I have flown in just about everything, with all kinds of pilots in all parts of the world – British, French, Pakistani, Iranian, Japanese, Chinese – and there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between any of them except for one unchanging, certain fact: the best, most skillful pilot has the most experience.
— Chuck Yeager
While India and China joust over who has the best jet fighter, the words of America’s legendary fighter pilot Chuck Yeager, ring loud in stark contrast — it isn’t the metal surrounding the pilot that wins dogfights, it’s the pilot in the seat.
But that fact didn’t seem to matter, when former Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa dismissed claims that the Rafale fighter jets inducted by the Indian Air Force this week had no chance against China’s Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter, The Hindustan Times reported.
The claims, made by an expert in The Global Times, said that the Rafale was only superior to the IAF’s Sukhoi-30 MKI jets but a generation below Chinese PLA’s J-20 fighter.
“It is only about one-fourth of a generation more advanced and does not yield a significant qualitative change,” Zhang Xuefeng, who was described by the communist party’s propaganda website as a military expert, said.
The website, quoting unnamed experts claimed, that “Rafale is only a third-plus generation fighter jet, and does not stand much of a chance against a stealth, fourth generation one like the J-20,” the report said.
Ex-IAF chief Dhanoa, who has described the 4.5 generation Rafale fighter jets as a “game changer” for the IAF, responded to the Chinese claim with two questions.
“If the J-20, also called the Mighty Dragon, is indeed a fifth generation stealth fighter, then why does it have canards while genuine 5th generation fighters such as the F-22, F-35 and Russian fifth generation Su-57 don’t,” Dhanoa asked.
Canards are fuselage-mounted small, forward wings located forward of the main wing to improve aircraft control and contribute to lift. They are considered to present large angular surfaces that tend to reflect radar signals, the report said.
The Ex-Air Marshal also asked: “Why can’t the J-20 supercruise if it is really a fifth generation fighter as its manufacturer Chengdu Aerospace Corporation calls it.”
Supercruise is the ability of a fighter jet to fly at speeds above M 1.0 — the speed of sound — without the use of afterburners, the additional combustion component used on some jet engines to increase thrust.
“The Rafale has the supercruise ability and its radar signature is comparable to the best of the fighters in the world,” Dhanoa said.
Dhanoa has flown top-of -the-line Indian fighter aircraft including the Sukhoi 30 MKI.
He was also the man responsible for targeting the Pakistani intruders on Drass, Kargil, Battalik heights and spearheaded the Balakot air strikes along with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
The retired top air force officer had earlier in the week mocked Chinese claims of superior air capability, wondering that if the Chinese equipment was so good, Pakistan would have used its Chinese JF-17 and not the F-16 aircraft to attack Nangi Tekri brigade in Rajouri sector in February 2019, the report said.
But Pakistan used the Chinese JF-17 to merely give air defence cover to its Mirage 3/5 bombers.
Out of the 36 Rafale jets, five of them landed in India on Wednesday morning which will resurrect the Number 17 Golden Arrows squadron of the Indian Air Force, The Eurasian Times reported.
The rest is supposed to be delivered by 2022. When all the 36 Rafale jets are delivered, it will take it to 32 squadrons, still well below the 42 squadrons of the sanctioned strength.
The Rafale twin-jet fighter has been used by the French Air Force and Navy since 2004 and 2006, respectively and has been ordered by Egypt, Qatar and India.
Incidentally, India is expected to get 12 more Sukhoi 30 MKI and 21 MiG 29s next year from Russia.
According to diplomats based in Moscow, the Su-30 MKI will “look better, shoot better and fight better.”