The August 1st Air Demonstration Team makes contrails during a training session earlier this month. (YU HONGCHUN/FOR CHINA DAILY)
The August 1st Air Demonstration Team, China's best-known aerobatic team, has been equipped with J-10C fighter jets and will fly their new planes at an upcoming exhibition in Malaysia, according to the spokesman for the People's Liberation Army Air Force.
Senior Colonel Xie Peng said on Tuesday that the J-10C is the seventh generation of aircraft used by August 1st pilots. The stunt team is scheduled to use the new jets for performance at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition from May 23 to 27, he added.
Before the J-10C, the August 1st team used the J-10A and J-10S, the twin-seat trainer version of J-10A.The two models had been deployed in the team since 2009.
Like its predecessors in the J-10 family, J-10C is a supersonic, multirole fighter jet developed and built by State-owned aircraft maker Aviation Industry Corp of China. The jet is capable of maintaining short-and medium-range air supremacy and striking ground or sea targets, according to the Air Force.
The J-10C was first shown to the public at a massive parade in July 2017 and started being used on combat patrol duty in April 2018.
It has a smaller radar signature and stronger operational capability than the J-10A and J-10B. Compared with its predecessors, the model is more streamlined, lighter and harder to detect, and uses a more powerful engine.
In addition, the jet has an upgraded version of China's active phased array radar, so it has better detection and multitargeting capacity.
The J-10C has also been armed with the country's newest air-to-air missiles, which have longer ranges.
Wang Yanan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said that there are two major reasons behind giving J-10Cs to the August 1st team.
"The first is that the J-10A and J-10S jets used by the team were old. Given that aerobatic planes need to carry out highly difficult maneuvers, their aging processes are usually faster than those of other aircraft. So it will cause higher maintenance cost and greater risk if the old planes continue to be used for stunt performance," he said. "Second, the J-10C has been commissioned to many front combat units so deploying the jet in the August 1st team will allow for aviators' rotation and experience sharing between the team and other fighter jet forces."
Fu Qianshao, an aircraft expert from the PLA Air Force, said that thanks to the upgraded avionics and flight-control systems, the J-10C is easier to fly and is more maneuverable in flight, compared with its predecessors.
"Sending the J-10C to international exhibitions will show its advanced capability and multiple functions to foreign pilots and will attract potential buyers," he said.
August 1st was founded in 1962 as the Chinese military's first air display team and was named after the PLA's founding date. The elite unit has carried out nearly 700 aerobatic shows at home and abroad.