With China growing more aggressive in maritime territorial disputes in the East China Sea, there is a growing chance, albeit still very small, that a conflict with Japan could emerge.
This would end up putting two very well-equipped air forces against each other, and each has a plane that looks very much like a F-16 Fighting Falcon.
While China’s Su-27 and J-11 Flankers have drawn a lot of attention, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force also have a number of Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” jets in service. This is a single-engine fighter, using the same AL-31 powering the Su-27 family of fighters.
It can carry a variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons. China claims to have developed the J-10 on its own, even though there are rumors that they acquired data on a prototype fighter Israel cancelled called the Lavi.
The Mitsubishi F-2 is also a single-engine fighter, also able to carry air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. The plane is best described as an F-16 on steroids, and it is receiving upgrades. It replaced the Mitsubishi F-1, and fulfills not only an anti-shipping role (by carrying up to four ASM-2s), it also can carry guided bombs.
The F-2 was a modified F-16, and some technology was transferred both ways in the project.
FlightGlobal.com notes that China has over 250 J-10s in service between the PLAAF and PLANAF. Japan has a total of 62 F-2A and 19 F-2B fighters in service. This gives China a three-to-one edge, but the F-2A’s anti-air capabilities with the AAM-4 are considered to be far superior.
The J-10, though, is not a bad plane, and the sheer numbers can have a quality of their own.