India, China Competing for Fighter Jets Superiority

Designed to establish and maintain air superiority or air dominance, fighter aircraft have evolved from relatively simple, wood and canvas airframes during the First World War, to the highly manoeuvrable, long-range aircraft that dominated the skies of Europe and the Pacific during the Second World War; the latest two generations of fighters are the pinnacle of these earlier designs. 

Indo-Pacific Asia’s fighter fleets are made up of fighter aircraft ranging from third to fourth-generation aircraft, each with unique capabilities and roles within the regional balance of power. we will take a closer look at the operational fighter fleets of China and India. 

People’s Liberation Army Air Force

China’s Air Force has undergone a period of modernisation and expansion in line with the country’s growing ambitions in Indo-Pacific Asia. Part of this program has seen an expansion in the PLAAF’s fourth-generation aircraft fleets and increased investment and development of domestically designed fifth-generation platforms.

As the largest air force in Asia, the PLAAF operates about 3,000 aircraft of various roles, with a diverse fleet of multi-generation fighter aircraft, including: 

  • Xian JH-7: Similar in role to the retired F-111, the JH-7 is a fighter-bomber in operation with both the Chinese Air Forceand Chinese Naval Air Force. The fourth-generation aircraft has a combat radius of about 1,760 kilometres, max speed of Mach 1.75 and capable of carrying a variety of Chinese made air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface munitions, including ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ bombs with a maximum load capacity of about 20,000 pounds.
  • Chengdu J-10: China’s fourth-generation multi-role combat fighter, comparable to the US F-16 series of fighters. The J-10 is currently operated by both the Chinese Air Forceand Chinese Naval Air Force. The aircraft has a combat radius of 550 kilometres and max speed of Mach 1.8. J-10 is armed with a single 23mm cannon and has 11 under-wing hard points with capacity for 7,000 kilograms worth of external fuel stores and Chinese made air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface munitions, including ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ bombs.
  • Chengdu J-11: A Chinese variant of the Soviet Su-27SK air superiority fighter. The J-11 and its variants (from J-11B on) includes the J-15 carrier-based variant have a combat radius of about 1,500 kilometres and a max speed of Mach 2.35. The fighter is armed with a single 30mm cannon and has 10 hardpoints capable of carrying a variety of Chinese made air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface munitions, including ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ bombs.
  • Shenyang J-16: A Chinese produced variant of the Russian Su-30MKK series and the Chinese produced J-11B. The aircraft has a range of about 3,900 kilometres and max speed of Mach 2.5. The aircraft is armed with a single 30mm cannon and incorporates 12 hardpoints capable of carrying a variety of Chinese made air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface munitions, including ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ bombs.    
  • Sukhoi Su-30: Both the Chinese Air Force and Naval Air Force operate the Soviet designed Su-30 series aircraft. Su-30 has a max speed of Mach 2 and range of about 3,000 kilometres. The aircraft is armed with a single 30mm cannon and 12 hardpoints capable of carrying a variety of Russian and Chinese made air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface munitions, including ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ bombs with a maximum load capacity of about 18,000 pounds. 
  • Sukhoi Su-35: An evolution of the Su-30 series, the Su-35 provides the Chinese Air Force with a 4.5 generation fighter aircraft, incorporating thrust vectoring engines, with a max speed of Mach 2.25 and combat range of about 1,580 kilometres. The aircraft are armed with a single 30mm cannon and are equipped with 12 hardpoints capable of carrying a variety of Russian and Chinese made air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface munitions, including ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ bombs with a maximum load capacity of about 18,000 pounds.      
  • Chengdu J-20: China’s first fifth-generation fighter aircraft, and the world’s third such aircraft, incorporates radar reducing cross sections and materials, high-capacity sensor integration and advanced engines. While little is known about the specifics of the fifth-generation air superiority fighter, designed to counter the American F-22 Raptor, it has a max speed of Mach 2.5+ and incorporates a variety of advanced Chinese designed precision-guided bombs, and air-to-air missiles in internal weapons bays and advanced electro-optical targeting systems and active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars.
Read More   IAF deployed fighter jets at border in Ladakh after spotting Chinese choppers near LAC

Indian Air Force

The Indian Air Force, like its Russian and Chinese counterparts, is undergoing a series of modernisation and recapitalisation programs to phase out older generation fighter aircraft with foreign designed and manufactured fighter aircraft. India’s pursuit for a modern fighter force also aims to help develop the country’s own aerospace manufacturing industry.

India’s Air Force incorporates a variety of fighter aircraft designed by French, Russian and domestic manufacturers, including: 

  • Mikoyan MiG-29: Designed in the mid-1980s, the MiG-29 aircraft serves the Indian Air Force with an early-fourth-generation multi-role fighter aircraft similar to the American F-16 and F/A-18 series fighter aircraft. The MiG-29 has a range of about 2,100 kilometres and max speed of Mach 1.13 (at sea level) and 2.25 (at high altitude) and is armed with a single 30mm cannon and nine hardpoints for carrying a variety of Russian and Indian made air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface munitions, including ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ bombs with a maximum load capacity of about 12,000 pounds. 
  • Sukhoi Su-30MKI: Expected to form the backbone of India’s modern air force, with 272 currently on order and 233 in operation, the Soviet designed Su-30MKI variant has a max speed of Mach 2 and features thrust vectoring control and canards for super-manoeuvrability and range of about 3,000 kilometres. The aircraft is armed with a single 30mm cannon and 12 hardpoints capable of carrying a variety of Russian and Indian made air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface munitions, including ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ bombs with a maximum load capacity of about 18,000 pounds.  
  • Mirage 2000: The French designed multi-role third-generation multi-role fighter aircraft has been in service with the Indian Air Force since the 1980s. The Mirage has a range of about 1,550 kilometres and a max speed of Mach 2.2 at high altitude. The nimble fighters are armed with twin 30mm cannons and have nine hardpoints for integrating a range of French, Russian and Indian made air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface munitions, including ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ bombs with a total capacity of 13,900 pounds. 
  • Dassault Rafale: Another French designed combat aircraft, the Rafale provides the Indian Air Force with a fourth-generation combat fighter, with a combat range of about 1,852 kilometres and max speed of Mach 1.8. The Rafale is armed with a single 30mm cannon and 14 hardpoints for integrating French and US made air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface munitions, including ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ bombs with a total capacity of 20,900 pounds.
  • HAL Tejas: The Indian designed and manufactured multi-role, light fighter is India’s first attempt to develop a fourth-generation fighter aircraft and builds on the experiences learnt from participating in the the manufacturing and operation of foreign designed aircraft. The Tejas has a combat radius of 500 kilometres and max speed of Mach 1.8 (full-rate production model), and is armed with a single 23mm cannon and eight hardpoints for integrating a range of Russian and Indian air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface munitions, including ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ bombs.    

India’s Air Force modernisation program will see a number of continuing transformations, including the introduction of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Designated the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, it is designed to complement fourth- and 4.5 generation fighter aircraft and replace the ageing Mirage 2000 aircraft. 

Additionally, the Indian Air Force is looking to introduce 126 new, single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft, with the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 or Super Hornet fighter aircraft. It is expected that the procurement will also see increased Indian industry involvement as part of the Indian government’s goal of developing a capable domestic aerospace and advanced manufacturing industry. 

© 2021, GDC. © GDC and www.globaldefensecorp.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to www.globaldefensecorp.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.