The Rise of the Pakistan Air Force: The Chinese Hand
The Pakistani Air Force is said to be much weaker than the Indian Air Force. However, China has made extremely dangerous moves to increase the air combat capability of its allies.
In the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft 2022 ranking (WDMMA), the Indian Air Force has unexpectedly surpassed China in overall combat power. More importantly, the Indian Air Force, ranked at sixth place, above the Pakistani Air Force (ranked 18th) in the list. Rafale, Sukhoi and Tejas give strengths to Indian Air Force, Pakistan has fighters like F-16 and JF-17 Thunder.
The Pakistani Air Force is said to be much weaker than the Indian Air Force. However, China has made extremely dangerous moves to increase the air combat capability of its allies. The Indian Air Force is without a doubt the number one capable and powerful air force in South Asia and the leading in Asia. Their main force is a large squadron of Su-30MKI heavy fighters and more recently, modern Rafale multi-role fighter squadrons from France.
India’s potential rival, the Pakistani Air Force, has a rather limited fighter fleet. Pakistan is maintaining a fleet of single-engine light fighters with the core of the US F-16 and the Chinese JF-17. Totally inferior to the skilled fighters of India. However, in an extremely concerning move, Pakistan’s close ally China has provided extremely dedicated help to improve the air combat capabilities of Pakistani pilots, in a simulated wᴀʀ with powerful Indian fighters.
Within the framework of the bilateral exercise “Eagle IX” between China and Pakistan taking place in December 2020, China has deployed J-11B and J-10C fighters to Pakistan. The exercise aims to simulate a wᴀʀ with Indian Su-30MKI and Rafale fighters.
Basically, both J-11B and Su-30MKI belong to the Su-27 Flanker family, with many similarities. Even so, the Chinese are confident that their latest upgraded J-11s are equipped with advanced weᴀponѕ systems, sensors, electronic warfare systems and active phased array radar that are superior to those of the Su-30MKI of India. Since at least 2017, China has sent J-11s to Pakistan to conduct exercises aimed at simulating enemy aircraft.
J-10C fighters were also sent to Pakistan to practice simulating the new Indian Rafale fighters. Since being put into service from April 2018 until now, there have been more than 200 J-10Cs in service with the Chinese Air Force, if all J-10 variants are counted, it is more than 500. It can be seen that the J-10C is similar in many aspects to the Rafale in terms of aerodynamics, dimensions, aviation systems and weᴀponѕ, extremely suitable for simulation for an air combat training.
The J-10C is equipped with a single WS-10C engine with a thrust of about 145 – 150 kN, while the Rafale is equipped with up to 2 M88 engines, each with a thrust of 75 kN. Thus, even though the Chinese fighter only needs a single engine, it can still match the thrust of the French fighter with two engines.
In terms of speed and Rate of climb, the J-10C can easily simulate Rafale’s flight performance. The J-10C’s PL-15 long-range air-to-air missile is equivalent to the modern French Meteor missile, but the J-10C has an advantage in short-range air-to-air missiles with the PL-10 over the rival Magic R.550. The Chinese think that the J-10C is the best single-engine light fighter in the world today, surpassing even the American F-16 or the Swedish Gripen JAS-39.
In another move, in March 2022, the Pakistani Air Force officially commissioned the Chengdu J-10C fighter into its squadron, increasing the country’s air combat capabilities. The first six J-10Cs entered service at Minhas Air Base, Punjab. Pakistan has yet to disclose the specifics of the number of planes it orders from China. Estimates are said to be at least 25 units.
In the future, China is very keen to promote the export of J-10 fighters to Pakistan to replace the old F-16s in service. Obviously, the Indian Air Force will certainly face a lot of difficulties to confront both Chinese and Pakistani rivals.