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November 16, 2009

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PLA Air Force unveils fighters - with a twist

THE Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force unveiled its new aerobatic J-10 jet fighters in Beijing yesterday.

Against a clear blue sky, four J-10 multi-role fighters painted in steel gray, rolled, flipped and twisted above hundreds of spectators at a demonstration held to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the PLA Air Force.

The J-10, with its pair of canards and delta wings, is the first supersonic third-generation fighter designed and manufactured by domestic technology.

The fighter has become a backbone combat aircraft in low and middle altitudes of the PLA Air Force since its active duty status was officially disclosed at the end of 2006.

Yesterday's air demonstration was also the last show of J-7GB supersonic jet fighters in the PLA Air Force August 1 Aerobatics Team. The planes will be replaced by the new J-10s.

Six J-7GBs, painted in blue-and-white stripes, presented a series of spectacular maneuvers to give a farewell performance as the aerobatic team's aircraft.

The J-7GB is the Air Force's second-generation jet fighter modified from the Soviet-made MiG-21.

At the National Day parade held to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, six J-7GBs convoyed China's first Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft Kongjing-2000 to fly past the Tian'anmen Rostrum.

"In terms of aerobatic performance, the potential of J-7GB has almost been used up by the August 1 team," said Yan Feng, an aerobatic pilot who was flying a J-10 at the demonstration.

It usually takes about 18 months to manage a series of aerobatic performances by flying a new type of aircraft, according to Yan.

"We have prepared for less than four months to be capable of performing the air demonstration in J-10s," said Yan, who has a flying record of more than 3,000 hours.

"It's a great pleasure to pilot the Air Force's new fighter in an aerobatic demonstration for the J-10 has excellent agility and flexibility," he said.

"We are ready for international competition with foreign aerobatic teams."


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