Until the launch of Russia’s Su-75 Checkmate fighter jet at the end of July, China’s J-10 was the only single-engine fighter in production, considered a potential competitor of the West.
Most of the fighters aircraft that the Soviet Union developed from the 1970s onwards did not use a single-engine design, but were used a dual-engine concept; the reason single-engine fighter designs were not supported by the Soviet Air Force leadership because the Soviet union lost so many single-engine aircraft compare to the dual engine. The MiG-23 was the last single-engine fighter of the Soviet fighter design bureaus.
The J-10 was developed by China in the late 1980s and entered service in 2006 as a fourth-generation light fighter; intended to replace the light fighters J-7 (clone of the MiG-21) and serve primarily for domestic air defense. The J-10 fighter has been upgraded to the J-10C version, which is considered a 4+ generation fighter version and has been in service since April 2018; The outstanding advantage of the J-10C is that it is equipped with an active electronically scanned array radar (AESA), which can use long-range attack weapons such as PL-15 air-to-air missiles and thrust vector engines for high maneuverability.
As for Russia’s newly developed Su-75 Checkmate fighter, it is planned to test flight by the end of 2023 and start production in 2025. The Su-75 has the same weight and integrates many similar technologies as J-10C; both are comparable in many respects, even though the Checkmate is a fifth generation design. So which type of aircraft would be most detrimental to the geopolitical interests of the West?.
First of all, both the J-10C and the Su-75 have evolved as lighter and cheaper fighters than the Chinese and Russian fifth generation heavy fighters, the J-20, and Su-57. Both types emphasize ease of maintenance and low operating costs.
The J-10C and Su-75 are both optimized for multi role combat, as both emphasize maneuverability and are the only single-engine fighter in the world with thrust vectoring engine.
Both types use new generations of short-range air-to-air missiles, which are PL-10 for J-10C and R-74 for Su-75 Checkmate, and both are capable of targeting in low-range conditions. far away, thanks to the pilot’s helmet-mounted sighting system. Each fighter is armed with two short-range missiles in a standard air-to-air configuration. However, the PL-10 is considered a superior short-range missile, thanks to its ability to hit targets at a longer range.
It is not clear what engine Checkmate will use, whether it will use an engine developed from the Saturn 30 engine (this engine is still underdeveloped) of the Su-57. If the Saturn 30 is used, this engine will provide the Su-75 higher thrust/weight ratio and thus have the advantage of maneuverability at all ranges.
According to the introduction of Chinese aircraft engine manufacturers, the J-10C’s domestic WS-10 engine is one of the most powerful fourth-generation fighter engines in the world, helping the J-10C is currently unbeatable in its thrust/weight ratio.
For longer-range engagements, the J-10C is armed with four PL-15 missiles, while the Su-75 is armed with three R-37M missiles; These are considered top rockets of their kind in the world. However, the PL-15 was produced on a much larger scale and was used very widely as a standard armament for China’s J-10C, J-16 and J-20 fighters.
In contrast, the R-37M missile, although compatible with some fighters such as the Su-30SM and Su-35, is rarely used in Russia due to its high cost. The PL-15, on the other hand, receives more investment and due to China’s larger defense budget, suggests it may have some performance advantages on Russian missiles.
But in theory, the PL-15 has a shorter range than the R-37M (250-300km versus 400km), and the R-37M is also faster, giving the target less reaction time. But the PL-15 has more powerful AESA radar and electronics, making it difficult for the enemy to defend in many situations.
For long-range aerial combat, the Su-75 has the advantage of stealth; but the J-10C has a very small radar cross-section and uses advanced radar-absorbing coatings, making it difficult for the enemy to detect at longer ranges. However, the Su-75’s stealth is said to be far superior, which may be the Su-75 fighter’s most important advantage.
The Su-75 is also expected to be armed with a range of more advanced classes of cruise missiles, of which the J-10C relies heavily on the YJ-91 for air strikes. The J-10 is also said to have superior cyber capabilities, and has long received much more attention from the Chinese air force than the Russian one. And this helps a lot to carry out cruise missile attacks.
The J-10C and Su-75 are both well-deserved advanced light fighters, and along with the US F-35, all three are close contenders for the title of powerful single-engine fighter, best of the world.
But there is one significant difference, that while the J-10C is currently only used by the Chinese air force and no significant effort has been made to export the aircraft, the Su-75 is again aimed at the foreign market and is expected to be sold abroad in larger numbers than in Russia itself.
As the world’s cheapest stealth fighter, the Su-75 can be deployed by a number of potential Western adversaries such as Iran and Syria, and this is more likely to “face” Western rivals more than J-10C.
The fact that the Su-75 is likely to be used more widely and is likely to compete with the F-35 for billions of dollars in contracts in export markets makes it a bigger threat to Western interests than the J-10C in terms of its popularity.
However, the J-10C has played a much more important role in China’s fleet modernization efforts than the Su-75s played with the Russian Air Force, influenced by the Russian Air Force leadership from the time of the Russian Air Force. The Soviet Union preferred heavy and long-range aircraft such as the Su-30 and Su-57.