The five French Rafale fighter jets arrived at Ambala airbase in Haryana on July 29 after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km to join the Indian Air Force. Seen as India’s first major acquisition of fighter jets in over two decades, the Rafales are expected to significantly boost IAF’s capabilities.
In terms of comparison, Rafale is more capable than Pakistan’s F-16 or China’s J-20, an aircraft that is yet to see combat. According to former IAF chief BS Dhanoa, Rafale is a game-changer, and the Chinese J-20 doesn’t even come close.
However, expectedly, Chinese experts have a difference of opinion. They claim that Rafale is just a third-plus fighter aircraft and doesn’t stand much of a chance against a ‘stealth, fourth-generation jet like the J-20.”
As per a report published in the Chinese daily Global Times, which is also a mouthpiece of the Communist Party, Zhang Xuefeng, a military expert says that Rafale is only about one-fourth of a generation more advanced than the Su-30 MKI jets.
“In some combat performance areas, the Rafale is superior to the Su-30 MKI fighter jets, which are in service in the Indian air force in large batches, but it is only about one-fourth of a generation more advanced and does not yield a significant qualitative change,” the report quoted the expert as saying.
“The Rafale is comparable to other third-plus generation fighter jets used by other countries, but it will find it very difficult to confront a stealth-capable fourth-generation fighter jet,” he further said.
Notably, China’s claims cannot be taken at face value following the clashes in Ladakh that left 20 India soldiers dead. Reportedly, 43 PLA soldiers, including a Commanding Officer, was killed in the clash as well but China did not acknowledge their death.
The two countries are engaged in talks for disengagement at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
India had signed a deal worth over Rs 60,000 crore with France in September 2016 for 36 Rafales to meet the emergency requirements of the IAF.