On 23rd December a significant event took place which sadly went under reported. When inane drivel was making to the news, the event which established the superiority of a fighter over another went largely unnoticed. It was on that very day the Myanmar Air force (Tatmadaw Lei) chose the Mig-29M/M2 Fulcrum over the much hyped China’s J-10, and it’s smaller cousin which was rejected by China itself- the JF-17.
This competition was like no other.
On one hand the fulcrum was facing setbacks everywhere. First it was in Malaysia where due to endemic corruption and the interference of Middle men, the spares for the Mig-29s were ridiculously over priced by the time it reached the end user. This prompted Malaysia to retire it’s Mig-29s prematurely. The second setback was on the Algerian front, where another corruption involving Russian middle men lead to sourcing inferior parts for upgrading the Mig-29s. This lead Algeria to cancel the order and return some, which left the Russians in deep soul searching. Just recently the middle men were arrested and criminal cases initiated against them. There were also wild rumors of Myanmar’s Mig-29s being grounded due to poor after sales service(which got proved wrong).
The Chinese fighters on the other hand had no such setbacks. In addition to the fact that Myanmar is in China’s backyard, the Chinese fighters, especially the J-10 was marketed as “ultra modern” and was even offered highly advantageous price and payment conditions.
However the results of that tender was dramatic.
The J-10 is a product of widespread assistance by the western powers during the years of the Cold war. During the cold war, the U.S encouraged Israel to help the Chinese boost their capabilities against what they considered as the “Evil Empire” which was giving the whole western world quite a challenge. China and the Soviet Union were at each other throats after the soviets refused to bow down to china’s demands to return “their” land. After many bloody skirmish, where the Chinese suffered enormous causalities on the hands of the vastly superior Red Army, there was much bad blood between them. The western powers capitalized on this and began to rub shoulders with the Chinese. The Chinese too sold them J-7s to be used on the U.S DACT training simulating soviet fighters. In the mist of this Honey moon, Israel starting sharing their technology with the blessings of Washington. And on top of that list(and a prime candidate since that project was stopped and was not in active service), was the Israeli Lavi.
Israeli Lavi Protoype:
J-10 Production Model:
However before Israel can offer full assistance, the Tienanmen massacre led to an abrupt halt to the help. However the Chinese still retained all the blueprints and maybe even a Lavi mockup. It was only natural for the Chinese Aerospace having done nothing but copying and reverse engineering fighters for the past 4 decades, to continue reverse engineering the Lavi. The cold war ended and China found itself partnering with it’s former enemy to ask for help. The Russian engineers who came out in the open reported several blueprints of Lavi in Hebrew!!! Russians who were cash strapped at this point agreed to help and also offered their engine. After a lot of reverse engineering and a few prototype crashes, J-10 finally flew. The chinese fan boys were instantly captivated by the “beautiful” Israeli fighter and began over hyping it’s performance. The fighter was so secretive that only recently did china accept it’s existence. The first battle for this fighter was against the JF-17 which was a cheap project built on the Super-7(Super J-7) project. The J-10 clearly came out winning on the specs, which lead the PLAAF putting all it’s money on J-10 and ditching the JF-17, which at this point was referred as JunkFighter-17 by the aviation community. After the triumphant domestic win, J-10’s first real competition outside its motherland was in its neighbourhood, Myanmar. There it was pitted against the Mig-29, Soviet Union’s first Fourth Generation fighter.
Inspite of the other advantages heaped on the Chinese fighters, the result is that only the superior fighter wins.
J-10 with it’s single engine was more risky compared to the twin engined Mig-29. It losses out on Thrust to Weight ratio to the Mig-29. It’s G-limits are unknown, as is its range, while Mig-29Ms data is well known. It shares 95% commonality with Mig-29K(hence the Fulcrum-D designation) & can share or have a constant flow of spares & after sales support with the IN. It’s stall performance and recovery is unknown, while Mig-29 is known for breath taking stall maneuvers in airshows… hence getting out of a stall for a Mig-29 is a piece of cake. It has 9 hardpoints which can be increased to 13 with multi locks, while J-10’s said to be 11. It can carry 6.5 tonnes in weapon tonnage while J10’s unknown. However some Chinese sources claim 4.5 tonnes and some even 6 tonnes. In avionics, there is the clear Russian superiority over Chinese copies. Taking all these facts into consideration, it’s no wonder that the Mig-29M fulcrum was chosen over a Chinese plane. Apart from the PAF, which has no reliable & cheap suppliers, it seems there is no one else who is willing to take this Chinese fighter.
There is little doubt now that the J-10s has suffered a blow to its prestige with its first overseas defeat.
J-10 vs MiG-29 ? Fulcrum-1 Chinese Copies-0