GEAR & TECH

China's F-16 ripoff just got new stealth upgrades

Article by Ben Brimelow
(Photo by Retxham)

China's Chengdu J-10 multirole fighter jet may be getting an engine upgrade that will increase its maneuverability and make it harder to detect on radar.

Defense News reports that a photo of a J-10C in an unknown Chinese defense magazine features an engine that appears to be equipped with a thrust vectoring nozzle. The engine also appears to have sawtooth edges, according to Defense News, and the bottom part of the compartment that houses the fighter's drogue parachute was removed.


The new nozzle will enable the J-10 to be capable of thrust vectoring, sometimes referred to as thrust vector control or TVC. TVC happens when the engine itself is directed in different directions, directly manipulating the thrust generated from the engine.

This gives the pilot greater control of altitude and angular velocity, and enables the aircraft to make better turns, substantially increasing maneuverability.

The new nozzle suggests that the Chinese have made gains in their attempts to add TVC technology to fighter jets.

But increased maneuverability is not the only thing that the engine provides. The sawtooth edges around the nozzle are similar to those used by other stealth aircraft like the F-35 and F-22. Russia's Sukhoi Su-30/35 Flanker series of fighters also utilize the same edges.

The J-10C is actually an improved version of the J-10. It features enhanced 4th generation electronics, like an active electronically scanned array radar, and also has a diverterless supersonic inlet, an air intake system that diverts boundary layer airflow away from the aircraft's engine lowering its radar cross section.

The J-10 itself is rumored to be a Chinese copy of the American F-16.

A 35th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off for a Beverly Bulldog 14-01 sortie Nov. 19, 2013, at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando A. Schwier-Morales)

In the 1990s, Israel was hoping to make its own domestic fighter jet that could compete on the international market. It required assistance from US companies and ended up making the IAI Lavi, a fighter that heavily resembled the F-16.

After it was discovered that up to $1.3 billion of US aid to Israel was spent on the development of the Lavi, and that the US was essentially funding a potential competitor, the project was canceled.

The plans for the fighter were then said to have been sold to China. Some US government officials even believed that Israel and China were collaborating with each other to develop the fighter. China and Israel have both denied all such claims.

China has been aggresively pursuing stealth capability for its jets. In September 2017, the government officially announced that its stealth fighter jet, the J-20, was in active service.