A couple of things before I get into this post. Things at work have really picked up recently and will stay that way in the foreseeable future. As the result of that, I will not be able to post as much during this time. You guys probably have noticed that by my absence this month. Also, I have concentrated far more on the navy the past couple of years and that is part of my move to spend less time speculating and more time just providing photographic evidences. Clearly, the naval shipbuilding program is a lot more visible at the moment than the military aircraft industry. Having said, we have seen some good news recently with regard to two of PLA's most important aerospace project: Z-10 and J-10.
Here is a couple of photos of thew new Z-10 (Z-10A???). The first three are up close shots of Z-10 carrying different weapon systems (including the really nice shot of PL-90) and the last photo shows Z-10's whole view with rocket launchers, 30 mm gun and ATGM/AAM launchers. We can also see a completely new designed nose turret compared to what it had before.
We know that they came out with Z-10 a while ago, but had to go back to the drawing board for some changes after the original engine PT6C-67C was no longer allowed to be used for it. I believe these new Z-10s are using the domestic WZ-9 engine, which has much less power than PT6C-67C. The new Z-10s appear to be much slender and slightly stealthier than the original design. I think the reduced profile has a lot to do with the less powerful engine.
The most interesting part are the photos below. They show that the new Z-10 has entered service in the 5th Army Aviation Regiment (LH-951xx) of Nanjing Military Region. From the numbering below, it appears that at least 8 units of this new Z-10 has joined service. On top of the original Z-10s that were delivered to army aviation in 2007, they probably have > 10 Z-10s in service by now. I'm not clear on how many helicopters are in each attack helo regiment of PLA, but there are 30-40 helicopters per regiment for smaller training utility helicopters like HC-120.
We have also seen some new and encouraging photos of J-10s. I got a photo in January of this year showing the first 4 J-10s delivered to the 26th regiment of PLAAF. This is the first picture we have of a J-10 with numbering from that regiment. I would say that this regiment should be fully equipped by now.
We also saw the first J-10 regiment in PLANAF. We can see the twin seater 83148 and the single seater 83143 in the next 2 photos. The number 8 indicates that this is part of PLANAF. The number 4 indicates that this is part of the 4th division of PLANAF and the number 3 indicates that this is the 3rd regiment of the 4th division. The other two numbers indicate that they are the number 13 and 18 of the regiment. This would indicate that the new regiment is located in Luqiao, which is under the East Sea Fleet and within striking distance of Taiwan. I do not believe that this batch of J-10s have any differences than the PLAAF J-10s. It is good to see that PLANAF is finally getting some 4th generation fighters jets outside of that Su-30MK2 regiments. A while ago, we also saw a bunch of J-11BS fighter jets in PLANAF colours outside of SAC. The other thing that we do not know is the size of the regiment. We know that PLAAF J-10 regiments generally have 28 aircraft (24 single and 4 twin seaters), but PLANAF regiments seem to be smaller in size than PLAAF ones.
The question is often how many J-10s are going into service and whether we will see new J-10 regiments formed for PLAAF. It appears from the photos below (from May) that there were at least 37 single seaters and a few twin seaters produced in the 5th batch of J-10s. The numbers on the J-10s are based on CAC designation. I believe the first digit indicates the batch # of the J-10 and the next 2 indicates the number of this aircraft in that batch. The lone twin-seated J-10 photo seems to indicate that twin-seaters have a different numbering mechanism. These J-10s were produced in the first half of this year imo and were delivered to the 26th PLAAF regiment and 12th PLANAF regiment.
The photos below show the 6th batch of J-10s going through the testing phase outside of CAC. I'm not sure how large this batch of J-10s will be, but it could be limited by the number of AL-31FNs that China has. There appears to be enough J-10s in this 6th batch to at least start forming a new regiment. I think they will need to place a new order for AL-31FNs soon, if WS-10A is still not ready for J-10 next year.