Thursday, October 18, 2012

Status of J-10

Recently, we've seen what appears to be the last batch of J-10A fighter jets making their test flights. The 6th batch of J-10As number all the way up to 637 were seeing making test flights. That indicates there are at least 37 J-10As in this 6th batch. There were also at least 37 J-10As in the 6th batch. One of the commonly asked questions now that J-10A is drawing to a close is how many of these planes are there. If we assume that each of 6 J-10A and 2 J-10S batches have around 37 aircraft, then theer would be 8 * 37 = 296 J-10s. Based on the number of actual regiments we've seen, this seems to be quite unlikely. While the 2nd j-10S batch and the last 2 J-10A batch have produced between 35 to 40 J-10s, the earlier batches probably had smaller number of aircraft.

As far as we can tell, there are 7 PLAAF regiments of J-10 (in 44, 3, 2, 1, 24, 9, 15th division) and 1 PLANAF regiment. In addition, there are also 12 J-10s serving at the August first flight demonstration team and somewhere betwen 15 and 20 J-10s serving with FTTC as aggressor squad. There should be 24 J-10s serving in the PLANAF regiment and 28 J-10s serving in most PLAAF regiments (although we may have 36 serving in the 24th division regiment). Assuming that the last batch of J-10s will be used to fully form the 15th division regiment, we should have at most 24 + 12 + 20 + 28 * 6 + 36 = 260 J-10s in service at that time. If we factor in a few crashed and replaced J-10s, we are only around 30 off that first calculation of 296 J-10s.

The next question is whether or not the number of engines adds up. Based on some help from fellow SDF member asif iqbal, it seems like the delivery of AL-31FN from Russia have been the following.

54 ordered in 2000 delivered between 2001-2005
100 ordered in 2005 delivered between 2005-2008
122 ordered in 2009 delivered between 2010-2011
123 ordered in 2011 delivery’s due between 2011-2013

That would represent 399 AL-31FNs delivered by sometimes next year. A couple of those have probably been used for the J-10B program while a good number of them will be used as spare engines for J-10s. An estimate of 250 J-10A and J-10S by the end of J-10A production run does not seem too crazy. The question of power plant for J-10 is kind of puzzling. It seems like the first batch of J-10B will also be using the base version of AL-31FN. While I do expect J-10B to eventually use WS-10A, it doesn't seem like that will be the case yet. At the same time, if PLAAF does place another order for AL-31FN, I think it would be quite disappointing if it will not be for a higher thrusted version.

At this point, the J-10B project has already been flying for close to 4 years. I had expected to already see the first batch of J-10B to come out by now, but it looks like we will have to wait until next year for that. It does seem like CAC has lost some of its shine recently to the number of new aircraft showing up at SAC. There could be many reasons for the amount of time they have been testing out the J-10B project. A lot of resources are used up for the J-20 projects while production for J-10A remains quite strong. But in the end, I think the change from J-10A to J-10B is quite a large change. CAC is testing out a lot of new technologies that will also be used for other projects.