Why China's upgraded J-20 stealth fighter still cannot match IAF Rafale's firepower

Although China on Wednesday announced it was pulling back its troops from frontline areas along the LAC but Air Force from both countries continue to bolster their strike capability.

China junks Russian AL-31F engine

As part of its thrust to modernise its premier fighter aircraft, China recently upgraded the J-20 stealth fighter's engine replacing it with a homegrown product. Chinese engineers have upgraded the Russian AL-31F engine with domestically built WS-10C engine.

The move comes as India packed its Air Force with eight Rafale fighters last year to boost its strike capability as tensions mounted in eastern Ladakh.

Although China on Wednesday announced it was pulling back its troops from frontline areas along the LAC but Air Force from both countries continue to bolster their war capability.

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J-20's Within Visual Range (WVR) PL-10 missiles

J-20's current weaponry includes two Within Visual Range (WVR) PL-10 missiles and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) PL-15 missiles. Chinese aviation experts have included twin-seat version of the J-20 aircraft.

In a tactical move to give the J-20 an edge, Chinese aviation experts are experimenting with a second crew member giving the co-pilot offensive responsibilities.

The J-20 aircraft now has new Thrust-Vector Controls (TVC) allowing pilots to perform manoeuvres at high angles during attacks.

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J-20 fifth-generation class

Ten years after the J-20 made its debut flight, China began mass production of the J-20 aircraft last year as it upgraded the fighter to fifth-generation class. 

Chinese fighters and bombers have been regularly violating Taiwan's airspace in the past few months despite warnings by the US threatening Indo-Pacific security. The stealth fighters were earlier deployed to oversee military activities in the Taiwan Straits where the US has openly let its warships sail.

China had stationed its J-20 aircraft along the LAC which was confirmed by Indian Air Force chief RKS Bhadauria. The IAF chief said as soon as India placed the Rafale jets at the border, the J-20 could also seen in the area along eastern Ladakh.

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J-20 aircraft on Chinese carriers

Reports say China is considering modifying the J-20 aircraft to host them on its aircraft carriers. The country currently has two aircraft carriers Shandong and Liaoning which Chinese military officials set to station the state of the art fighters on it.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter had passed through the eastern theatre Command with Taiwan in its perimeter in July last year. Amid reports of mass production of the J-20s, the United States announced that it has approved the sale of 105 F-35 stealth aircraft to Japan for an estimated $23.11 billion. 

In recent decades Taiwan has found itself outnumbered and out-gunned by China's enormous People's Liberation Army.

The imbalance has been compounded by western governments becoming increasingly wary of selling it advanced weapon systems, fearful of incurring Beijing's wrath.

It has pushed Taiwan to develop its own hardware, including advanced missiles, boats and the new trainer jet.

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J-20 vs Taiwan

China has ramped up fighter flights and warship crossings near Taiwan or through the Taiwan Strait since Tsai was first elected in 2016, as she has refused to acknowledge that the island is part of "one China".

The United States has remained Taiwan's leading unofficial ally and arms supplier, but until recently Taiwan had struggled to buy new fighter jets.

Beijing has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure since Tsai first took office in 2016 as she has refused to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of "one China".

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China's J-20 stealth fighter jets deployed 200 miles from Ladakh airbase

China had unveiled its new stealth fighter jet, the J-20, the country's first radar-evading combat aircraft, during one of the many test runs at the military airbase in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province in January 2011.

A test flight of China's new stealth fighter jet on January 11 overshadowed a US bid to shore up uneasy military relations, underscoring a growing rivalry between the two powers.

According to reports, China has deployed J-20 stealth fighter jets  200 miles from Ladakh airbase. Satellite images in mid-August showed two jets at Hotan amid the India-China standoff in eastern Ladakh.

Reports say the India Air Force has deployed Su-30 MKI, MiG-29, and MiG-29K fighters, and the turn of Rafale to be stationed close to the border cannot be discounted after all the Ambala airbase lies just 200 km from the China border.

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China may have downgraded the super jet

The Chinese J-20 is touted to be the most advanced fighter jet in the Dragon's arsenal with advanced long-range strike capability with sophisticated artificial intelligence capability. Reports say China has at least 20 J-20 jets.

However, the key question is whether the J-20s which have largely been untested in battle conditions can operate in the high altitude regions in the upper Himalayas?

In fact, there were reports that China may have downgraded the super jet after a Global Times report said it was a "fourth-generation" fighter and not a "fifth-generation" jet.

Even though the Chinese Air Force likes to compare the J-20 to the US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters but western experts feel the Chinese jets still have some way to go because China still hasn't tested it in "war-like" live situations.

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J-20 aircraft 'Black Eagle'

NATO calls the J-20 aircraft "Black Eagle", reports say the front portion resembles the F-22 Raptor and the rear section Sukhoi T-50. A Russian company has denied reports that it has given stealth technology to Chengdu J-20 fighter aircraft.

China's fighter jet has PL-12C/D and PL-21 air to air missiles (AAM) including PL-10 short-range AAM.

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China's fighter was 'inspired' by American theories on air combat

The J-20 can reportedly climb at the rate of 304m/s with a maximum speed of 2,100km/h. The single-seater fighter jet has been manufactured by China's Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG).

A major controversy had erupted after China's J-20 designer Yang Wei had said that China's fighter was "inspired" by American theories on air combat.

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Meteor air-to-air missile

The Rafale aircraft are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia. The jets 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.

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Air-to-air missiles during very low altitude penetration

With a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, the Rafale combat aircraft 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.

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