A newly built J-10C fighter has been fitted with a domestically developed WS-10 Taihang engine to replace the Russian-made AL-31 engine.
The images show an apparently newly built Chengdu Aircraft Industries Company (CAIC) J-10C fighter aircraft in People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) markings fitted with what appears to a WS10B engine, rather than the Russian-made Saturn AL-31FN turbofan that normally powers these aircraft. All main-production J-10s built by 2018, about 300 aircraft, appear to be powered by the AL-31FN.
It is unclear when or where the CCTV images were taken but the pictured aircraft, which appears to be almost ready for delivery, seems to be part of the fourth production batch of J-10Cs for the PLAAF.
Meanwhile, an image allegedly taken in mid-December 2019 but only posted recently on Chinese online forums suggests that the fifth batch of J-10C fighters is currently undergoing testing. The blurry photograph shows a J-10C painted in yellow primer and bearing what appears to be serial number 502 during a test flight at CAIC’s production facility in Chengdu Huangtianba.
The J-10 is a single-engine lightweight design comparable to the American F-16C Fighting Falcon, although its latest variant boasts considerable performance advantages over foreign rivals including the ability to operate at higher speeds and altitudes, a powerful AESA radar, thrust-vectoring engines for added manoeuvrability and PL-15 missiles for an extended range.
The fighters also make use of stealth coatings to reduce their radar cross-sections and have been deployed by a number of elite units alongside the heavier and more specialised J-20 and J-16 platforms – the three of which all have highly complementary capabilities. The platform’s high performance allows it to pose a threat to much heavier classes of aircraft such as the American F-15C Eagle – according to U.S. reports.
Currently, the J-20 uses the Russian AL-31FM2/3 engines and is expected to transition to a more powerful WS-15 engine which many observers believe is inspired or reverse-engineered from the Russian AL-31 engine that goes into the Su-35 fighter jet.
The WS-10 Taihang is China’s first high-performance, high-thrust turbofan engine with intellectual property rights, Chinese Central Television reported.