Images and video circulating on different social media platforms suggest that the first batch of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Chengdu J-10C semi-stealth multi-role fighter jets landed at PAF Base Kamra.
Last month, Chinese plane spotters shared unofficial images of two J-10C fighters with PAF markings undergoing test flights at the airbase of Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, a Chinese aerospace conglomerate that designs and manufactures combat aircraft.
The appearance of these images on social media platforms suggested that it was only a matter of time before the PAF receives the delivery of the first batch of J-10Cs from China.
According to the interior minister of Pakistan, Pakistan acquired the J-10C as a response to the Indian acquisition of French Rafale. The first batch of Rafale jets arrived in India in July 2020, four years after India signed the agreement with France. Rafale is a French twin-engine, multi-role fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation.
The J-10C is a modern and powerful single-engine multi-role Chinese fighter. The jet measures around 15.49 meters and has a wingspan of approximately 9.75m. The tail-less canard delta wing J-10C features fly-by-wire flight controls and an AESA fire control radar. It is made of composite materials for high strength and lower weight. Its internal armament consists of a Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23 twin-barrel cannon, located underneath the port side of the intake. Other weaponry and equipment are mounted externally on 11 hardpoints, to which 6,000 kg of either missiles or bombs, drop-tanks containing fuel, or other equipment such as avionics pods can be attached.
Air-to-air missiles deployed by the J-10C may include short-range air-to-air missiles such as the PL-8 and PL-10, medium-range radar-guided air-to-air missiles such as the PL-12 and PL-15, unguided and precision-guided munitions such as laser-guided bombs, air-to-surface missiles such as KD-88, anti-ship missiles such as the YJ-91A, and anti-radiation missiles such as the YJ-91.
The plane is expected to replace the PAF’s 87 delta-wing Mirage III ROSE fighters, which lack modern technology and integrated system.
The J-10C and JF-17 Block 3 are being acquired in parallel as complementary fighters which will drastically increase Pakistan’s aerial warfare capabilities. The J-10C provides Pakistan with its first AESA radar-equipped fighter, and benefits from AESA radar-guided PL-15 missiles, thrust-vectoring engines, stealth features, and highly sophisticated electronic warfare systems and avionics.
The number set to be acquired remains uncertain, with the first-order thought to include 30 aircraft and follow-up orders expected to bring the fleet size to over 70, and possibly over 100.
The fighter’s high altitude, powerful sensors, and very long-range PL-15 missiles between them will revolutionise Pakistan’s ability to defend its airspace and counter threats from high-performance Indian fighters such as the Su-30MKI, which has for two decades formed the elite of the Indian fleet and provided a comfortable performance advantage over the latest Pakistani aircraft.
Where previously the aging F-16C Fighting Falcon was considered Pakistan’s top fighter in air to air combat, it is set to be relegated to third place behind the JF-17 Block 3 and the J-10C with the J-10 being the country’s most capable fighter by a considerable margin.