China appears to be sticking with its “Wolf Warrior” tactics of intimidation amid simmering tensions with India on its Himalayan border.
According to Military Watch Magazine, new images released by the Central Theatre Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) show several H-6 bombers have been deployed near the disputed Line of Control (LOC).
China deploys over 270 H-6 bombers across the country, the bulk of them based near its east coast, which make up the largest bomber fleet in the world with much newer airframes available than those in the American or Russian fleets.
The H-6’s considerable firepower, deploying a wide range of standoff cruise missiles, can potentially provide the PLA with a major advantage in the event of a future clash in the Ladakh region, the report said.
Given the scarcity of airbases on both sides, the ability to strike Indian bases at long ranges could be enough to turn the balance in the air.
Most notably, the new CJ-20 cruise missile carries a 500kg warhead and has a 2,000 km range, while its lighter counterpart the YJ-63 has one tenth of the range but is considerably lighter, meaning more can be carried by a single bomber, the report said.
Their very high precision and manoeuvrability make them a very serious threat to Indian positions.
China’s H-6 fleet today is primarily oriented towards engaging ships and military bases in the Western Pacific region, with a number of bombers also having been converted for an electronic attack role.
Tensions with India, however, reveal that the aircraft still have a role to play in a conventional land attack role, the report said.
India for its part, was reportedly considering acquiring modern bombers from Russia, namely the Tu-22M, to serve as a maritime strike platform.
It currently deploys K-100 air to air missiles from its Su-30 MKI air superiority fighters which have a formidable range estimated at 300-400 km — with the missiles well optimized to engaging subsonic bombers, the report said.
The Indian Defence Ministry has also ordered S-400 missile batteries which will be deployed to the Ladakh region when they are received from Russia, with the platforms highly capable at intercepting cruise missile attacks as well as bombers at long ranges.
Although China currently holds an advantage in terms of aerial warfare and strike capabilities in the region, this could change as India moves to invest in more capable systems such as the S-400 and considers purchases of MiG-35 and Su-57 fighters to further modernize its combat fleet, the report said.
The IAF is also expected to upgrade its fleet with the AL-41 engine and could acquire the Su-35’s more modern Irbis-E radar for its fighters.
Russia has offered the AL-41 in large numbers at a very low cost as part of a possible deal for the license manufacture of over 100 Su-35 fighters in India — with the contract also including upgrades to the Su-30 fleet using Su-35 technologies.
India also made headlines with the acquisition of the first batch French-made Rafale jet fighters, considered superior to anything in China’s current air fleet.
According to the Economic Times of India, the Indian Rafale is armed as follows:
- SCALP: Precision long-range ground attack missile that can take out targets with extreme accuracy. Has a range of over 300 km, which means that for Balakot-type operation Indian jets would not need to cross the LOC (Line of Control) and could conduct the strike from within Indian airspace.
- METEOR: Beyond visual range air-to-air missile that is possibly the best in its class. Can take out enemy aircraft at a range of over 100 km. Has no escape zone over 60 km and the missile easily outclasses the American origin.
India and Russia are also jointly developing a longer range and faster air launched missile to replace the K-100 — which will be able to pose a greater threat to Chinese bombers at range in future.