J-10 Fighter Officially Declassified
(29 December 2006) The Chinese state-run media made the first official disclosure of the new-generation indigenous Jian-10 (J-10) fighter aircraft on 29 December 2006, stating that the aircraft had already entered operational service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The reports were the first official recognition of this top-secret project which first began in the late 1980s. The declassification of the J-10 fighter may also suggest that the aircraft would soon become available for export market.
The official government press agency Xinhua News Agency reported on 29 December that the Chinese air force is now equipped with the new-generation J-10 fighter. The report, which cited sources within the PLAAF, indicated that “(PLAAF’s) overall battle effectiveness has been noticeably enhanced after being equipped with the aircraft and through intensive drills and training”.
Xinhua also reported that the J-10 fighter is capable of launching precision strike weapons and conducting long-distance offensive operations. According to the report, the PLAAF unit equipped with the J-10 fighter had already reached the initial operational capability (IOC).
China Central Television (CCTV) also broadcasted TV footages of the J-10 fighter on 29 December, including the aircraft launching air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, and receiving aerial refuelling from a H-6 tanker.
The J-10 fighter project had remained highly classified since it commenced in the late 1980s. For nearly a decade, photos of this top-secret project have regularly appeared on Internet forums around the world. However, the project was not allowed to be publicised until recently, mainly due to security concerns. It was widely speculated that the much-anticipated J-10 would be revealed in the 2006 Zhuhai Air Show held in November, but the debut was cancelled in the last minute for unknown reason.
Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC) is reportedly keen to market the J-10 fighter worldwide as a cheaper next-generation fighter. Many third-world countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa may find it an ideal alternative to the expensive high-performance fighters made by US, Europe, and Russia. Pakistan is reportedly in negotiation with China to purchase up to fifty J-10 fighters.