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The PLAAF and Airborne: a look at the past, present, and the future.


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Well, to put things simply, I'm glad to finally get this thread, as this will mark me being able to cover all aspects of the PLA in detail and to link them all up content wise, so away we go!


Well, this thread will obviously deal about the 1 area that hasn't been covered yet, which is of course the Air Force and Airborne, a bit into the past, and most the present and future, without further ago, I'd like to start off with aircraft designs, with a majority focus on local designs, without further ado, lets begin shall we?


The current primary air-to-air fighter - The J-10B



Full fuel load plus various weapons.



Underside shot with x1 extra fuel tank and loaded with ordnance.



Back shot showing the use of rear mounting space.



Basically, people are speculating for days how good the J-20 and J31 will be, what roles they'll fill, how much of a threat they'll be, etc etc, that's all well and good, but regardless, for the time being, the J-10B is the backbone of the PLAAF's Multirole fighter divisions.


While the J-10B is certainly an older design, It is by consequence one that's had more production time and time to come out with further updates and big fixing, which has resulted in a very solid all around design.


As for the design itself, It's a single engine, single seat (not counting trainer variants) design that uses a tailless canard delta design, though a large delta wing is mounted towards the rear of the fuselage with an accompanying pair of canards mounted directly below and slightly behind the cockpit. the design is made from various, fairly rare light weight, high strength metal alloys and composite arrays which, while increasing the cost somewhat, gives it a light weight frame without sacrificing strength or toughness. Also, due to the delta-canard style airframe design and the unstable airframe (I just said colli's favorite phrase next to "nuclear fusion"), It's also equipped with a redundant fly by wire system that prevent the very tight turn capable design from literally disabling or destroying itself at high speeds.


The frame itself comes by default with up to 11 hard points, however this can be increased to up to 15 when the mission requires it, as for the Avionics, while no huge specifics are known about it, It has 3 LCD multi function displays linked to a helmet mounted sight featuring a holographic heads up display and visual targeting.


During the switch from the A to B variant, the nose mounted radar has been switched to an improved AESA design, which are all the rage in the PLA (and other militaries) right now. and a far more powerful radar unit in itself at that. Other improvements from the A to B include: a more powerful, reliable engine variant, radar absorbent material applied throughout the aircraft aswell as cutting off some sharp edges for smoothed out angles, an Electronic warfare and EMP package, a divertless supersonic inlet, and IRST sensor to give more options on tracking targets, a MAW, RAM coated Canopy, and a completely replaced set of internal electronics with a new generation of solid state electronics.


So basically, the J-10B sort of is the unsung hero of the skies over China while people instead pay attention to newer, shinier things.




Length - 51 Feet/ 15.50 meters


Wingspan - 32 Feet/9.75 meters


Height - 17.80 Feet/5.43 meters


Wing Area - 356.3 Feet²/33.1 meters²


Weight (Empty) -  21,500pounds/9,750 kilograms.


Weight (Loaded) - 28,600 pounds/12,400 kilograms


Maximum Takeoff Weight - 42,500 lb/19,277 kilograms


Top Speed - Mach 2.2 at Altitude, Mach 1.2 Sea level.


Range - 1,600 km with Airborne refueling, 1,100 km without.


Ferry range - 2,000 Miles/3,200 kilometers.


Service Ceiling - 60,000 feet.


Maximum G loading - +10/-3


Armament/Loadout Options. - x1 Twin barreled 23x115mm cannon, 3,600 rounds per minute.


Options for - (might cut out some older variants to save space)


90mm unguided rocket pods.


PL-9C Short range Air to Air missiles


PL-12B/PL-12D Long range Air to Air missiles


LD-10 Anti radiation missiles.


YJ-9K Anti Ship missiles.


PL-9 Air to surface missiles.


GB2/3 family of Precision guided bombs.


LS6 "Standoff" Guided glide bombs.


FT1 Satellite guided bombs.


Standard 250kg and 500kg unguided bombs.


Up to 3 external drop tanks for extended range.




Welp, that took longer then I thought, but I'm glad I have the 4 threads I really want down now, I plan to update all of them if there's interest and when I feel like I can.


Anyway, later, more planes, helos, and the Airborne coming.


Be sure to check my other topics covering the other branches of the PLA.


http://sturgeonshous...d-units-thread/- Regarding Infantry, small arms, and infantry support weapons.


http://sturgeonshous...w-with-content/- Regarding land based vehicles, armor, and weapon systems


http://sturgeonshous...vy-and-marines/- Regarding the Navy, Marines, and Weapons used by them and also land based anti ship defense systems.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Anyway, for more content, some airborne weapons.





The CM-400AKG, while intended as a general purpose air to surface ro surface missile, It also tends to work as an anti ship missile (considering it's based on the design of one, the YJ-12, not too surprising), with a range of 400km (export versions are limited to 250km due to the MTCR treaty) and a top speed of mach 5.5-6 with a 2 different warheads consisting of either a 150kg blast warhead or a 200kg hardened armor piercing warhead for larger ships or hardened targets.


Currently it has various different land, sea, and air launch capable platforms, including some Pakistani ones as they bought some of the export version.


Also pictured: the LS-6 Guided glide bomb: 500kg General purpose bomb as the main warhead, INS, GPS, and laser guidance options, Impact or proximity fuzing option, standoff capability, range in excess of 60 km, etc etc. Its a perfect standoff weapon with quite a large bang.

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I could have sworn that J-10Bs are only just now getting into frontline service, and that the vast majority of J-10s are the older model.


Those Chinese fighter designers sure like them some DSI.  J-20, J-31, FC-17 and J-10B all have 'em.


I'm a little surprised that they could retrofit the J-10 design to use DSI that easily.  Lockheed Martin's line was that DSI had to jive with the forward fuselage, and that there was a lot of tuning to get it all to work.

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IMO, the J-10 is easily their most worrisome airplane. It's something at least as good as our F-16s, and while the Chinese look set to make a jillion of them, our F-16s are literally falling out of the sky.


This. The main concern is just the ability to generate sorties in airspace near China is going to be low enough that it may not even matter if the US planes kill with every AAM they get up in that airspace, there won't be enough sorties to prevent a concerted Chinese attack from knocking out vital support elements like AWACS birds.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Counting pixels to estimate size in grainy satellite photos!  It's like the '80s all over again!


J-20 is huuueegg.


Yeah, It's around the same size as a Flanker or even a Tomcat size wise.


Whether or not it cancels the JH-7B which is supposed to do the same thing allegedly, and retires other, older aircraft (which is speculated) remains to be seen.

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  • 3 weeks later...

So, this is one of the first confirmed photos of the JH-7B variant released, carrying an early model YJ-12 anti ship missile. (sorry it's kind of blurry, had to fuck with the dimensions a little.)




So, while they did do some minor changes in some of the shaping of the aircraft for a reduced signature, and it comes with an option for a stealth coating, they seemed to have abandoned trying to make it a full on stealth aircraft. (And, here comes Colli to say I told you so on not being able to retrofit stealth to an aircraft.)


But, the JH-7, while being designated a "Fighter-Bomber" since it's inception, is far more of a Bomber then a fighter as it's almost always equipped with a heavy amount of bombs and air to surface rockets, missiles and guided munitions, particularly heavy anti ship missiles to cover the vast Pacific coast of China.


the JH-7B, compared to the A, aside from the minor stealth improvements, also comes with new engines that are much more reliable and feature a boost of 15-20% (at peak) thrust without affecting the aerodynamics or weight significantly, which was a much needed improvement, a much improved avionics package, targeting computers/systems and mission computers and real time battle update equipment, active phased radar array, much more extensive use of lightweight, high strength composites and alloys in the frame, a full authority fly by wire system, adding the ability for a second hardpoint under the fuselage for a total of 10, improvements to the safety of aerial refueling, and, oddly enough, supposedly the ability to replace the 23x115mm Gast gun with a 30x165mm gun for certain missions.


So yeah, I mentioned before that, a few years ago, China finally retired the very old Q-5, the JH-7B is going to be doing it's job in the meantime aswell as doing what it did previously, as for the future, will the J-20 in turn take it's place? stay tuned to find out I guess.

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So, since the J-20 is a hot topic, and been discussed, I suppose I may as well talk about the thing, lets do a rundown on what we know so far.


"How much overall do we know about the J-20" - Not a whole lot to be honest, even what it's intended to do is a mystery considering how it will fit in with other aircraft development.


"How many have been built so far?" At least 6 prototypes have been confirmed, using AL-31f engines for testing until the WS-15A/B reaches the desired performance levels.


"Is it really THAT big?" yes, It's actually around the same size or even slightly larger then an F-14 Tomcat, which, if you've never seen one for scale....




"Have the latest prototypes changed much?" well, the pennant number 2015 which flew very late last year showed a change in the shape of the tail booms, not sure what the difference would be radar cross section wise, If someone whos name starts with a C would like to enlighten me, take a look.




"So...the J-20 is the first PLAAF fighter to have internal weapons bays?" Yes.






"So, you mentioned the PLAAF has a specific goal for the 2 WS-15 engines that will eventually be mounted before they'll be used fully, what is said goal?" Thrust to weight ratio of 10:1 or better (currently 9:1), which would require at least 18,350 kilograms of thrust, they also want 180 kilonewtons while afterburning and the ability to super cruise which the current AL-31F engines can't do. and considering the government chose to help and invest around 25 billion dollars to get these engines up to par alone, it will likely achieve that soon.


For an interesting read on the planned rapid advancement of Chinese jet engines, I suggest reading this. http://news.chinatungsten.com/en/tungsten-product-news/299-tpn-61


"When is full scale production/introduction into the PLAAF formally planned?" depending on how smoothly things go, 2017-2020.


"What is the intended armament?" x2 30x165mm cannons (planned, not demonstrated yet), 8-10 (possibly 12, theres rumored to be 2 more side bays in the rear on some of the prototypes for PL-10s) missiles in the internal bays, 6-8 PL-12Bs and 2-4 PL-10s which so far, have been seen loaded with the TY-90 short range air to air missile aswell. this is however believed to have been a stand in for the newer PL-10 which has been seen in more recent photos which is a far more sophisticated air to air missile, and the PL-12B long range air to air missile in the central bays, which is merely a PL-12 variant with folding fins to fit inside internal weapons bays.


As for ground based weapons capabilities..... I have no fucking idea, and outside Chengdu and some higher ups in the PLAAF and the government, chances are you won't find anyone who does.


"So....what else about the aircraft?" first flight was done January 11th, 2011 for maximum 1's (I suppose November 11th 2011 would've worked better, but fuck you and you raining on my parade), It makes alot of use of LCD displays, AESA radar, an electro optical targeting system, a highly unstable design (this is a good thing according to worshippers of nuclear fusion and lovecraftian gods), thats esimated to generate 1.2 times the lift of an ordinary canard delta and 1.8 times the lift of a pure canard delta....this is about all I could dig up, but yeah, I always try and find more things, so check back I guess.

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  • 2 months later...

The early model J-10 had a conventional, mechanically scanned planar array antenna.


The J-10B has something newer; probably a PESA, but maybe an AESA unit.  Note that the plane of the array is angled from the horizontal.  This is a trick to help reduce frontal radar cross section (B-1B does this too).

On the J-10B it's actually an AESA unit.
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That is a big motherfucking airplane. Holy hell.

Also, sortakinda reminds me of a certain Clint Eastwood flick.

Edit: is that 6 AMRAMM/sparrow types? Yikes.

The PL-12 series is slightly larger then the AMRAAM but has about the same performance. So yeah basically.
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  • 2 months later...



This is a wind tunnel model of one of the configurations proposed for the J-9.


The origins of the design of the J-10 are like an episode of Maury.  Everyone want to know who the daddy.


The Chinese maintain that the J-10 is an indigenous design partially based on advanced studies of the J-9.  The one thing that doesn't quite fit about this story is that the J-10 is unstable and the J-9 was stable, and stable and unstable canard designs work rather differently.  The SAAB gripen, for example, is not an evolution of the SAAB viggen.  It's a completely new design that just happens to look similar.  But it certainly doesn't seem impossible that China could have developed a new unstable delta-canard with minimal outside assistance, although it would have been a major and ambitious undertaking.




Popular internet opinion is that the J-10 is substantially based on the IAI Lavi.  There is a certain emotional appeal to this idea; a lot of people were sad to see Lavi go, so it's nice to believe it lives on somewhere.  It also ties into fears about US information security; the Israelis definitely have slipped information on avionics systems (and other things) to the Chinese in the past.  There definitely are some similarities too; the design of the air intake, the wing/body blending and the ventral fins are similar.


There are some problems with this idea, however.  It's often forgotten that Lavi was an Israeli bird in name only.  The aircraft was actually developed by Grumman to Israeli specifications.  The Israelis wouldn't exactly have been in a position to pass on a lot of the technical information on to the Chinese.  The PW 1120 engine, for instance, had markedly better TBO than the Russian-built engines in some J-10s, and was better still than the Chinese-built engines initially used in J-10.  If anything would have helped the Chinese a lot, it would have been secrets about the manufacture of turbine blisks, mono-crystal super alloys, FADEC, et cetera.  But the Israelis were never in possession of that information, just as they were never in possession of much of the information about the rest of the aircraft.


There are further problems.  The position of the canards on the Lavi is much lower.  This may seem like an inconsequential difference, but on delta-canard fighters, the exact location of the canards matters.  Canards produce vortices that interact with the main wing in complex ways.  At high angles of attack, such as during combat maneuvering, these vortices can delay the stall of the main wing, which allows higher angles of attack, greater lift and more aggressive maneuvering.  However, a poorly designed canard will rob efficiency from the main wing in cruise flight.  Getting a good compromise of behaviors across all flight speeds, altitudes and alpha is not an easy task, and requires extensive "tuning".  So, if the design of the foreplane and the main wing in the J-10 is not an exact copy of the Lavi's, it's hard to see how they could be related.  The general behavior of canard foreplanes and delta wings was of course quite well known by that point.


Finally, all the features that the J-10 and Lavi share in common aside from the canard configuration; ventral, fixed-geometry intake, ventral fins, modest wing/body blending with the blends ending in shelves, are all seen on the F-16 as well!




This is an artist's concept of the Mikoyan-Gurevich LFI, which was a design intended to replace the MiG-29.  The MiG 1.42, which actually did fly albeit briefly, was a related project based on the same TSAGI wind-tunnel studies.


Given the extensive recent history of Russian cooperation on Chinese aerospace projects (e.g. Kamov's design of the Z-10 attack helicopter), the possibility that the J-10 is somehow based on a Soviet or Russian design should not be overlooked.  However, for this to be the case, J-10 would have had to have been designed very quickly indeed, as Chinese/Soviet relations were not at all friendly after the Sino/Soviet split, and J-10 first flew in 1998!  Russian firms have claimed to have helped with J-10, but the role they claim is rather modest, and has more to do with generally helping the Chengdu engineers learn how to design a fighter rather than passing a mostly-completed design to them.  Interestingly, they seem to believe that the J-10 is largely based on Lavi!




Above is the Super 7 proposal.  During a brief period after Deng Xaioing's ascent to power and the Tienanmen Square demonstration crackdowns, there were warm relations between the USA and the PRC during which a great deal of technical information was passed to the Chinese.  The Super 7 was a proposal for a radically upgraded J-7 (MiG-21) that would use the latest in American engines, avionics and weapons, but still be able to re-use some of the old J-7 tooling for production.  The primary American contractor for the program... was Grumman, who also designed the Lavi!

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Yeah, to be honest, looking at all the evidence in the past leads me to believe it was a combination of bits from the scrapped J-9 program coupled with help from Grumman as by far the most likely source. Though, not in the way of "J-10 = SIMPLY J-10 CLONE DURR ISRAELI AIRCRAFT!" that idiots like Anshulac parrot, but more by Grumman directly as you outlined.


I'll have to post this later as I'm on a phone by now, but there's also some evidence that General Dynamics may have been involved during certain points with certain aspects of what would eventually become the J-10, though, exactly how directly isn't really known. remind me to dig it up when I get back to PC.

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Further information:



These are some Chinese napkin fighters, mostly from the mid '80s.  The top two are Shenyang J-13 concepts; the top is earlier than the second one.  Underneath that is the Nanchang Q-6 and underneath that is an alternate configuration for the JH-7 with side by side seating.


The second Shenyang J-13 shows the F-16-esque air intake design.  This design is light and simple and gives good airflow at high AOA.  It suffers from poor pressure recovery at high mach numbers, however (note that the twin-engined J-9 concept has more complex variable-geometry intakes for high speed flight).


J-9 concepts were all over the place.  Some looked like a Chinese viggen with MiG-23 ventral fins:



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  • 2 weeks later...

the J-8IIM, the last full upgrade seen for the Finback, troubled at the start, but going to be sad to see it go. (they're very rarely used these days, they're not forseen as being in service much longer.)



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the J-8IIM, the last full upgrade seen for the Finback, troubled at the start, but going to be sad to see it go. (they're very rarely used these days, they're not forseen as being in service much longer.)




It's sort of an icon, isn't it? Like a weird late-to-the-party Asian Phantom equivalent. Not to mention its historical significance.

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