Rafale vs. J20

There was much discussion of pitting the Rafale against the J-20, China’s most advanced fighter to date, even before India bought the French fighters last year.

Given the current standoff in the Himalayas between India and China, some have speculated that Indian Rafales’ air superiority could pose a threat to Chinese defenses.

Air Vice Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry (retired) of the Pakistani Air Force claims that the Chinese fifth-generation fighter jet poses the greatest threat to the region.

As one expert put it, “J-20 is a real game-changer for our region. According to Chaudhry, who was speaking to The Express Tribune, “it would initiate the latest tech and introduce new capabilities in the territory for the very first time.”

To compete with the likes of Lockheed Martin’s stealthy F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptor, China has developed the Chengdu J-20, a single-seat, twin-jet, all-weather multi-role stealth fighter.

The Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) designed and built the J-20 stealth fighter, which made its maiden flight in January 2011. It has a supersonic cruise speed and cutting-edge avionics and can perform air-to-air and air-to-ground combat roles.

India’s French-made Rafale is a twin-engine, canard-delta-wing, multi-role fighter aircraft. It can carry a variety of weapons.

The Rafale can carry out a variety of roles, including air superiority, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike, and nuclear deterrence.

According to Chaudhry, the only appropriate fighter to compare to the J-20 is the American F-35.

The F-35 is the only other fighter jet that can be compared to the J-20, and whoever in Pakistan or India gets these jets first will have an advantage over the other.

He said that the Rafale has the same technology as the F-16 and the Su-30, making it inferior to the J-20.

In addition, Chaudhry stated that “Rafale didn’t bring any new technology to the region” because “similar tech existed in F-16 and SU-30.”

Can you tell us how well these two combatants perform against one another?

When comparing the J-20 to the Rafale, the Chinese jet easily comes out on top due to its larger dimensions (up to 20.5 meters in length and 13.5 meters in wingspan). Dimensionally, the Indian Rafale measures 15.3 meters in length, 10.9 meters in wingspan, and 5.3 meters in height.

The J-20 stealth fighter weighs in at 19,000 kilograms, making it a heavier combat jet than the Rafale, which has a weight range of 9,900 to 10,600 kilograms.

This means that J-20s can carry more weapons on missions when engaged in combat.

The J-20s are faster than the Rafales due to the fifth-generation fighters’ ability to reach speeds of up to 2,400 kilometers per hour. Rafales are also swift, but their maximum speed is capped at 2,222.6 km/h.

In order to avoid being hit by surface-to-air missiles, fighter pilots frequently resort to increasing their altitude during dogfights. The Rafales can only fly up to 50,000 feet in altitude, while the J-20s can fly up to 65,620 feet.

As a bonus, the J-20 fighter’s stealth design makes it significantly less likely that it will be picked up by enemy radars. Indeed, the 4.5-generation Rafale isn’t technically a stealth fighter, but it does have some stealth characteristics, such as a small radar cross-section (RCS) and infrared signature.

Experts in the military, however, claim that the Chinese J-20s’ stealth technology is more advanced than that of the French Rafales.

According to military experts who spoke with the Chinese state-run Global Times, the difference in the fighters’ generations is what gives the J-20 an edge over the Rafale.

Regarding fighter jets, “it is common knowledge that a generational gap represents a huge difference that tactics and numbers in combat cannot make up.”

Military experts told Global Times that the J-20 is superior to the French Rafale.

The Opinion of Indian Experts.

Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retired), India’s top defense expert, says that despite the widespread belief that the Rafales are inferior to the J-20s, some skepticism remains about the effectiveness of the Chinese aircraft.

The recently added Rafale to the IAF has prompted comparisons. Compared to earlier fighter jets, the Rafale belongs to the 4.5th generation. It’s partially stealthy but lacks hidden gun storage. The aircraft is roughly half the size and weight of the J-20.

“While China plays down the Rafale’s abilities, the J-20’s crudely shaped, radar signal-reflecting canard controls give us pause about its stealthiness. Similar to the Su-30, the J-20 is powered by old-fashioned Russian engines that are notoriously bad at hiding their radar and infrared (IR) footprints.”

Unlike the Rafale, the J-20 is questioned for its alleged inability to super-cruise. When it comes to achieving stealth, the J-20 has met some of its Low Observable design goals. The Air Marshal cautions that the plane’s round nozzle on older models could compromise its stealthiness.

He also discusses the problems with maintaining and relying on the fighter’s engines.

There are also major problems when it comes to the upkeep and dependability of J-20 engines. The development of the Chinese WS-15 engine is still significantly behind schedule. The exact release date of the WS-15 is currently unconfirmed. 

The Rafale’s Snecma M 88 engines have been tried and true for a long time and have improved upon their predecessors in terms of reliability, longevity, and ease of maintenance.

Chopra claims that while the Rafale is a comprehensive package covering the entire spectrum of threats, experts call the electronic warfare (EW) suite of the J-20 into question.

Aerospace Electronic Warfare (EW) refers to an aircraft’s capacity to employ electromagnetic spectrum waves for offensive operations against the electronic systems of an adversary or defensive operations to safeguard electronic assets of interest.

Since 21st-century weapons increasingly rely on sophisticated electronics, EW equipment is crucial to any modern military stockpile.

Chopra also emphasizes how the Rafale is superior to the J-20s because of its extensive combat history and its versatility.

“Despite Rafale’s 20 years of combat experience in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali, Libya, and Syria, the J-20 is still in the induction phase. The Rafale can perform a variety of missions. Unlike the J-20, which cannot perform multiple missions simultaneously, it can complete at least four missions in a single sortie. Rafale has 14 hard points (all external) compared to the J-20’s 6, despite being a smaller aircraft. This makes it abundantly clear that Rafale will be more than a match for the J-20.”

It is not surprising to hear the Chinese brag about the superiority of their homegrown fighter jets, like the J-20, while simultaneously criticizing their Western competitors. In addition, the J-20’s status as a true fifth-generation fighter jet is still debatable, at least according to Chopra.

According to Indian Airforce Veteran claims, China uses its own standards to classify aircraft generations, which are at odds with those used elsewhere. To the Chinese, an airplane’s generation begins with its incorporation into the air force. According to China’s standards, the J-20 belongs to the fourth generation of aircraft. The IAF veteran claims that it is unclear whether the J-20 is a true fifth-generation aircraft or has just been touted as one. 

Chinese sources refer to the Rafale as a “3rd Generation aircraft,” further diminishing its status compared to Western fighter jets. According to their respective standards, both the J-20 and the F-16 are 4th generation planes. This means that China lacks a true counter to the F-22 and F-35. 

Despite claims from the Chinese government that the PL-15 has a range greater than that of any Western missile, there is currently no evidence to support these claims, and the missile has not been put into service.