On 23rd December 2009 a significant event took place which sadly went under reported. When inane drivel were making its way to the news, the event which established the superiority of a fighter over another went largely unnoticed. It was on that very day the first news regarding results of a competition came out in the open. The Myanmar Air force(Tatmadaw Lei) chose the MiG-29SMT Fulcrum over the much hyped China's J-10, and its smaller cousin which was rejected by China itself- the JF-17 Thunder.
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 its 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, 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). Plus SMT Fulcrums are basically mothballed MiG-29S fresh out of factory(during the 1990s but never got inducted into the Russian Air Force because of the poor economic condition of Russia) and is re-sold with SMT upgrades to various countries. 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 & China 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 skirmishes, 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(Dissimilar Air Combat Training) simulating Soviet fighters. In the midst 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 even a Lavi mock-up. 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 its 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 its performance. The fighter was so secretive that only recently did china accept its 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 its money on J-10 and ditching the JF-17, which at this point was referred as Junk Fighter -17 by the aviation community. After the triumphant domestic win, J-10's first real competition outside its motherland was in its neighborhood, 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 its single engine was more risky compared to the twin engined MiG-29. It looses out on Thrust to Weight ratio to the MiG-29SMT. Its G-limits are unknown, as is its range, while Mig-29SMTs data is well known(9Gs and 1800kms without drop tanks). It shares 95% commonality with MiG-29UPG & can share or have a constant flow of spares & after sales support with the Indian Air Force's spare parts vendor. Its stall performance and recovery is unknown, while MiG-29 is known for breath taking stall maneuvers... hence getting out of a stall for a MiG-29 is a piece of cake. It has 7 hardpoints which can be increased to 11 with multi locks and can carry atleast 6 BVR missiles, while J-10 has 7 Weapon Hardpoints(and few pod station hardpoints which can only be used for pods, and less-than 100kg dumb bombs). Out of the 7, it can carry BVR missiles on only 2 hardpoints with dual racks, so a total of only 4 BVR missiles. It can carry 5 tonnes in weapon tonnage while J10's unknown. However some Chinese fan boys 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-29SMT fulcrum was chosen over a Chinese plane. Apart from the desperate and poor PAF, which has no reliable & cheap suppliers, it seems there is no one else who is willing to take this Chinese fighter yet.
There is little doubt now that the Chinese J-10 has suffered a blow to its prestige with its very first overseas defeat to the MiG-29SMT Fulcrum.
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