The first images of a new fighter aircraft China is supplying to the Pakistan Air Force surfaced on social media on Tuesday.
Rumours and reports of Pakistan being interested in the J-10, a single-engine fighter, have circulated for at least 15 years, though no deal was announced. However, since December, Pakistani officials have indicated the country would be acquiring the J-10C, an export variant of the J-10 fighter. China officially revealed the J-10 to the world in 2006. Pakistan is the first export customer of the J-10.
On Tuesday, plane spotters and defense analysts shared images of a J-10 fighter bearing the insignia of the Pakistan Air Force and having the PAF’s distinctive camouflage pattern. Images showed the aircraft on the tarmac and in flight. US defense website The Drive reported the images appeared to have been taken “at an undisclosed airbase in China, presumed to be the factory facility of the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, or CAC, in Chengdu, Sichuan province”.
The images posted in twitter showed the J-10C was powered by a Chinese turbofan engine, the WS-10B. This is significant as early Chinese J-10 jets used a Russian-built engine, the AL-31. The presence of a Chinese engine would make supply of the aircraft immune to any geopolitical pressure from Russia.
Pakistan’s military confirmed in early January that the country’s air force would receive a new fighter jet from China. In late December, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said Pakistan would receive 25 J-10 fighters from China and these would fly on March 23, Pakistan’s national day.
Both Rasheed Ahmed and the Pakistani military had argued the purchase was in response to India’s acquisition of the Rafale fighters from France.
While a single-engine aircraft, the J-10 is significantly larger than the existing JF-17 fighters that Pakistan is manufacturing in cooperation with China. The larger size enables the J-10 to carry a larger radar and heavier load of weapons and fuel, in addition to equipment such as an infrared tracking sensor. An infra-red tracking sensor would allow the J-10 to detect enemy aircraft discretely as it does not have any electronic emissions, unlike a radar. Moreover, the J-10 has a ‘delta-canard’ design similar to the Rafale, which endows it with high manoeuvrability in a dogfight.
The presence of a more capable radar would also make the J-10 a more suitable platform to operate the PL-15 very-long-range air-to-air missile, which is estimated to have a range in excess of 200km.
Analysts believe the J-10 would supplement Pakistan’s ageing fleet of F-16 fighters.
Rafale’s METEOR, HAMMER & BVR
The Rafale is France’s most state-of-the-art fighter jet, capable of speeds of more than 2,000 kilometres an hour (1,400 miles per hour), which has been deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Mali. It has been cleared to operate weapons like the MICA air-to-air ‘Beyond Visual Range’ (BVR) interception, combat and self-defence missiles, the METEOR very long-range air-to-air missile, the HAMMER — Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range — modular, rocket-boosted air-to-ground precision-guided weapon series, laser-guided bombs with different warheads, and “specifics armaments” selected by some clients.
The Rafale is also fitted with 14 hardpoints, out of which five are capable of drop tanks and heavy ordnance.
The jet’s total external load capacity is more than nine tones.
“Hence, Rafale can lift the equivalent of its own empty weight in payloads,” according to Dassault. As per the manufacturers, the pilot interface is very easy to use and relies on a highly integrated suite of equipment which has capabilities for short-term, medium and long-term actions.
The design of the cockpit gives a wide field of view at the front, on both sides, and at the rear.
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