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IAF says it can tackle Chinese J-20 stealth jets with S-400 missile systems

China’s ministry of national defense announced last month that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force was in the process of inducting J-20 stealth fighters. India’s plans to build a fifth-generation fighter aircraft, however, remain on the drawing board.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2018 23:01 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Indian Air Force,IAF,Chinese jets
China announced last month that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force was in the process of inducting J-20s.(Getty Images)

China’s new J-20 fighter jet is not stealthy enough and the Indian Air Force (IAF) has the capability to tackle the threat posed by it, said a senior air force officer familiar with Beijing’s military modernisation plans.

“With the S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems being bought from Russia and our existing medium-range surface -to- air missile systems, we are quite capable of shooting down the J-20,” the officer said and added that the J-20 was not a true fifth-generation fighter as “neither is the aircraft’s design stealthy, nor can it supercruise with the existing WS-10 engines”.

Supercruise is a mode of flight that makes detection harder as it allows stealth fighters to fly at supersonic speeds in combat configuration without kicking in fuel-guzzling afterburners.

China’s ministry of national defense announced last month that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force was in the process of inducting J-20 stealth fighters. India’s plans to build a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), however, remain on the drawing board.

“I will go with the IAF’s assessment that India can tackle the J-20 threat,” said Air Marshal KK Nohwar (retd), additional director general of the Delhi-based Centre for Air Power Studies and a former IAF vice chief.

As reported by HT on March 17, a multi-billion dollar programme to produce a stealth fighter with Russia is in peril, with the IAF voicing its reservations as it believes the platform lacks the desired stealth characteristics and is inferior to the US-made F-35 and F-22 jets.

India is in talks with Russia to buy five advanced S-400 missile systems, capable of destroying jets, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at a range of 400km, in an almost Rs 39,000-crore deal.

Discussions on the proposed deal are likely to take place during defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to Russia in April. “Cost is the biggest worry... We will be posing some questions to the Russians on the S-400,” a defence ministry official said on the condition of anonymity. “It’s an expensive platform but packs a tremendous punch,” said another IAF officer tracking the air force’s modernisation.

At present, the central government is finding it hard to reconcile two contrary points of view on FGFA . While the IAF wants the project abandoned, a high-powered panel appointed by the defence ministry to examine different aspects of the FGFA , recommended in its report last year that India should go ahead with the programme.

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First Published: Mar 20, 2018 23:01 IST