China's J-10: Better than F-15 or F-16?

China’s 4th generation J-10 fighter flies with a huge arsenal mounted in more than 11 fixed emplacements under the fuselage and wings. They have various air-to-air and ground-to-ground weapons, including laser-guided missiles and satellite-guided and glide bombs.

Meet the J-10 fighter.


The aircraft has been in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force since 2005 and serves as a crucial base (PLAAF). It has a range of 1,400 miles, can take off with an additional load of fuel tanks, and can carry as much as 42,000 pounds of weaponry.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Forces operate more than 540 J-10s, according to a quote from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. This figure shows a clear ability to “mass” air formations against an adversary.

Superior to the F-15 or F-16?

Although it is a 4th generation aircraft, the J-10 Chengdu was designed with many modern technologies, perhaps with the idea of ​​surpassing the US Air Force’s 1980s-era F-15 and F-16. In 2010, SinoDefense published an informative article detailing some of the systems installed in the J-10.

In 2010, SinoDefense produced a helpful post outlining several of the J-10’s in-built features. According to the test, up to two targets can be struck simultaneously with “radar-aiming semi-active” missiles or four with “radar-aiming active” missiles.

China's J-10: Better than F-15 or F-16?

Tracking Capabilities

The ability to track multiple targets is indeed quite significant, as it’s something likely intended to match the upgrade to the AN/APG-63 V1 radar on the US Air Force’s F-15, according to a essay. An improvement on the APG-63, the “v1” version allows the radar to engage six targets and track up to fourteen simultaneously.

AN/APG-63(v1) radars armed many F-15s in the early 2000s, but in 2000 Boeing and the US Air Force took a big step by adding AESA radar to the F-15 with the AN/ APG-62 (v2), perhaps to outdo the then emerging J-10. 

An AESA radar, variants of which are not arming the F-15EX and even the F-35, massively increases accuracy in detecting, tracking, and destroying multiple targets at once, much more effectively than traditional radars.

“In an AESA system, the traditional mechanically scanned radar dish is replaced by a fixed panel covered by an array of hundreds of small transmitter-receiver modules. Unlike a radar dish, these modules have more combined power and can simultaneously perform different detection, tracking, communication, and jamming functions in multiple directions,” the essay states.

The early Chinese applications of radar, fire control, and aiming at the J-10 have certainly been improved by now. One reason the US Air Force has continued rapid radar and computer upgrades to its F-15s as they plan to fly these aircraft well into the 2040s.

In fact, it would be interesting and significant to determine the extent of the J-10’s improvements in terms of what technologies it might consist of for the purposes of comparison with the current F-15. 

Some of the J-10’s improvements include adding the domestically produced WS-10B engine. Like the US Air Force’s F-16, the J-10 is built with a “bubble canopy” to grant the crew a 360-degree surrounding viewing angle.

China's J-10: Better than F-15 or F-16?

Are the improvements good?

The most pressing question in the case of the J-10 seems to be the extent of the improvements.

For example, suppose the planes have been given high-speed computing systems, higher-fidelity sensors and targeting systems, longer ranges, and new generations of weapons. In that case, they might as well fly in the 2040s as a credible rival to the F-15. 

Also, the scope of weapon upgrades would be critical, as the J-10 can carry a large load of weaponry, like a bomb truck, to a certain extent.

Since this aircraft is large and not as fast as other fighters, the J-10 is unlikely to pose much of a threat in combat, so the potential range and effectiveness of its upgrades will likely determine the extent of the threat it faces. Represents the West.