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Lavi or not Lavi. That is the question

IAI Lavi: a competitive aircraft in the export market against American aircraft such as the F-16C/D and the F/A-18C/D
When we look at the prototype of the Israeli fighter IAI LAVI you think: I must be crazy. This is a Chinese J-10! To resolve this doubt see "The chronological history of the J-10 programme"... Please, don't confuse the old Lavi - a single-engined 4th generation fighter developed in Israel in the 1980s with the new Lavi: the local name of new M346 trainer.

J-10: Jewish blood?
The Early 1980s: The then Chinese leader and Chairman of the  Central Military Commission (CMC) Deng Xiaoping announced that China would  spend RMB 500 million to develop a new generation fighter with better  performance.

1982: Representatives of the PLA General Staff Department,  PLA Air Force, PLA Naval Aviation Corps, and the Chinese Ministry of  Aeronautics met in Beijing to discuss the concept of the new-generation fighter  and initial requirement. The fighter was required to be superior to the  indigenous J-8II and Soviet MiG-23, and approach the U.S. F-16 in general  performance, and can form the backbone of the Chinese fighter fleet in the  1990s. A second meeting was held six months later.

January 1984: The PLAAF adjusted some requirements for the  new fighter aircraft. The Ministry of Aeronautics received three  design proposals submitted by aircraft design institutes in Shenyang, Xi’an and  Chengdu. These proposals included a conventional configuration, a tailless  delta-canard configuration, and a variable-sweep wing configuration.

May 1984: After comparing the three design proposals, the  Ministry of Aeronautics decided to chose the tailless delta with canard design  submitted by Chengdu-based 611 Institute (now Chengdu Aircraft Design  Institute). The development task of the new-generation fighter was officially  assigned to the 611 Institute and Chengdu Aircraft Manufacturing Factory (now  Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation, CAC). Four key technological areas were identified, including the tailless delta-canard configuration,  computerised flight control, integrated avionics design, and computer-aided  design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM).

1986: The new-generation fighter designated  J-10  became  one of the state’s key  projects.  Wang Ang was appointed as the programme’s chief  executive director, andh Song Wen-Cong  the  chief  designer.

1987: China obtained some technologies of the  cancelled Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) Lavi (“Lion”) fighter. The Lavi  development began in October 1982 under the help of the United States, and the  aircraft made the first flight in December 1986. However, the U.S. was not  prepared to finance an aircraft that would compete in export market with the  F-16C/D and F/A/-18C/D, and a dispute arose to the final cost. The Israeli  Government was unable to finance the project along and the development  programme was finally cancelled in 1987. China was believed to have received  the software originally developed for Lavi’s “fly-by-wire” control system  shortly after its cancellation, despite  denial of such  cooperation by both sides.

1990: The J-10 project encountered great setback  because China was unable to obtain crucial technological assistance from  Western countries resulted by the arms embargo imposed by the United States and  European Union after 1989. In particular China was unable to produce a suitable  engine for the fighter aircraft.

1993: Chengdu had constructed the first full-scale metal  mockup of the J-10. Wind tunnel testing revealed potential problems with  low-speed performance and less-than-expected maximum AOA at subsonic speeds. At  the same time the main trend in fighter aircraft development was a transition  from single-purpose fighters such as high-speed interceptor or low-altitude  dogfighters to multirole aircraft combining good subsonic and supersonic  air-to-air performance with extensive air-to-ground capabilities. Added  requirements for air-to-ground operations called for an in-depth redesign of  the J-10 to accommodate terrain-following radar, more and sturdier hardpoints,  an entirely new targeting, flight control and navigation systems.

The mid-1990s: Russia became involved in the J-10  development programme by contributing its Lyulka-Saturn AL-31F turbofan engine.

1996: The first prototype ’1001′ reportedly made its maiden flight but the design was not entirely successful.

March 1998: After a 15-month delay, a modified second prototype ’1003′  made its maiden flight. The same year the aircraft received its  official service designation “J-10″. By then, the development  programme was already two years behind the schedule.

1999: Chengdu had produced seven  prototypes for flight testing. The first five were powered by an indigenous WS-10 engine  while the last two were powered by a Russian-made AL-31F engine and also featured some modifications in avionics.

December 1999: Two J-10 prototypes were transferred from  Chengdu to China Flight Test Establishment (CFTE) based at Yanliang, Shaanxi  Province for further flight tests and service evaluations.

2000: Development of the two-seat fighter-trainer variant  J-10S officially began at Chengdu, with Yang Wei appointed as the chief  designer.

May 2000: Intensive flight tests of the J-10 were carried  out by CFTE at Yanliang. By late 2000 the flying models accumulated over 140 flight hours.

Summer 2000: The first successful live test of the ejector  seat for the J-10 fighter was carried out on a test plane.

2001: China ordered 54 specially configured AL-31FN engines  from Russia to power the initial batch of the J-10 fighter. These engines were  received in 2002~04.

Summer 2002: After two years of flight tests in Yanliang,  the J-10 prototypes were relocated to the PLAAF’s Dingxin Airbase in  Gansu Province for weapon and fire-control tests.

28 June 2002: The first flight of the pre-production model  J-10. Small batch production of the aircraft began shortly after.

10 March 2003: J-10 fighter officially entered PLAAF service. Six J-10s were  delivered  to the PLAAF Flight Test & Training Centre at Cangzhou AFB, Hebei Province  for operational trial and evaluation. During the handover ceremony, two J-10 fighters made demonstration flights to senior PLA officials.

Spring 2003: The test of the J-10’s fire-control radar was  carried out onboard a modified Y-8 radar testbed in Shandong Province.

Summer 2003: The J-10 conducted its first successful aerial  refuelling simulation.

26 December 2003: The two-seat J-10S fighter-trainer variant  made its first flight.

December 2003: The first successful air-to-air missile test  launch from the J-10.

Early 2004: The J-10 fighter received its design  certificate, marking the ending of the 18-year development programme.

August 2004: The first J-10 regiment was formed in the PLAAF 44th Air Division based at Mengzi AFB, Yunnan Province.

2005: The J-10S fighter-trainer variant completed its flight  test and received its design certificate.

July 2005: China reportedly ordered an additional 100  modified AL-31FN engines worth US$300 million from Russia for more J-10  fighters. Production continues at a rate of 2~3 units per month at the moment.

November 2006: Chinese state media  announced that the new-generation  J-10 fighter had achieved initial operational capability (IOC). The aircraft was officially declassified. CAC /  AVIC-I were planning to demonstrate the aircraft during the 2006 Zhuhai Air Show, but this was cancelled the last minute, possibly due to political concerns.

October  2008: Chinese state media confirmed that the J-10 would attend the 2008 Zhuhai Air Show in both static and flight demonstration.

Currently: J-10A is in service with PLAAF (04 batch, S/N 50x5x, 30x5x, 20x6x, 78x1x). The August 1 Aerobatic Demonstration Team also flies J-10AY (05 batch) to replace the old J-7GB. Recent images confirmed that PLAN is receiving its first batch of J-10As (06 batch, dubbed J-10AH, S/N 83x4x) which have been deployed at the eastern China coast facing Japan. They could be modified to carry YJ-83K AShMs in the future. Currently more J-10As (07 batch) are being produced for both the existing as well as new J-10 units (S/N 20x3x).**

Other versions: The production of J-10B finally started in 2013 after some delay, due to the availability of a suitable engine. It was speculated that the first batch of production J-10Bs will be powered by Russian AL-31FN engine and could enter the service with PLAAF 44th Division as early as late 2013. It was rumored in June 2013 that a further upgraded semi-stealth multi-role variant (J-10C) with enhanced 4th generation electronics including a more powerful AESA radar, more composite material and a more powerful engine was under development. The latest images (December 2013) indicated the 01 batch have been produced and are preparing for the delivery. Meanwhile the J-10C 2-01 prototype took to the sky for the first time on December 31, 2013. The aircraft appears to have high similarity with J-10B except an extra yellow antenna on its back. In late 2010 the first batch of J-10Ss (advanced trainer) are entering the service with PLAN (dubbed J-10SH? S/N 83x4x) along with J-10As. **

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