India's Ambitious Aspiration: Countering Hundreds of J-20s with 40 F-35s

Analyzing India’s Quest for Air Superiority against China

In the realm of aerial supremacy, nations strive to outpace each other in a race of technological prowess. With a burgeoning aerospace sector, India has set its sights on countering China’s vast fleet of J-20 stealth fighters. This aspiration raises eyebrows, prompting discussions about the effectiveness of its strategy. Can India truly address the challenge of hundreds of J-20s with a mere 40 F-35s? As we delve into the intricate dynamics of air combat, it becomes clear that India’s endeavor is laden with complexities and uncertainties.

The J-20 Enigma: A Stealthy Force to Reckon With

Former Indian pilot Anil Chopra’s article in the “Eurasia Times,” accentuates the concern over China’s expansive J-20 fleet, suggesting their numbers might reach as high as 150. However, the actual tally remains elusive, with even the United States speculating about the count. The evolving nature of technology and production capacity means the J-20’s future output could surge. Recent sightings of 15 J-20s by the Eastern Theater of the People’s Liberation Army affirm its active role in missions.

India’s Steep Uphill Battle

In contrast, India finds itself in a tight spot. Its ongoing struggle with developing the LCA fighter for decades showcases the complexities of aerospace innovation. AMCA, India’s fifth-generation aircraft project, has progressed sluggishly, still in the model phase after many years. Anil Chopra, a distinguished voice on Indian Air Force affairs, acknowledges that AMCA might take another 15 years to be operational. Hindrances like reliance on imported technology further stymie progress.

F-35: India’s Silver Bullet?

The United States F-35 has been touted as India’s potential solution to the J-20 conundrum. With India aiming to procure approximately 40 F-35 fighter jets, questions arise about its efficacy. Anil Chopra highlights the F-35’s global presence and achievements in various air forces. While the US hasn’t explicitly offered the F-35 to India, its display at the Indian Air Show hints at possibilities.

India's Ambitious Aspiration: Countering Hundreds of J-20s with 40 F-35s

A US Army F-35B fighter jet performs takeoff and landing exercises aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp, which has been deployed to the Sasebo base in southwestern Japan in the western Pacific, on March 23. 2018. (Photo by Kyodo News Stills via Getty Images)

The Performance Puzzle: F-35 vs. J-20

Anil Chopra’s article accentuates the F-35’s capabilities, emphasizing its strong performance. The F-35’s track record in the “Red Flag Military Exercise,” achieving a 15:1 record against the F-16, underscores its prowess. While the F-22 holds advantages in certain aspects, the F-35’s stealth capabilities outshine its predecessors. However, it’s important to note that the F-35 is a compromise between performance and cost, making direct comparisons intricate.

India's Ambitious Aspiration: Countering Hundreds of J-20s with 40 F-35s

US Perception of the J-20

The US Pacific Command Air Force Commander’s acknowledgment of the J-20’s professionalism and capabilities adds complexity to the narrative. The US military’s interest in the J-20’s command platform and control system hints at its recognition of the aircraft’s combat effectiveness. This reflects the J-20’s sophisticated stealth and integrated combat system, attributes that surpass India’s current capabilities.

The Dawn of the Sixth Generation

As India grapples with its present challenges, the world is already transitioning to sixth-generation aircraft. The US Air Force’s NGAD sixth-generation aircraft plan signifies a paradigm shift. The US military’s decision to test NGAD’s technical aspects using F-22 fighter jets reflects dissatisfaction with the F-35. This development underscores the complexity of modern aviation and nations’ differing priorities.

The Inevitable Conclusion

In the end, India’s ambition to counter hundreds of J-20s with a mere 40 F-35s is a multifaceted undertaking. While the F-35 brings promising attributes to the table, it’s not a definitive solution against the evolving J-20 fleet. The United States itself is venturing into sixth-generation aircraft, signifying the dynamic nature of aerospace competition. India’s journey toward air supremacy is riddled with challenges, but it also embodies the spirit of innovation and determination.


1. Can India’s AMCA become a game-changer in aerial combat?

India’s AMCA has potential, but its delayed development and reliance on imported technology present hurdles that need to be overcome for it to be a significant player in aerial combat.

2. How does the F-35 compare to China’s J-20 in terms of stealth capabilities?

Both aircraft have stealth capabilities, but the J-20’s integrated combat system and potential use of advanced technologies like the Air Police-500 give it a unique edge.

3. What challenges does India face in countering China’s J-20 fleet?

India’s challenges include sluggish aircraft development, reliance on foreign technology, and the need to bridge the gap in terms of numbers and capabilities.

4. Is the F-35 a suitable choice for countering the J-20?

While the F-35 possesses impressive capabilities, the sheer number and evolving technology of J-20s present a complex challenge that requires a comprehensive strategy.

5. How do geopolitical and technological factors influence India’s aspirations?

Geopolitical dynamics and technological advancements play a crucial role in shaping India’s approach to countering the J-20 challenge, highlighting the intricate nature of modern warfare.