Defense intelligence officials said last week that China’s new J-10 jet fighter was built with the help of Israel, under the U.S.-sponsored Lavi jet fighter program canceled back in 1987.
“China’s J-10 program was assisted by engineers who worked on the Israeli Lavi program,” one defense official told Inside the Ring. “The J-10 and Lavi share many of the same design elements.”
According to the officials, Russia also has helped with the J-10 program, helping Beijing to develop a new J-10 engine to replace the current one — a Chinese copy of the CFM-56 jet engine developed jointly by General Electr ic and the French company Snecma.
The J-10 was under development in secret for years but its deployment was only acknowledged by Beijing in Januar y 2007. It is considered a fourthgeneration fighter-bomber comparable to the U.S. F-16.
The defense officials’ comments followed a repor t in Jane’s Defence Weekly stating that the J-10 is a close copy of the Lavi jet, and that Chinese developers had access to a Lavi prototype in Chengdu, where the J-10 was designed and built. Documents in Hebrew on the Israel Aircraft Industries jet also were observed by Russian engineers, the magazine stated.
The Lavi was developed with $1.8 billion in U.S. aid to Israel. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2005 sharply restricted U.S. military technology sharing with Israel over concerns about Israeli-Chinese military cooperation.
The Israeli-Chinese J-10 cooperation involved “decades”long exchanges between Russian, Israeli and Chinese aircraft developers, the magazine stated, quoting Russians involved in the program. The cooperation included extensive design and performance modeling, wind-tunnel testing and advanced aerodynamic design input.
Richard Fisher, a specialist on China’s military with the Inter national Assessment and Strategy Center, said the J-10Lavi cooperation “confirms the need for continued American vigilance to prevent military technology sales to China from Israel or any other ally.”
“This is now a tragedy for the people of Israel and the United States, given the high chances that China will sell the J-10 to Iran,” he said, adding that Israel should fully disclose the extent of militar y cooperation with China, “a country that aids the enemies of Israel, and threatens America and many of its allies.”
An Israeli Embassy spokesman said he is checking the repor t. A Chinese Embassy spokesman could not be reached.
Chinese and Israeli officials in the past have denied any links between the J-10 and the Lavi.