ISLAMABAD: The debate over inducting latest fighter jets to control skies intensified in Pakistan and India right after the latter received Rafale fighter jets from France.
However, the vigorous debate has now shifted to the Chinese-made J-20 stealth fighter jet because defence analysts say that it will be the real game changer in the region.
Military experts have long been comparing JF-17 Thunder with Rafale aircraft but Air Vice Marshal (retd) Shahzad Chaudhry, while sharing his views in Express News talk show, The Review, said on Saturday that Rafale could be compared with F-16 but it had no one-to-one comparison with even JF-17.
“J-20 is really a big game changer for our region,” Chaudhry said, adding that China’s high-end fighter jet would introduce new technology and induct new capabilities in the region for the first time.
The defence expert said that the only other fighter jet that can be compared with J-20 is the US-made F-35 and whoever in Pakistan and India gets any of these jets first will have an edge over the other.
He said that Rafale didn’t bring any new technology to the region but the similar tech already existed in F-16 and SU-30.
Answering to another question from hosts – Kamran Yousaf and Shahbaz Rana – Chaudhry said that Pakistan would always need planes like F-16 as in its absence even JF-17 will not have the same significance that it has now when used along with F-16. He was of the view that planes like F-16 and JF-17 have the capabilities that provide formidable defence to Pakistan’s air space.
Commenting on the recent induction of JF-17 Thunder Block-II dual-seater fighter aircraft into the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fleet and also the launch of the production of Block III of the same aircraft, Chaudhry said it was a significant advancement in the country’s air defence arsenal.
The Block II, He added, with better radar system, weapons and avionic system – which combines all these things – will bring efficiency and JF-17 will perform far better than it is performing now.
Chaudhry said that JF-17’s role was completely different than Rafale’s and the latter’s comparison will be made with F-16 as it had a similar role that of Rafale. “For the airspace that we have to defend, F-16s, JF-17s and other platforms emerge in an integrated shape as a formidable force and it was demonstrated in February 2019,” he said.
“The Indian Air Force is the same; the Pakistani Air Force is the same but Pakistan Air Force better demonstrated its combined, synergetic and integrated capability,” Chaudhry said.
In 2019, India had launched a ‘surgical strike’ in Balakot when its warplanes crossed the border and dropped bombs. In response, PAF shot down a MiG-21 in aerial combat and captured its pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who was later handed over to India.
After the feat, the Indian prime minister and former IAF chief had expressed that the outcome would have been different if India had the Rafale planes.
Now, after India added Rafale jets to its fleet, Pakistan has formally inducted 14 dual-seat combat fighter aircraft JF-17 Thunder Block II, which is jointly developed by Islamabad and Beijing. The race between the arch-rivals is now for J-20 and F-35 – the most advanced all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft that is intended to perform both air superiority and strike missions.