Rafale, the 4.5 Generation fighter in the armoury of the Indian Air Force (IAF), has changed the aerial warfare dynamics with both Pakistan and China lagging far behind the superior technology and weapons package of the French-made combat jet.
China claims People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Chengdu J-20 is a 5th Generation Stealth fighter and superior to the Rafale but now a Global Times article which tries to find faults with the French-made jets has instead downgraded the J-20 to a 4th Generation combat aircraft.
With IAF 17 Squadron Golden Arrows at the Ambala Air Force Station now flying five Rafales which landed on Wednesday (July 29, 2020), Chinese security experts have raised doubts if the French fighters can match their country’s J-20 fighters which they have been claiming have stealth.
A Global Times article quoted Chinese military expert Zhang Xuefeng as claiming that while Rafales are superior to Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs in some combat performance areas but are basically a "3rd Generation" aircraft. Zhang Xuefeng went on to claim that Rafales are only about one-fourth of a generation more advanced that Su-30MKIs and hence "does not yield a significant qualitative change".
"Thanks to its AESA radar, advanced weapons and limited stealth technologies, the Rafale is comparable to other third-plus generation fighter jets used by other countries, but it will find it very difficult to confront a stealth-capable fourth-generation fighter jet," the article stated.
As the Global Times article mentions that the J-20 is a 4th Generation fighter, it cannot possess stealth technology. On the other hand, Rafale is a 4.5 Generation jet with a design ensuring a reduced radar cross-section (RCS) and infrared signature to evade enemy radars. IAF Su-30MKIs are 4th Generation and Global Times article now puts China's so-called most advanced jet in direct competition with India's Sukhois.
In military aviation, 4th Generation aircraft do not have stealth capabilities and IAF Sukhoi Su-30 MKIs have been able to track the J-20s. In May 2018, Sukhoi Su-30MKIs on a sortie in Northeast India used their radars to see and track PLAAF J-20 fighters flying over Tibet.
Even former IAF Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa (retd), who played a key role in the Rafale deal and whose initials BS are used as part of the tail number on the jets, had categorically pointed out that Rafale "is a game-changer, and the Chinese J-20 does not even come close".