Pakistan is said to have bought a full squadron of 25 Chinese-made J-10C fighter with an eye on ensuring air parity with India. The Chinese fighter though is seen as being outmatched by the French-made Rafale jets that India has acquired. Here’s the lowdown on the aircraft.
What Is The J-10C?
The Jian 10, or J-10, is a multi-role fighter indigenously developed in China by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry. Its NATO designation is ‘Firebird’ and the plane is also known as the ‘Vigorous Dragon’. According to reports, the J-10 was first reported on in as far back as 1994 with the first flight of ther single seater jet taking place in 1998. The J-10C is the latest variant of J-10 and was inducted into the Chinese military in 2018.
The J-10 is a single-engine, lightweight multirole fighter that is capable of operating in all weather conditions, experts say, with strike missions and air-to-air warfare being its primary objects. The aircraft features a huge delta wing and carries two canards — winglike projections that precede the main wing that are designed to provide extra stability or control — behind the cockpit. It is reported to have a similar payload as the Russian-made MiG-29 and the US-made F-16.
The J-10C, the latest iteration of the jet, is powered by a Chinese-made WS-10 Taihang engine. The J-10C is said to have a strong resemblance with the F-16s that form the mainstay of the Pakistani air force. But it is a more attractive option for Islamabad because the use of F-16s comes with several riders imposed by the US, including on use against India.
How Do The J-10C and Rafale Compare?
According to reports, a Pakistani lawmaker questioned the move to acquire the J-10C, saying that does not match up to the Rafale jet, made by the French Dassault Aviation. India has a deal to purchase 36 of the aircraft from France.
“I don’t understand the logic behind buying J-10C. We already have a fighter (F-16) which is in the similar class and generation. I don’t think J-10C is as good as Rafale also," Dr Afnan Ullah Khan said in a tweet.
Following a joint military exercise, Shaheen IX, with Pakistan at the end of 2020, Chinese experts had said that China’s J-10C and J-11B fighter jets could be used to simulate India’s Rafale and Su-30 fighter jets in mock battles, according to a report in the Chinese state-run Global Times.
A Chinese military aviation was cited as saying that “many aspects of the J-10C mid-sized fighter jet, including the size, aerodynamic characteristics, aviation and weapon systems and overall combat capability, are comparable to the France-made Rafale".
However, head-to-head comparisons of the two fighters note the superiority of the French-made fighter.
Experts note that though the Rafale is heavier than the J-10C, it also packs “far greater" thrust, something that gives it “better agility and higher energy, which is the deciding factor in WVR combat", or dogfights. The last time Indian and Pakistani jets faced off was following the Pulwama bomb blast in 2019, when a Pakistani F16 reportedly brought down a Mig-21 Bison. Also, the short-range MICA-IR missile carried by the Rafale is considered to be “generations ahead" of the PL-8/9 missiles used by the J-10C.
As to beyond-visual-range (BVR) combat, the Rafale again scores with its “technologically superior radar", which is said to have “a greater detection range in excess of 200km and the tracking mode, prioritisation of targets is fully automated".
On long-range missiles, too, the Rafale is seen as holding the advantage over the J-10C. Experts note that thought the Chinese jet uses the PL-15 missile that has a range of more than 200 km, it is “crippled with a radar that cannot use its full potential". The Rafale’s Meteor BVR air-to-air missile Meteor is said to be “unarguably the best in the world".
Then there are electronic warfare capabilities where Rafale stands out in comparison to the Chinese jet with its state-of-the-art tech, which is said to be a key reason behind its high price tag. According to an online resource, at USD 130 million, the price of one Rafale jet is close to four times that of the USD 35 million cost for a J-10C.
Finally, experts point out that the J-10C, like most Chinese jets, has not seen any combat while the Rafale has been tried and tested in battle theatres in Mali, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq & Syria.
What’s The Status Of China-Pak Military Ties?
Military analyst Joseph P Chacko was quoted as saying in a report that the J-10C appears attractive to Islamabad as “the all-weather friend China sells weapons to Pakistan with no strings attached". Noting that Pakistan has “tried to buy the Russian Su-27 derivatives and MiG-29’s without success", he added that “J-10C gives operational flexibility to PAF against its threats without restrictions and intrusive inspections".
As an article in defencexp.com notes, “Pakistan is not interested in the J-10C because it is a great aircraft. It is interested because they don’t have any other option."
China and Pakistan have sought to deepen their defence cooperation in recent years amid rising mistrust on the part of the US, for long Islamabad’s go-to supplier, when it comes to the sale of advanced weaponry. China and Pakistan have in fact jointly developed a fighter, the JF-17 Thunder, a lightweight, single-engine, fourth-generation multi-role jet. However, reported issues with the JF-17’s engine is the reason why Pakistan was forced to seek another class of fighter jets from Beijing.
In November 2021, reports said that China had delivered to Pakistan the largest and most advanced warship it has ever built with Global Times describing the vessel with stealth capabilities as being a “technologically advanced and highly capable platform with enormous surface-to-surface, surface-to-air and underwater firepower, besides extensive surveillance potential".