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PLAAF 25th Air Brigade now operates J-10C multirole fighters

A J-10C multirole fighter aircraft on display at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition 2021. The 25th Air Brigade with the PLA's ETC has been identified as operating the WS10-powered J-10C variant as of November 2021. (VCG via Getty Images)

The People's Liberation Army Air Force's (PLAAF's) 25th Air Brigade, part of the PLA's Eastern Theater Command (ETC), is replacing its legacy Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group J-7E fighters with J-10C multirole fighter aircraft fitted with locally made Shenyang-Liming WS10 ‘Taihang'-series engines.

Video footage released by state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) on 20 November showed both aircraft types at Shantou Waisha Air Base in Guangdong Province, and indicated that the 25th Air Brigade has been receiving J-10Cs for approximately half a year, with pilots being trained to transition from the J-7Es to the new combat aircraft.

According to images from the video, two aircraft are clearly identified bearing serial numbers ‘63061' and ‘62067', suggesting that these are part of the sixth J-10C production batch and are assigned to the PLA's ETC.

The aircraft being produced under this latest batch are fitted with locally made WS10B engines, which replace the Russian-made Saturn AL-31FN turbofan engines that have powered the initial batches of the J-10.

This is the first time a PLAAF's operational unit is confirmed to be equipped with J-10C fighters powered by WS10B engines, with earlier reports suggesting that aircraft produced under the fourth and fifth batches also use indigenous engines.

The latest development comes after unconfirmed reports emerged earlier in 2021 that an unidentified air brigade at Shantou had been converting to the latest J-10C variant, and after video footage from CCTV in May 2021 had already confirmed that the PLAAF was using some WS10-powered J-10C fighters for training exercises.

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