I was reading this article which came out today(12/10/18)..

China's J-10 Fighter Now Has Something In Common with the F-22, Su-57 and Su-35 which reports China has added advanced thrust vectoring to their J-10 fighter plane. This is an innovation which dramatically increases the maneuverability of fighter aircraft.

This made me remember a controversy surrounding the Chinese J-10 which was introduced twelve years ago in 2006.

China's J-10

China's J-10 fighter(above) looks a lot like the Israeli Lavi Fighter(be low) which was cancelled in 1987. Over 90% of the development cost of the Israeli Lavi were funded by the United States.

Israeli Lavi

There have been credible reports that China significantly leaned on the Israeli Lavi when developing the J-10. Even that Israel sold the plans for their canceled Lavi fighter to China.

Chinese J-10 'benefited from the Lavi project'
By Robert Hewson
May 19, 2008
Jane's Defense Systems
Russian aerospace engineers have confirmed to Jane's that China's Chengdu J-10 fighter aircraft benefited from significant, direct input from Israel's Lavi programme - including access to the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Lavi aircraft itself.
In a number of interviews Jane's has talked at length with several engineers, designers and technical specialists - some of whom have been working with their Chinese counterparts for decades and have had first-hand experience on Chinese military projects. They have provided detailed accounts of the assistance given to various Chinese manufacturers and their military aircraft projects. This has included extensive design and performance modeling, wind-tunnel testing and advanced aerodynamic design input.


U.S. Military Technology Sold by Israel To China Upsets Asian Power Balance
Israel's Lavi fighter-bomber was designed to be one of the deadliest weapons in the air. However, it now has been revealed that after Israel discontinued the largely U.S.-funded project, it sold China the plans for the Lavi and the associated secret U.S. technology. This has enabled the Chinese to build their own version of this new generation of fighter aircraft.


Chinese J-10 v/s. LCA Tejas MK-2:-Breaking Myth of Chinese Supremacy over IAF
The J 10 started off as a Chinese attempt at reverse engineering a Pakistan bought US F-16. However it ended up being a modification of Israel’s Lavi multi role fighter, Lavi program was cancelled in 1987 in Israel due to threatening from US. China purchased the blue print from Israel and developed J 10.

As troubling is that the J-10 plans were modified into a duel engine design the J-20 which is China's stealth fighter variant.

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Now a counter argument states, the J-10 wasn't based upon the Israeli effort from the mid 1980's but a non production Chinese design from the 1960's, the J-9.

Chengdu J-10
In 2007, the J-10's designer, Song Wencong (宋文骢), denied any connection with the Lavi, pointing to similarities with the Chengdu J-9, which developed in the 1960s.[39] This was echoed by PLAAF major Zhang Weigang in a 2012 interview.[40] There have been no public statements or formal claims along those lines;

So which is it? Did the United States taxpayer pay to develop a plane which has become a backbone of the Chinese Air force?

Chinese J-10 v/s. LCA Tejas MK-2:-Breaking Myth of Chinese Supremacy over IAF
The J 10 is one of the Chinese backbone Fighter jet to perform defensive mission inside Chinese Air-space. The Chinese Air force operates more than 250 J 10 variants which comprises more than twelve squadron of Fighter’s with 70% of service availability at any given time.


  • 1
    To be fair, the J10 also looks similar to the Eurofighter Typhoon. If it really hinges on the canards, pneumatics and rumours… Anyone eager to investigate Buzzy Gordon, "China-Israel Business Ties Deepen," Jerusalem Post, July 26, 2000? Dec 10, 2018 at 21:58
  • At first I thought you meant "did spies steal", but I guess the taxpayer angle (which might be 'paying for it' in yet other ways) distracts from the issue: is the plane really that similar? Did Israel really sell knowhow? Otherwise a nice find on contradictions in the published story, only: this is labeled "controversy" and quite recent. Dec 10, 2018 at 22:00
  • @LangLangC The Lavi dates back to the late 1980's when the project was canceled. However, the J-10 was introduced by China 4 years after the Eurofighter and was deployed 3 years after the Eurofighter. I found this explaining the similarities. The J-10 blends the best ideas from the Eurocanard series and the F-16, to produce a high performance low cost mass production fighter..
    – user27618
    Dec 11, 2018 at 4:25

3 Answers 3


To be fair, the J10 also looks similar to the Eurofighter Typhoon. If it really hinges on the canards, pneumatics and rumours…
At first I read the question as "did Chinese spies steal" information to be used in their fighter jet. But I guess the taxpayer angle (which might be 'paying for it' in yet other ways) distracts from the issue: is the plane really that similar? Did Israel really sell knowhow?

The "Russians confirmed" angle is quite a curious twist to confirm or deny this "allegation". It seems quite implausible to rely on this kind of hearsay and rumour mongering if there are much better sources out there.

The Jerusalem Letter and Jerusalem Letter/Viewpoints are published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel. In No. 473 17 Adar 5762 / 1 March 2002


Israel's military relationship with China included cooperation on the J-10 advanced fighter plane (modeled on the Israeli Lavi jet fighter) and a series of other military projects. Trade between the two sides reached over $500 million by 2000.4
Footnote 4. Buzzy Gordon, "China-Israel Business Ties Deepen," Jerusalem Post, July 26, 2000.

If Israeli sources report this kind of deal for years, I do not see that much reason to doubt that some of the technology, knowhow or concepts, data were used by the Chinese to develop that plane. What these deals or cooperations included is of course another matter.

It pretty much looks like the Americans getting wind of that deal and realising the outcome, not liking it, pressuring Israel to not do that again. And Chinese, Israeli and Russian Wikipedia just matter of factly mentioning this connection on the side: all being spot on on this general level (technology was sold, no specifics.).

  • I wonder if the Jerusalem Post was relying on Western sources for that? This Israeli Defense publication while noting a 2015, Chinese deal to give J-10s to Iran, an exchange they term ironic, states Israel officially deny's any hand in assisting China with J-10 development. Which I deem still is their official position.
    – user27618
    Dec 11, 2018 at 4:39
  • 2
    +1 from me. Nice find on the Jerusalem Post find.
    – user27618
    Dec 11, 2018 at 4:39
  • @JMS My guess here is that the political climate (US indignation) tempts IR/CN to back peddle (or plainly rewrite history) – if we ask the question in that way you did. Or it is about tech-specifics,: Chinese WP is overly specific in its dementi; so maybe such (forbidden/strictly unwanted/frowned upon) deals just apply to export restricted goods or technology? [Somehow this reminds me of Tu144 or Buran] Dec 11, 2018 at 12:32

It is an old trope "Chinese are copycats, unable to develop nothing by themselves"

In history of military aviation everybody was copying successful ideas from everybody. It all started with Synchronized machine gun, maybe even before that. It is no secret Chinese were behind Americans and Soviets in aviation technology. They were looking to catch-up in all possible ways. Chinese certainly had theoretical knowledge what is canard , what advantages and disadvantages it gives, and they had examples of this technology in fighters that already used it. So, when they decided to build fighter with canards, they were certainly copying general idea but not concrete technologies.

As for Lavi program, or Soviet Mig 1.44, both of these were only in prototype stage, and they both differ in various ways from final configuration of both J-10A and J-10B . Lavi especially has different engine, different shape of tail, and different shape of wings, not to mention different avionics. It is true that Israelis did sell some of technology for Lavi to China, but how much of that technology was funded by US, and how much was it worth ? It is highly unlikely Chinese would not be able to proceed without that technology because they already copied and improved various Soviet fighters like Mig-19 and Mig-21, and developed indigenous planes like J-8 and Q-5. Also, there were other parties willing to cooperate with China, not only Russia but also countries like France, Italy etc ...

As for US taxpayer funding Chinese military, this is true, but in a different way. Americans buy Chinese goods, part of that money certainly goes to PLA. It is also trough that relatively cheap Chinese goods improve quality of life of average American, because similar US built goods are usually much more expensive. Finally, Chinese workers fund US military, because companies selling Chinese products to US had to pay taxes.

  • 1
    China can't build a domestic Jet Engine capable of competing with European or American even today. They couldn't rely on Israel or the United States to give them such a component it's no wonder they purchased it from Russia. I don't think that refutes the numerous defense organizations in the west observations that the two planes share a common evolution. I would lastly note that the Lavi jumped the Chinese Airforce domestic capabilities forward by decades. It was quite an achievement unprecedented prior to the J-20, which builds on and shares characteristics with the J-10.
    – user27618
    Dec 12, 2018 at 12:39
  • @JMS Not completely true. WS-10 engines power J-11B for few years already, and it is confirmed that lately they built some J-10B with those engines also. It is true that those engines are not as good as latest US or Russian engines, but they are comparable with European engines. As for common evolution, this is nonsensical . Lavi was prototype from 80's that didn't evolve to serial product, it would be completely obsolete today without heavy upgrades. What really upgraded Chinese capabilities was their purchase of Su-27 (and latter production of it) .
    – rs.29
    Dec 12, 2018 at 18:55
  • @JMS I advise you not to trust much various Western "defense organizations" that really don't have a clue. If you want good and fresh information about Chinese military, I advise you to visit sinodefenceforum.com , it is a community of real enthusiast and people with solid connections.
    – rs.29
    Dec 12, 2018 at 18:58

China's extended campaign of commercial espionage has raided almost every highly developed economy. But far and away its biggest targets have been the military secrets of the United States.

The J-10 is widely regarded as a copy of the American F-16 and by extension the Israeli Lavi. More damaging the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter Is believed to be based upon the plans for the American F-22 air superiority fighter stolen from Lockheed Martin by Chinese National Su Bin.

Counterfeit Air Power: Meet China's Copycat Air Force
Plans for the Lockheed Martin design (F-22) were stolen by a Chinese national named Su Bin, who was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for his crime. The repercussions of his efforts on behalf of the Chinese government will live on for decades.


HOW THE US FORCED CHINA TO QUIT STEALING—USING A CHINESE SPY The C-17 wasn’t the hacker’s only target; they filched information about other aircraft as well. Investigators believe they pillaged 220 MB of data related to the F-22 Raptor, as well as files related to the F-35, including its flight test protocols, which Su carefully translated into Chinese. The thefts would be critical to helping the Chinese understand—and copy—the world’s most advanced multirole fighter plane, which had cost $11 billion to develop.

China has also copied Russian aircraft.

  • Shenyang J-11/16 and Russian Sukhoi Su-27

China Stole This Fighter From Russia—and It's Coming to the South China Sea
The Shenyang J-11 is a Chinese copy of the excellent Russian Sukhoi Su-27 “Flanker” multirole fighter. In fact, it was at first an authorized copy—but Chinese ambitions to adapt it with locally produced technology transformed it into a reverse-engineered headache for Russian industry.

  • Shenyang J-15 and Russian Sukhoi Su-33
  • FC-1 Xiaolong and Soviet MiG-21


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