J-10 vs F-16 Technical Comparison

The F-16 was designed from the outset as a dog-fighter. The moderatesweep of the wings and aspect ratios were ideal for this. The trade-offhowever, was greater supersonic resistance. The thrust offered by thetwo engine options on the F-16 is impressive even to this day.
TWR in air combat is about 1.15, ensuring impressive climbing rates andsustained turn rates. As noted, the F-16 sacrificed supersonicperformance, not only in its wing design but also in its fixed airintakes. In supersonic flight, engine thrust is lost. While it canreach Mach 2.0, pragmatically it has poor supersonic performance.

While the F-16 sacrificed supersonic performance for subsonicdogfighting, the J-10 did not make the same sacrifice. Thus, while whenthe F-16 was designed, turning dogfights were what was projected as thebread and butter of air combat, when the J-10 was being designed, theBVR era had arrived (or re-arrived).
The J-10s aerodynamic design, including wing design and inlet design,take this into account. For instance, the J-10 visibly has greater wingsweep and a variable inlet. With the J-10B, a DSI intake. While theJ-10B sacrifices maximum theoretical top speeds with its DSI intakes,for all relevant combat speeds, it gives the J-10 superior performance.

Under modern BVR conditions and higher altitude combat, the J-10 issignificantly superior to the F-16. This is also reflected in itshigher instantaneous turn rates. The Mirage-2000s have been a point ofmajor concern both for the Pakistanis and the Turkish air forces,because of these aerodynamic issues, despite the Mirages weak engines.

The Greeks, who operated both the Mirage 2000 and F-16C considered theF-16 to be better at low altitude, low speed, hard turning fights, andMirage 2000 to be superior at hi-hi.The F-16 would have to attempt tosurvive the first merge in an air combat scenario, which becomesincreasingly suicidal with high off-bore sight missiles.

BVR further compounds these problems for the F-16s. In previous eras,flying hi and fast was fine, but you often had to come down low toengage a low flying enemy aircraft. Today, that becomes less relevantwith longer range BVR missiles and look-down shoot-down capabilities.

The F-16 has also been adding weight over time and attempting tocounterbalance this with increased engine thrust. However, since wingarea remained the same, maneuverability has been sacrificed. Higherwing loading is particularly detrimental for higher altitudemaneuverability. The J-10 on the other hand, has all the wing area itcould ever need with a delta canard layout.

The newer block F-16s however, are great for low altitude air-to-groundmissions. The high wing loading favors low fliers and the moderate wingsweep helps handling at lower speeds often necessary during ordnancedelivery. The J-10 is thus not ideal for the CAS role. However, becauseof the range and payload advantages, the J-10 can be considered aneffective deep striker. CAS was never a pressing need for the PLAAF,and the PAF has the JF-17 which is ideal for that role.
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