According to China's state-run Global Times PLA warplanes recently conducted a "series of intensive exercises around a Western Theater Command Air Force base, which is located at an important strategic point in northwest China".
The warplanes conducted "mock battles" with "J-11 fighter jet was seen flying at very low levels in the mountains".
China's western theatre command consists of Tibet, Xinjiang, Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai and Shaanxi. The Global Times quoting other Chinese media sources said the exercises were held in the "vast desert in Northwest China".
"The J-11 fighter jet series is one of the PLA's main pieces of combat equipment used in missions like air defense and seizing air superiority," it said.
Rafale jets "familiarisation" flights above LAC
India Air Force had earlier flown the new French Rafale jets as a "familiarisation" flights above the border along the Line of Actual Control(LAC).
According to newswire AFP which quoted a senior officer, Rafale fighter jets have been familiarising in our operational areas including Ladakh.
India's defence ministry had said earlier during the commissioning of the Rafale jets that the fighter planes had "already flown and familiarised with our operational environment" without specifically mentioning Ladakh.
The announcement was made even as military commanders from both sides held their latest round of talks aimed at easing tensions along the disputed Himalayan border.
Rafale vs China
Rajnath Singh had earlier said the new French Rafale jets were "strong message" amid an escalating border row with China. The first five of a $9.4-billion order for 36 Rafale aircraft formally entered service following a ceremony in Ambala in northern India in September.
Amid tensions along the LAC, India has embarked on a $130-billion modernisation of its armed forces including ordering attack helicopters from the United States and a missile defence system from Russia.
China's Shenyang J-11 fighter jet
China's Shenyang J-11 fighter jet is a variant of the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter manufactured by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. The fighter jet can carry several missiles including PL-9 short-range, air-to-air missile (AAM), PL-12 radar-guided air-to-air missile and Vympel R-77 medium-range air-to-air missile.
According to Chinese media quoted by the Global Times, "a separate brigade attached to the PLA Western Theater Command Air Force is commissioning more J-16 fighter jets, a type of aircraft developed based on the J-11."
During the exercise, Chinese jets practised low-level flying which the Chinese media said involved "puts the pilot's technique and reactions to the test" and "this tactic can effectively evade hostile radar and the naked eye, leaving the enemy with little time to react."
Shenyang J-11 lacks the combat experience
Shenyang J-11 still lacks the combat experience which India's Rafale possesses. The Rafale's are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA's Meteor air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of their weapons package.
Meteor is a next-generation beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden.
With a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, India's Rafle can reach maximum speeds of 750 knots.
It can carry out both air-to-ground strikes, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie.
The jet is capable of performing several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase, giving it outstanding survivability.
The mission system of the Rafale has the potential to integrate a variety of current and future armaments.
Rafale has been cleared to operate weapons like the MICA air-to-air 'Beyond Visual Range' (BVR) interception, combat and self-defence missiles, the METEOR very long-range air-to-air missile, the HAMMER -- Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range -- modular, rocket-boosted air-to-ground precision-guided weapon series, laser-guided bombs with different warheads, and "specifics armaments" selected by some clients.
The Rafale is also fitted with 14 hardpoints, out of which five are capable of drop tanks and heavy ordnance.
The jet's total external load capacity is more than nine tonnes.
China's J-11 'untested'
Critically, the Rafale is "battle-ready", it has led operations in Afghanistan, Benghazi, Iraq and Syria encompassing different terrains.
The fact that it has operated in various regions gives it an edge over China's J-11 which is largely "untested", a fact which the Chinese media and experts have consistently chosen to ignore or not dwell upon since it would expose their weak link.
Last month, India had received the second batch of three Rafale fighters. The three Rafale jets landed in Jamnagar, Gujarat after flying non-stop from France. With three more Rafale fighter jets, the IAF will now have eight Rafale jets in service. India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of these aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.
It is can be reliably said that in a faceoff between Chinese J-11 fighters and India's Rafale the chances of the Dragon being pounded by the Elephant is very high.