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India`s new Rafale fighter jets vs. China`s J-20?

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After the arrival of Rafale amid border tensions with China, the Indian home minister Amit Shah said; Rafale is one of the most world’s most powerful machines capable of defying any challenge in the sky. Further, these fighter jets will boost Indians’ defensive and offensive capabilities and will prove to be a “game-changer” for India. India bought 36 fighter jets, 5 of which received, and further will be inducted in few years for a deal of $ 9.35 billion or $242 to 260 million per fighter.

The arrival of Rafale was greeted with much media hype, every news channel in India broadcast was meet with some skepticism as China possess a greater weapon with J-20. Is It Fair to say India will dominate the skies between China and India if there is further escalation between the two countries?

First, China possesses overwhelming fourth-generation fighter jets, India has more than 300 4th Generation fighter jets with 30 plus squadrons, comprising of the Russian fleet of 250 (SU 30 MKI). The Chinese Air force has more than 600 fourth-generation fighter jets and made forays recently in a fifth-generation fighter jet development with J-20 and J-31. With J-20 already being inducted in the air force, overall, India Air Force has 900 fighter jets with China 2000 fighter jets.

Chinas fighter fleet overwhelms Indian Air Force by 2:1. In full-scale war, China will dominate the sky by sheer number size. However, it’s very unlikely that India will engage with China alone and will involve other countries if there is a rise in escalation like the USA, Japan, and Australia under the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue”.

Second, J-20 and Rafale are different beasts that belong to different categories, J-20 is the heavyweight fighter with 32-000 kg compare to Rafale 15000 kg. Rafale is four-plus generation fighter jets comparable with F-18 hornet and Chinese J-11 B, J-20 along with SU 57, and F-22 are fifth-generation fighter jets. With sophisticated technology, cross section radar, and stealth. 

Over the past decades initially, the USA then Russia, and now China produce a different class of fighter jets because of their high military and development budget and create specialized fighter jets program for the role of attack or interceptor, other countries like France, Sweden, Israel, India, Pakistan depend on single fighter jet with multi-role capabilities because of their limited budgets rather than specialized fighter jets.

It means Rafale can perform all the functions like air to air combat, air to land, nuclear delivery but its airframe must balance all. This leaves aircraft at disadvantage against specialized fighter jets like F-22, SU 57, J-20. Not to forget J20s enhanced capabilities of high-altitude ceilings with Mach 2 speed which allows it to attack Rafale with Kinetic and gravitational potential energy, and ability to be stealth with cross-section radar making it difficult for an enemy to trace and track.

The government of India faced considerable criticism over this and may procure Su 57 from Russia much more capable of thwarting challenges from the J-20s. India also has back up with the S-400 defense system yet to be handed over from Russia, and SU 30 MKI with Brahmos missile will be able to penetrate deeper in Chinese territory.