J-10 Meng Long Vigorous Dragon

Date: Issue 111 - December 2021

The birth of the J-10 Meng Long (Vigorous Dragon) began with the need for a successor to the J-7 (Chinese license-built version of the Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21). Thus, one of China's most ambitious defense projects began, and the offer of Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) was accepted in 1984. In 1986, the final requirements for the aircraft were finalized, and long-term development activities began. When the project started, the J-10 was intended to be a fighter-interceptor aircraft. 

During the design phase, it was decided to preserve the single-engine airframe with delta wings and canard layout, as in the J-9, an older project of Chengdu. The J-9 had two Mirage-style semi­circular lateral air intakes on the fuselage sides featuring variable inlet geometry. The air intake design changed and was replaced with a single chin air intake under the fuselage. There are claims that China received aid from Israel while shaping the outlook of the fighter. In the early '80s, Israel started to develop its own fourth-generation fighter. Based on F-16 technology, IAI Lavi made its first flight in 1986. However, the project remained in the prototype stage and was later canceled. For political reasons, both countries denied cooperation between them. Although the overall geometry was similar, there were significant differences between the planes. The J-10 was larger and had a different wing plan form. Canards were set higher and further positioned on the fuselage. While the Lavi had a fixed-area air intake with a quasi-elliptical cross-section similar to the F-16, the J-10 featured a two-dimensional variable air intake. On the J-10, a rectangular air intake ramp and a splitter plate are located underneath the fuselage, which was designed to reduce incoming air to subsonic speeds before reaching the compressor and turbine blades of the jet engine. Also, the two aircraft were developed to meet different requirements. The Lavi was optimized for strike missions primarily, with air superiority as a secondary role. With the J-10, it is vice versa.