By Boyko Nikolov
Egypt may soon increase its air force inventory if the information is confirmed that Cairo and Beijing are negotiating the sale of 12 Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon [NATO reporting name: Firebird]. According to sources, at the upcoming Langkawi exhibition in Malaysia, senior military personnel from the Cairo Ministry of Defense will hold talks with representatives of the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group.
This information comes from Tactical Report. The report mentions that Egypt is interested in acquiring 12 fighters of this model. BulgarianMilitary website recalls that this is a medium-weight multirole aircraft. Tactical Report cited a source but did not name him or his nationality.
According to the source, Egypt is interested in acquiring the J-10C version. It can be said that this is the relatively latest version of this Chinese aircraft. It is the upgraded version of the J-10B and comes with a new AESA radar as well as with imaging infrared seeker [IIR] PL-10. The power unit of the J-10C consists of a turbofan Shenyang WS-10 engine providing 120–140 kilonewtons of thrust.
Currently, the backbone of the Egyptian Air Force is made up primarily of Soviet MiG-29s and French Dassault Rafales. Let us remind you that Egypt had to acquire the Russian Su-35 Flanker-E. However, the deal fell through. Officially, Egypt claims that Russia did not comply with production and delivery conditions. Unofficially, the US is said to have threatened Egypt with economic sanctions under the CAATSA law.
It should be noted that Cairo has 240 F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters of which 50 C/D are used as training and training for new pilots. However, these fighters have not been updated in years. Something like the situation with the Turkish F-16s, but from much earlier – from the 90s of the last century. After Egypt chose to buy Russian weapons, such as aircraft and air defense systems, the US refused to upgrade Egypt’s F-16s.
It is for these two reasons that logic is sought in Egypt’s intentions to acquire Chinese fighters. They would replace the undelivered Su-35s already going to Iran, as well as offset, at least somewhat, the aging F-16 fleet. Turning to China may be a new page in the history of the Egyptian Air Force. The war in Ukraine practically stopped deliveries from Moscow to Cairo. However, Egypt does not want to be dependent on a war in which it does not participate, so China is an opportunity that it would not miss.
When it comes to the war in Ukraine, Egypt may find itself in a very good position to upgrade its F-16s. Egypt is said to be ready to supply Ukraine with an unlimited amount of ammunition, both for Soviet anti-aircraft missile systems and Abrams tanks, since Egypt is the largest producer of Abrams after the United States. If this comes to pass under pressure from Washington, at some point the US may decide to reopen the door to Cairo and thus allow the Egyptian F-16s to be upgraded. Again – same as with Turkey.
The choice of the J-10C is not accidental. Several reports suggest that it is currently the most powerful single-engine fighter in the world. And this plane gradually began to gain more and more popularity. However, for now, it is only seen as a possibility among potential customers and nothing has been confirmed. If Egypt buys the 12 fighters, the country will become the third operator, after China and Pakistan, to operate this Vigorous Dragon.
The J-10C is currently only available as a single-seater. Its length is approximately 17 meters. Its maximum takeoff weight is about 19,000 kg. The aircraft has a maximum range of 1,850 km, and the maximum flight speed can reach Mach 1.8. The aircraft can fly at a maximum altitude of 18,000 meters.
The J-10C is armed with one Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23 machine gun for close air combat or low-flying raids. There are 11 hardpoints in total [6 x under-wing, 2 x under-intake, and 3 x under-fuselage]. The aircraft can carry a large range of weapons, such as air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, anti-ship missiles, laser-guided bombs, glide bombs, satellite-guided bombs and unguided bombs.