The first five of the 36 Rafale jets are about to arrive in India on Wednesday. With this India has fulfilled its ambition of dominating the skies in event of a major conflict with China- New Delhi’s main rival and the most adversarial neighbour, apart from Pakistan.
The entry of Dassault’s Rafale promises to change equations drastically by giving India air superiority over China. None of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force fighter aircraft- not even the so-called fifth generation, Chengdu J-20 can match upto Rafale’s firepower. A comprehensive comparison between Rafale and J-20 reveals that India will dominate if and when the two Asian giants battle it out in the skies in the near future.
Rafale is a 4.5 generation aircraft, whereas China claims that its ‘stealth’ J-20s are fifth generation aircraft. However, experts say that Beijing’s claims about J-20 are exaggerated.
Air Marshal (retd.) R Nambiar has flight tested Rafale fighter jets. He said, “Rafale is far superior to the J-20, the Chengdu fighter of China. Even though it’s believed to be a 5th generation fighter, it is probably at best a 3.5 generation aircraft. It’s got a third generation engine as we have in the Sukhoi.”
Rafale features a much better engine than the one used by the Chinese J-20. Rafale therefore offers better reliability, longevity and maintainability- characteristics that can prove critical in times of hostilities.
Moreover, Chengdu J-20 isn’t really as stealthy a fighter jet as China claims it to be. There was a lot of propaganda about the stealth features of the Chinese aircraft, but experts rely on several analyses done by the Indian Air Force (IAF). In terms of stealth, Rafale offers superiority over the Chinese jet. In fact, recently there were reports that a Rafale jet had bombed the Turkish al-Watiya airbase in Libya. The air raid must have been carried out by either Egypt or France, because only these two countries have Rafale fighters.
Interestingly, Eurasian Times recently published a report about the Rafale air raid in Libya which read, “Rafale Jets Evade All Radars, Air Defence Systems; Bombs Turkish Facilities In Libya.” J-20’s stealth capabilities are under suspicion, while Rafale has proved itself on a tricky battleground.
Even in terms of weapons systems, firepower, combat abilities and capacity to carry payloads Rafale beats the J-20. According to India Today, an Indian Air Force (IAF) official said, “It (Rafale) can lift load up to 1.5 times its weight, which means it can carry weapons and fuel much more capacity than the J-20.”
Moreover, Rafale packs a punch with the meteor missile that makes it far more lethal than the J-20. A last minute addition- HAMMER and other weapons like potent meteor and scalp missiles give the Rafale a definite edge over Chinese aircraft.
The meteor is a Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile with a mind-boggling range of 150 kilometres. The sheer psychological advantage that the Indian pilots thus gain over Chinese pilots with such long-range missiles is a game-changer in Sino-India equations.
Scalp, on the other hand, is a long range cruise missile that can be launched from a distance of 200 kilometres. Rafale can hit both fixed and stationary targets with this long range missile in land or water. Moreover, Rafale will also carry MICA missiles that can be deployed for both visual and beyond range air-to-air interception and air-to-ground strikes.
Needless to mention, Rafale is a battle-hardened fighter jet, while J-20 is unreliable like most of China’s weapons systems that are untested copies of Russian defence designs. Rafale is a war-machine. It has delivered during combat missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Mali. The fighter jet proves its worth every single time it takes to the skies.
Moreover, the Rafale aircraft that India will receive will come with unique modifications including the ability to take off from high-altitudes like Leh. So, the next time there is an Eastern Ladakh stand-off like situation, India will have the enhanced ability to overpower the PLA Air Force.
Experts also question why Beijing went for the Russian Su-35, when the Chinese State media claims that J-20 is the best. Of course, Su-35 also comes nowhere near Rafale. Nambiar said, “Su35 is also no match to the Rafale with its weapons, superior sensors and fully integrated architecture. The capability to super cruise even with four missiles, stealth characteristics all put together make the Rafale far more potent than Su35.”
The IAF is therefore going to gain a long-term edge over the PLA Air Force. Amidst Sino-India military tensions, the Rafale delivery has thus turned the heat on China.