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IS Typhoon, Rafale Has NO Match For China’s MMRCA Fighters

India will ink the world’s single largest defence deal by closing the
126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract in a couple of
months. As these fourth generation fighter jets join the Indian Air
Force fleet, China will prepare to launch its fifth generation stealth
fighter Chengdu J-20. China is racing ahead towards the planned
induction of its indigenous stealth fighter in 2017. The Chengdu J-20,
which made its debut in January this year, has already flown two
prototypes, within a span of four months. In India’s case, however, the
two shortlisted contenders — Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale, both only
fourth generation — are still undergoing price negotiations. The
commercial bids for the US $15 billion deal were opened on 4 November.

Eurofighter Typhoon from the European consortium EADS — comprising
Italy, Germany, Spain and UK as partner nations — is a twin-engine,
multi-role fighter. A question mark exists on its air-to-ground
capability. The UK audit watchdog NAO has criticised the Typhoon for its
problems with spares availability, flying hours, immature estimates in
funding and inefficient collaborative decision making. It has said that
the aircraft will not have full multi-role capability for some years.
To add to this, the Typhoon is still in the process of acquiring
air-to-ground attack capability, which was tested unsuccessfully in
Libya recently.

French Dassault Aviation’s twin-engine Rafale fighter is operational
only in the French Navy and Air Force, and recently lost out the US $10
billion deal it had hoped to sign with the United Arab Emirates.

Highly priced, approximately around $80 million a piece, neither
Typhoon nor Rafale has a proven radar (the tender requirement is for an
AESA [active electronically scanned array]). This came to light during
laboratory trials. The manufacturers said that the radar would be
integrated once the deal was finalised.

It would take almost four years for the first aircraft to arrive
after the deal is inked. So by the time India gets its fourth generation
aircraft in 2016, the Chinese will be ready to induct their fifth
generation aircraft.

Taking the lead in almost all its indigenous equipment trials, China
seems to be well ahead of schedule in its weapons platforms. Their
aircraft carrier Varyag entered sea trials in July 2011. The fifth
generation stealth fighter J-20’s debut this year helped China enter the
elite club of fifth generation fighter jet owners. The other members of
the club are the United States and Russia. While Russia took a year to
make the second flight of its fifth generation stealth fighter PAK-FA,
or T-50, with the first flight in January 2010, and the second in 2011,
China has taken a lead in its stealth fighter trials.

Having advanced stealth features and the capability of super
cruising, the J-20’s initial flights have given rise to speculation that
the stealth fighter may already be being developed further. Western
experts have called the stealth shaping of the J-20 better than the
Russian PAK-FA (T-50) and the American F-35 fifth generation fighters.
The J-20 will also have an AESA radar, electro-optical sensors, glass
cockpit, fly-by-wire systems and bays for weapons of all ranges.
On record, Air Force officers back the Government of India’s choice.
Former Air Chief F.H. Major told The Sunday Guardian, “The Chinese may
be aiming at a fifth generation aircraft, but India, too, has entered
into a similar venture with Russia. Since J-20 is not yet inducted, we
don’t know what capability it will have, whereas the shortlisted MMRCA
fighters, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Rafale are already flying in
some countries, so we know their capabilities. Except stealth, which is
an exclusive fifth generation feature, most four plus and fifth
generation fighters have common features, like EW systems, weaponry and
super cruise.”

Former Western Air Command Chief, retired Air Marshal A.K. Singh
said, “Technologically there may not be much of a difference, except
stealth. Arms and ammunition put onboard make a difference, which is not
known for any of these aircraft. As far as inter-operability,
manoeuvrability and sensors go, I don’t think there is much of a

Former Air Chief S. Krishnaswamy said, “The AESA radar on both
Typhoon and Rafale may have been demonstrated in a laboratory, but by
the time they are inducted, these radars will be a part of the fighters
as that’s the tender requirement. But other avionics and sensors, like
SAR, FLIR, IR will be better on the Indian planes, since we have access
to western technology, which the Chinese do not have. How much can they
research-develop and reverse-engineer?”

About the IAF’s FGFA (fifth generation fighter aircraft), former Air
Chief P.V. Naik had said that the IAF’s requirement was of a
twin-seater, with higher level of avionics, swing role, super cruise
capability and long range weapons. In December 2010, India and Russia
signed a preliminary design contract to jointly develop a FGFA, on the
lines of the twin-engine T-50, also called PAK-FA, Perspective Future
Aviation Komplex for Frontline Aviation. The fear is that this project
will be subject to the huge delays that have dogged joint ventures with