Monday, August 10, 2015

Report: Iran to Receive 24 J-10 Fighters from China - Ami Rojkes Dombe

by Ami Rojkes Dombe

According to Chinese media, Iran will allow Beijing to exploit its largest oilfield and in return, China will provide the Iranian Air Force with 24 J-10 fighter aircraft. Rumors claim that the J-10 is an evolution of the "Lavi" aircraft developed in the 80's by Israel – however this was denied by China and Israel

Iran will become the second overseas user of Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group's J-10, according to wantchinatimes. According to the report, Iran will received the fighters without paying a dollar to China, by signing a contract to allow Beijing to exploit its largest oilfield over the next 20 years.

China will provide the Iranian Air Force with a total number of 24 F-10 Vigorous Dragon jets, the export version of the J-10, to equip its two fighter groups. The cost of a single J-10 is estimated at US$40 million, making the value of the deal around US$1 billion. This could be bartered through permitting Beijing 20 years of exploitation rights to the Azadegan oilfield. With a range of 2,940 kilometers, the fighters are capable of defending Iran's entire airspace and that of the Persian Gulf.

Several Chinese military analysts believe the United States may not be happy about such a deal and China will face international pressure should Iran use the fighters in combat against US allies in the region. Others meanwhile pointed out that 24 fighters will not make a major difference to the strategic situation in the Middle East.

It has been alleged that the J-10 is actually a version of the Israeli "Lavi" aircrafe developed in the 80's in Israel – a project that was halted due to American pressure. China and Israel officially denied the connection between the two aircraft. However, if in the end it will turn out that the J-10 has Israeli roots, it would be somewhat ironic if technology developed by Israeli engineers ends up in the hands of Iranian pilots.

Pakistan is the first overseas customer for the J-10. Back in 2009, China agreed to sell 36 export version of the advanced J-10B fighters known as FC-20 to Pakistan in a contract worth US$$1.4 billion. 

Ami Rojkes Dombe


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1 comment:

Rami said...

An interesting development of true. It should be recalled, however, that this was not the first time that an Iranian J-10 purchase was rumored in the media. This was a similar story published in 2007:
No deliveries resulted from these earlier rumors. Similarly, Pakistan's purported J-10 buy - reported back in 2009 - has yet to result in a delivery.

Also, while the J-10 may have benefited from Israel's Lavi experience, it is not the same airplane. The J-10 is a larger airplane, built around a larger Russian-built engine, without the composite technology that went into the Lavi, and without the Lavi's avionics suite.

This story does remind us, however, of just how much Israel lost when it gave up the Lavi program back in 1987. The Lavi offered the strike radius of Israel's later F-15I and F-16I fighters in a smaller package, and more that a decade before the first F-16I became available. When it was cancelled Israel's aeronautics industries were more than halved, leaving Israel to beg the Obama administration for enhancements to the short-ranged F-35 fighter instead of developing their own alternative.

I saw recently that a new book was coming out on the Lavi program at the end of the year. Perhaps an opportunity to look back and reflect on missed opportunities:

Israel is going to be regretting canceling the Lavi for a long time to come.

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