radio (SDR) is from Leonardo. These modifications are being done at the PAC Kamra Complex.

Pakistan had earlier ordered 36 J-10CE, and may order 14 more to make the total 50. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have reportedly expressed interest in purchasing J-10CE jets.

Pak Fighter
File Image: Pakistan’s Fighter Jets
Rafale Compared To J-10CE
A comparison between the J-10CE and Rafale fighter jets is somewhat unfair, primarily because the latter is a twin-engine fighter with a globally recognized Meteor missile system and the latest electronic warfare suite.

The J-10 and the Rafale can both be termed 4.5-generation multi-role fighter jets that, on some counts, have similar performance and capabilities. However, the Rafale has a clear edge over the J-10 in terms of technology, weapons, aero-engines, and combat experience.

The Rafale also has one of the best electronic warfare suites. It can have a supercruise with four missiles and a 1250-liter belly drop tank. The technical parameters of the two are tabulated in the table below.

RafaleJ-10 CE
Length (meters)15.2716.03
Wing Span (metres)10.909.75
Empty weight (kg)9,8508,850
Max Take-Off Weight (kg)24,50019,277
Hard Points and Payload14 (9,500 kg)11 (5,600 kg)
Range (km)3,7001,850
Engine and Thrust2xSnecma M88-4e (150 kN)Shenyang WS-10 (140kN)
RadarRBE2 AESAChinese AESA,
AAM (Range)Meteor (200 km)PL-15 (200 km)
PL-12 (70-100 km)

The Rafale has 20 percent greater thrust for just 11 percent higher weight than the J-10C and, therefore, a better thrust/weight ratio. The Snecma M88 is a tried-and-tested aero engine, while the WS-10 reportedly matured enough only after 2009 and is still evolving.

The Rafale has been used in combat operations in Mali, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and Syria. The J-10 has, at best, only done joint exercises with Pakistan.

Pakistan Needs Replacements
Pakistan continues to fly F-7PG (MiG-21 variant), Dassault Mirage III aircraft of ROSE I project vintage, Mirage 5 ROSE II, Mirage IIIEA, and Mirage 5PA.

These seven squadron equivalents are due for phasing out. Effectively, they will be required to replace nearly 250 aircraft in the next decade. The current plan of PAF is to reduce the force to three types. F-16, J-10CE, and JF-17.

They will add a fifth-generation fighter aircraft of Turkish (Kaan) or Chinese (J-31) origin by around 2030. There have been reports that PAF has been interested in KJ-500 AEW&C and Y-8 electronic warfare aircraft.

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