J-10 fighters of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force have conducted ground attack training over the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the first operation of its kind for the air force of the Chengdu Military Region.
According to a report and photos released by the PLA Daily yesterday, the ground crew of the J-10 regiment fueled the fighters and loaded ammunition on the 3,500-meter-high plateau at temperatures below -20 C.
The fighters scrambled and attacked the targets with conventional bombs and laser-guided bombs. Sorties were made both during the day and at night.
Yesterday's reports were the second time that State media released photos of the J-10 fighter using laser-guided bombs.
In a joint massive live fire drill in October that incorporated air forces and air defense units as well as armor and artillery units, also held in Tibet Autonomous Region the J-10 also showed off its precise ground attack ability, the Ministry of Defense said on its website.
"The J-10 fighter was initially designed as an air superiority fighter, focusing on air combat and interception capability. But with modern sensors, avionics and land attack munitions, it can also perform well in ground attack roles," Bai Wei, former deputy chief editor of Aviation World Monthly and writer for the UK-based Air Forces Monthly, told the Global Times.
The J-10's activities on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau have been relatively frequent in the past months.
"Operations on the plateau are a routine for the air force. The main obstacles for plateau operation are thin air, complicated weather conditions faced by ground crews and low oxygen density, which makes igniting the engines much harder," Bai noted.
On January 31, J-10 fighters made their first flight during the Chinese Lunar New Year on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau with a typical air combat patrol payload, namely two mid-range air-to-air missiles, two short-range air-to-air missiles, and three external fuel tanks.
The J-10's primary air combat weapon, the active radar homing mid-range missile dubbed as the PL-12, is a fourth generation radar-homing air-to-air missile.
It is generally comparable to the US AIM-120 missile, which has a good service record in past air combat missions, Daniel Tong, a Chinese military observer and founder of the website Chinese Military Aviation, told the Global Times.
The Chengdu J-10 fighter made its official debut in 2006.
The aircraft has been delivered to the air force in large quantities along with the Shengyang J-11 two-engine heavy fighter, according to Tong.