Browsing Category



Joint military command is the future but India can’t rush into it
The amalgamation of 19 military commands into a cohesive joint or theatre command will be India’s biggest defence reform. The challenge will be to take everyone along.

by Snehesh Alex Philip

Representational image of an Indian Army convoy moving through Ladakh | Photo: ANI

The ongoing Ladakh stand-off with China has taught us one thing – a unified military approach along with diplomatic and economic measures is the way forward.

When the Galwan clash happened a year ago, India pushed both the Air Force and the Navy into full operational mode besides ramping up the economic counter steps and increasing diplomatic push. The three Service chiefs and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, used to meet on a daily basis and jointly work out what needs to be done.

The end result was that China realised India is no pushover, even though the stand-off continues and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) still controls areas that India claims as its own.

Amid all the tension with China, silent work to reform Indian military went on – and the result is the proposal to amalgamate the 18 military commands (including the tri-services Andaman and Nicobar Command) into a few joint or theatre commands.

As the secretary of the Department of Military Affairs, General Rawat is mandated with “facilitation of restructuring of military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations including through establishment of joint/theatre commands”.

This massive change, which will be the biggest reform that the forces will see, will streamline the world’s fourth largest military into a leaner and stronger cohesive fighting unit. It will also cut long-term costs because common resources and logistics would be pooled instead of each Service spending separately.

But challenges remain. At a crucial meeting held last week on the concept note, it emerged that all stakeholders, including the three Services, are not on board on the exact structure of the joint or theatre commands. The Narendra Modi government is of the view that there should be more discussion on this.

Army chief General M.M. Naravane had in October 2020, while welcoming the integrated theatre commands, said that the process “needed to be deliberate, thoughtful and well-considered, and its fruition will take a number of years.”

Sources in the defence and security establishment say that since joint or theatre commands will have drastic and far-reaching implications on the military’s future war-fighting strategy, it is important that all stakeholders are completely on board.

Also read: The biggest challenge before India’s joint theatre commands plan — who will report to whom

As per the current plan, the 18 commands are to be brought together under five theatres — Northern Land Theatre (Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Central sector) Western Land Theatre (Pakistan centric), Eastern Land Theatre, Maritime Theatre Command, and Air Defence Command. There could be one or two additional commands to look after logistics and training.

The first two to be rolled out are Maritime Theatre Command (MTC) and Air Defence Command (ADC).

The MTC will see a merger of the Eastern and Western naval commands besides getting elements from the Army and the Air Force. The plan is also to bring the Coast Guard assets from all five regions under its operational control. The MTC will be headed by a three-star Naval officer. It will also have one two-star officer from the IAF and a three-star from the Army.

Similarly, the ADC will be headed by a three-star IAF officer, along with a three-star Army officer and a two-star Naval officer.

The other theatres planned will be headed by three-star Army officers with elements from the IAF and Navy.

Also, the Border Security Force (BSF) is being planned to be part of the Northern Land Theatre and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) of the Eastern Land Theatre.

Also read: Rajnath Singh must look beyond ‘feel-good’ booklets. MoD lists reforms but quiet on threats

A number of issues have been raised. Will the theatre commands be based on challenges (China and Pakistan) or will there be one theatre command for the whole country?

The larger fear is that the theaterisation is heavily tilted in the Army’s favour with nomenclatures like “Land” not helping the cause.

It has also been pointed out that in case of a war with Pakistan, at least four theatres will come into action. In case of a war with China, at least four theatres will take part while the fifth, the Western Land Theatre, will be on high alert.

However, from the Chinese side, the Western Theatre Command will take care of the entire borders with India. The only additional theatre to get involved will be the one with naval assets – either Eastern, Southern or Northern Theatre.

The counter argument to the fear that multiple theatres would get involved in case India faces a war, is that there will always be a primary theatre of war and a secondary theatre and this has been taken into account while planning.

As per the theaterisation plan, all commands will have elements from all the three Services. The Navy assets are unlikely to see much division but the IAF assets will be. At present, the IAF assets are centrally controlled and operated through the Air Headquarters even though there are multiple Air Commands.

As per the proposed plan, each theatre will get its own IAF assets. There is a view that this will impact operational capability as the assets are limited and the fighter squadron strength is already very low — 30 squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 42.

Former Air Force chief ACM B.S. Dhanoa, while in office, has said that there can be only one theatre — India — and the focus should be on institutionalised structure of joint planning by the three Services.

While the Navy supports the creation of the Maritime Theatre Command, there are also voices within the force who say that there already exists the independent Western Naval Command and the Eastern Naval Command who look after their specific areas of operations.

“The equipment/assets of each Service is not large enough to be distributed up and locked in theatres. Forget the IAF, which anyway has a lower number of aircraft and surveillance equipment, even the Army had to push in additional reserves and additional equipment into the Northern Command during the ongoing standoff with China,” a source said.

Another source explained that China had been focusing on a new war-fighting strategy since the 1980s and it began by slowly cutting down the personnel strength and expenditure while increasing focus on indigenous technology for missiles, vessels and aircraft.

But China has the numbers and money to spend on more military assets and have specific theatres, something that India cannot afford to replicate.

Incidentally, with approximately 1.4 million personnel, the Indian Army has become the world’s largest ground force, pulling ahead of China, which cut down its strength by half and is instead focusing on its navy, air force and technology.

Some retired top military officers have written to concerned government positions against rolling out the theaterisation in its current format.

Another issue of concern is the question of who will head these theatres. As per the current plan, the theatre commanders will report to the CDS and the respective Service chiefs will become more administration- and training-oriented.

In the US and China, the theatre commanders report to the political leadership.

Some have also expressed concern of moving ahead with a concept without war gaming the plans and seeing how effective or ineffective the whole process is going to be.

Another school of thought is that the first step towards joint mashup should be joint training. The idea is that people need to learn and train together for them to plan and fight together.

Fears expected but unified approach the way forward
The concerns expressed by various quarters to the theaterisation was expected. The Modi government would need to handle it deftly because militaries are seldom open to change.

As Harsh V Pant and Javin Aryan wrote in October 2020, “the inter-services competition wherein each service zealously oversees its own assets and strives for a greater share of the defence budget and influence might prove to be an obstacle in creating synergy among the services.”

However, there is no doubt that while concerns and fears need to be understood and taken care of, a unified war-fighting strategy along with exponential capability increase in our cyber and space warfare is the only option going forward.

But given India’s limited experience with integrated command structures, I would go back to what the Army chief said, “The process should be deliberate, thoughtful and well-considered.”

There is no doubt that this journey may require a fair bit of mid-course corrections, but it is important to get off on a firm foundation.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant Dixit)

Defence, Development

China Conducts Final Trials On New Rail Line In Tibet Close To Arunachal Border
By Swarajya Staff

The Lhasa-Nyingchi rail line will enable the PLA to bring trainloads of troops and equipment from other theatres in a very short time.

China is conducting final trials on its new high-speed rail line linking Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, with Nyingchi, a town opposite India’s Tuting sector in the Upper Siang district of Arunachal, a Chinese journalist said on Twitter.

Posting the video of the trials on the micro-blogging site, the Beijing-based journalist revealed that China spent $4.8 billion on the 435-km rail line.

Nyingchi is located 40 km away from the border in Arunachal Pradesh, and the rail line itself runs much closer to the border than that at some points.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi rail line is part of the longer, 1,600-km long Sichuan-Tibet line that will link Lhasa with Chengdu, a city east of Arunachal Pradesh. The headquarter of China’s Western Theatre Command, which is responsible for the frontier with India from Arunachal to Ladakh, is located in Chengdu.

Sichuan-Tibet rail line. (@detresfa_/Twitter)Sichuan-Tibet rail line. (@detresfa_/Twitter)
China has also built a 250-km-long highway linking Nyingchi with Lhasa, which, like the Lhasa-Nyingchi rail line, runs close to Arunachal.

Construction of the Lhasa-Nyingchi rail line, nearly 75 per cent of which is either over bridges or under tunnels, began in 2015, and track laying was completed over five years, in December 2020. China plans to open the rail line for traffic by the end of June, amid tensions with India along the Himalayan frontier.

The remaining 1,100-km long section of the line, a part (Chengdu-Ya’an section) of which is already complete, is expected to be ready by 2030.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi rail line project has received consistent attention from the top echelons of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including President Xi Jinping himself, who linked it to ‘border stability’ as recently as November 2020, during the standoff with India in Ladakh.

Although the dominant narrative in the Chinese state media about the Lhasa-Nyingchi rail line is linked to economic development on the Tibetan Plateau, the CCP apparatus has pointed out that it will act as a “fast track” for the “delivery of strategic materials” to Tibet “if a scenario of a crisis happens at the border”.

The rail line will not only ease the movement of troops within China’s Western Theatre Command but also enable the PLA to bring trainloads of troops and equipment from other theatres in a very short time, a scenario that can’t be ruled out after China’s massive mobilisation along the LAC in Ladakh in 2020.


China Builds Key Highway Through Brahmaputra Gorge In Tibet Near Arunachal: Report


China completes strategic Tibet highway near Arunachal border

Construction is part of a wider infrastructure push in border areas in Tibet
China has completed construction of a strategically significant highway through the world’s deepest canyon in Tibet along the Brahmaputra river, enabling greater access to remote areas along the disputed border with Arunachal Pradesh in India.

The highway, official media in China reported this week, took seven years to complete and passes through the Grand Canyon of the Yarlung Zangbo river, as the Brahmaputra is called in Tibet. This is the “second significant passageway” to Medog county that borders Arunachal, the official Xinhua news agency reported, directly connecting the Pad township in Nyingchi to Baibung in Medog county.

The highway will reduce the distance between Nyingchi city and Medog from 346 km to 180 km and will cut the travel time by eight hours. The project, undertaken by the China Huaneng Group, required an estimated investment of over 2 billion yuan (around $310 million), Xinhua reported.

The construction, which began in 2014, is part of a wider infrastructure push in border areas in Tibet. In November, China began work on a strategically important railway line — its second major rail link to Tibet after the Qinghai-Tibet railway that opened in 2006 — that will link Sichuan province with Nyingchi.

That project was considered important enough for President Xi Jinping to officially launch it, as he called it “a major step in safeguarding national unity and a significant move in promoting economic and social development of the western region”.

Zhu Weiqun, a senior Party official formerly in charge of Tibet policy, was quoted as saying by state media the railway will help “transport advanced equipment and technologies from the rest of China to Tibet and bring local products out”. “If a scenario of a crisis happens at the border, the railway can act as a ‘fast track’ for the delivery of strategic materials,” he said.

The first segment of the line within the Sichuan province, from Chengdu to Yaan, was completed in December 2018. Work on the 1,011-km section from Yaan to Nyingchi will be finished in 2030.

Civilian settlements in disputed territories
Another part of the border infrastructure push is the construction of new civilian settlements — along with the expansion of existing smaller hamlets — along border areas, some of which lie in disputed territories claimed by India and Bhutan, to strengthen China’s control over the land.

In 2017, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government launched a plan to build “moderately well-off villages” in border areas, under which 628 “first line and second line villages” — referring to those right on the border and others in remote areas slightly further within — would be developed in the prefectures of Ngari, Shigatse, Shannan and Nyingchi, along China’s borders with India, Bhutan and Nepal.

An investment of 30.1 billion yuan (about ₹30,000 crore) was announced for the project, covering 62,160 households and 2.4 lakh people, and includes plans to resettle residents to live in the new settlements.

Last year, satellite images emerged showing a new village called Pangda built 2-3 km into what Bhutan sees as its land. On January 18 this year, another village built newly 4-5 km into what India sees as its territory in Arunachal came to light via satellite images. Indian officials said this land has been under China’s effective control since 1959 and there were military barracks there earlier. The civilian settlements, along with the new infrastructure connectivity, are seen as aimed at bolstering China’s control over the areas

Defence, Diplomacy

New Delhi: )73.7 per cent Indians want Tibet’s status as buffer zone to be restored to prevent border conflict with China

73.7 per cent Indians want Tibet’s status as buffer zone to be restored to prevent border conflict with China
A majority of Indians want the historic status of Tibet as a buffer zone between India and China to be restored to prevent border conflicts.
73.7 per cent Indians want Tibet’s status as buffer zone to be restored to prevent border conflict with China
73.7 per cent Indians want Tibet’s status as buffer zone to be restored Key HighlightsThe survey included a sample size of 3,000 people spread across the countryNearly 80 per cent Indians support free Tibet, as per the IANS C-Voter Tibet PollNearly 80 per cent believe India’s actions can bolster Tibetan cause
New Delhi: A majority of Indians want restoring Tibet’s historic status as a buffer zone in order to prevent border conflicts between India and China.

Responding to IANS C-Voter Tibet Poll question ‘Do you think it is important to restore the historic status of Tibet as a buffer zone or a zone of peace in order to prevent border conflicts between India and China’, 73.7 per cent of the respondents answered in affirmative while 13.8 per cent said ‘No’.

12.6 per cent Indians said they couldn’t comment on the matter.

80 per cent Indians support free Tibet
The survey was conducted based on a sample size of 3,000 people spread all over the country.

In terms of gender, 13.4 per cent male replied they couldn’t comment, 72.8 per cent agreed with the query, while 13.8 per cent said ‘No’. Among females, 74.7 per cent agreed, 13.7 per cent answered in the negative, while 11.7 per cent said they couldn’t comment, IANS reported.

A majority of the Indian youth between the age group of 18 to 24 years backed the idea with 12.0 per cent saying they couldn’t comment on the matter while 73.5 per cent said ‘Yes’.

’80 per cent believe India’s actions can bolster Tibetan cause’
In the 25-34 age group, 12.2 per cent were undecided, 72.5 per cent agreed while 15.3 per cent answered in the negative.

46 per cent Indians feel that international human rights organisations have done little to help the Tibetan cause.

A whopping 80 per cent Indians support free Tibet and feel that India can make a difference to the Tibetan cause.

With anti-China emotions running high in India more people are willing to back Tibet and its cause; however, it requires a clear understanding of the ground situation and more people need to be educated about India’s historic ties with Tibet


Chinese military desecrates religious sites at Kailash Mansarovar, says report

Satellite images have revealed that Kailash Mansarovar – a Hindu pilgrimage site – now looks like a war zone with heavy artillery and military presence.

Chinese military build-up along India’s border is being reported for the past months. They have been enhancing military facilities, deploying surface-to-air missiles near Mount Kailash.

An India Today report has revealed that when the Chinese were clearing space for fresh constructions, they did not even spare religious sites. Satellite images have revealed that Kailash Mansarovar – a Hindu pilgrimage site –now looks like a war zone with heavy artillery and military presence.

China’s PLA says won’t remove troops from strategic Green Top area near Pangong Lake

The militarisation of Mount Kailash comes amid hostility between India and China. Although the troops have not engaged in any hostility since the violence in Galwan Valley in Ladakh, both nations have been strengthening border security silently.
This development also comes at a time India got embroiled in a diplomatic row over the construction of a road leading to Lipulekh located at the India-China-Nepal tri-junction. The road is touted to make the pilgrimage to Kailash Manasarovar shorter and easier.
These areas used to be a part of Indian territory until the late 1950s, when the Chinese forcefully took over parts of Mount Kailash, Mansarovar, and Eastern Ladakh. China has been trying to constrain the access of Indians to both Mansarovar and Mount Kailash for a long time by closing certain routes citing myriad reasons.

India makes ‘heavy deployments’ in Ladakh in response to increased Chinese presence: Report

More recently, they had released videos where tanks could be seen moving near the Mansarovar area, even though they do not have a facility there that they need to defend. There is a chance the Chinese are doing this to block paths that the Indian Air Force may take in case of hostilities.


Lord Ram And The India-China Face-Off

– by Rajmohan Gandhi:
Until recent years, it seemed that any clear edge that India possessed over China was in ideology. Economically, China was much stronger. Militarily, although India’s capabilities along the Himalayas had greatly improved during the post-1962 decades, China seemed to possess a much larger array of resources.

However, as against an evidently totalitarian China, India was democratic. Whereas China was stifled by one-party rule, India was being constantly refreshed by free debate, competition among political parties, and new governments. Nationally and globally, democracy gave India immense advantages. Benefits that accrue when journalists, writers, poets, professors and film-makers are unfettered, when independent civil servants direct investigative agencies, and when judges can punish the powerful.

The actualization of these democratic ideals was limited. In particular, our political democracy was slow to translate into social democracy. Hierarchies and oppressions continued. Even so, the world seemed far more comfortable with a loud, oft-chaotic, democratic India than with a more productive yet uniform China where dissenters could not speak, and where governments could not be voted out.

Not only was the world more at ease with a democratic India, there were indications that the people of China were curious about India’s freedoms. At least to a few in China, India’s modern experiment in democracy seemed to recall an ancient period when ideas travelled from India to China.

In the world, India’s appeal was particularly strong for nations containing diverse populations. Often run by dictators who play on the strength or numbers of a single tribe, sect or ethnic group, such nations were interested in spectacularly varied India. If India could be governed democratically and without one community bossing over the rest, there was hope for other heterogenous lands.

Far more important, however, than Indian democracy’s appeal to the world, or to the people of China, was the strength that a pluralist democracy brought to India. Hierarchies and oppressions notwithstanding, Adivasis, castes “low” and “high”, and Dalits could feel that India was theirs. And all in India – Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Jews, atheists, whatever – could imagine that India belonged as much to them as to the Hindu majority.

Now, almost precisely when India’s equation with China has reached its most testing point in decades, we witness profoundly disturbing signals that threaten Indian solidarity. By involving himself as Prime Minister with the formal commencement of the construction of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Narendra Modi has declared the Hindu-ness of the Indian state and struck at Indian society’s cohesion.

The question goes beyond the constitutional principles of secularism and pluralism. Mr. Modi seems to dismiss the realities that scream off India’s map. Muslim-majority Kashmir, bordering both China and Pakistan, occupies the north of India. Sikh-majority Punjab sits on India’s western boundary. Christians constitute either a majority or a strong minority in the eastern border states of Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya, in equally crucial Kerala on India’s southern extremity, and in Goa, small in size but known well to the whole world. And Tamil Nadu’s sharp opposition to religious majoritarianism has a long and powerful history.

Taking India as a whole, a policy of humiliating 200 million Muslims, disregarding Sikhs, frightening Christians and unsettling large numbers of Hindus who prize equality is hardly the way to unite a people for any long-drawn contest with China. For all its strategic value, a distant Quad cannot be a substitute for Indian cohesion. If it comes to a battle, no Quad country will fight China on India’s behalf. We should also recognize that a majority of the people of Japan, the U.S. and Australia, and of other nations that prize democracy and pluralism, will be as cautious about a so-called Hindu republic as they are about so-called Islamic republics.

As for what a “Hindu state” of India will do to attract the people of Bangladesh and Afghanistan, countries with a bearing on India’s stand-off with China, asking the question is enough.

It is true that today China encounters more questions from a Covid-afflicted world than it has faced for years. That, however, does not entitle New Delhi to alienate large sections of the Indian people. Nor is it prudent to rely on the possibility of internal discontent in China. Ambition for global ascendancy will probably override any political tussles within China.

Facing a driven and authoritarian China, the people of India will not be served well by religious majoritarianism. Their sense of being equal partners with fellow citizens has taken serious hits in recent years. Instead of restoring that sense, Prime Minister Modi has signalled that because of their religion one set of Indians are indeed “more equal” than the rest. All of us should be troubled.

PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on

(Rajmohan Gandhi is presently teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.)


Hilal Ahmad Rather and Jawed Ashraf made it possible to get Raffles soon

NEW DELHI: When India’s first batch of five Rafale fighter aircraft took off from France’s Bordeaux-Merignac facility for India on Monday, it would have come as a “personal triumph” to Air Commodore Hilal Ahmad Rather.Presently India’s Air Attache in France, the native of Anantnag in Kashmirhas played a key role in ensuring delivery of Rafale jets to the country. Rather, son of a retired DSP, spent all of last year weaponizing the combataircraft to suit Indian conditions. He is credited with helping the project management team add 13 fresh capabilities to the Indian version of the jet.With the jets due to land in India on Wednesday, the 52-year-old — who also supervised refuelling training of a team of 152 IAF technicians and 27 fighter pilots with French tanks — is being hailed as a hero back home. Junaid Ahmad, Rather’s neighbour, said he was an inspiration to Kashmiri youth. “He has made us proud,” he said. User Vijay Zutshi wrote on Facebook, “I really feel proud to know about Commodore Hilal, a man from our mohalla (colony) and town Bakshiabad, Anantnag. I wish him all the success.” Another user Anmol Pandita wrote, “God bless you in all walks of life. I’m also from Bakshiabad and remember you as DSP sahib’s son.”
As tributes poured in on social media, those close to Rather said he has had an impeccable service record. A fighter combat
leader and a qualified flying instructor, Rather commanded Mirage-2000 Squadron and a front line Air Force base in Gwalior. His accident-free flying of jets like MIG 21, Mirage and Kiran was a useful experience that helped him while coordinating with
the French project management team in Bordeaux over 35 advanced functions of the Rafale jet.
An alumnus of Sainik School (J &K), Rather earned a Sword of Honour — the highest award to a cadet — during his training at
the National Defence Academy. An edition of an IAF gazette from a few years ago describes Rather as “the officer who
consistently adopts a very systematic, fair-and-humane approach, which has improved the working culture, work environment
and morale in the unit”.
A family member told TOI, “Hilal’s father was with the police in J&K when he got commissioned into the IAF in 1988. The family
often faced threats and while others got married in their sprawling bungalow in Anantnag, Rather had to rent out a two-room
flat in Nagrota in Jammu two days before his marriage in 1993 for safety reasons.”
Along with Rather, Indian ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf was also crucial in ensuring delivery of Rafale jets to India. The
combat jets are reaching India four years after an agreement between the two countries was signed in 2016.


India’s Rafale Vs China’s J-20: Which is the Better Fighter Plane?

The first batch of five Rafale jets took off from France on Monday and will be arriving in India on Wednesday, when the much-awaited fighter jets will officially be inducted and join the Indian Air Force fleet at the Ambala air base in Haryana.

The Rafale aircraft will cover a distance of nearly 7000 kms from France to India with air-to-air refuelling and a single stop en route in UAE. The Indian Air Force pilots and supporting personnel have been provided full training on aircraft and weapon systems by Dassault.

The Indian embassy in France said the event marked a “new milestone” in strong and growing India-France defence cooperation. The embassy also released a short video titled “Beauty and the Beast”, showcasing Rafale jets ready for take off.

Indian ambassador Jawed Ashraf was there to see off the Rafale aircraft. He also met the Indian pilots and congratulated them on becoming the first ones to fly the world’s most advanced and potent fighter aircraft and wished them success.

“These five Rafale jets are extremely swift, versatile and very deadly aircraft, they’re both beauty and beast. I would like to thank Dassault for delivering aircraft on time and French Government and French Air Force for all the support,” said ambassador Ashraf.

India ordered 36 Rafale jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016 as an emergency purchase to arrest the worrying slide in the IAF’s combat capabilities.

Acting on a special request by the IAF, France has accelerated the deliveries of Rafale fighters to India — five jets are coming instead of four that were originally planned to be delivered in the first batch.

France handed over to India its first Rafale fighter during a ceremony attended by defence minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart, Florence Parly, in Merignac on October 8 last year.

The delivery of all 36 aircraft will be completed by the end of 2021, said the Indian mission in France.

India’s Rafale Vs China’s J-20: Which is the Better Fighter Plane?

The French Dassault Rafale is about to be inducted into the Indian Air Force. It will be the IAF’s most advanced fighter aircraft. Across the LAC, it has to take on China’s Chengdu J-20. Here is a head-to-head comparision.The French Dassault Rafale is about to be inducted into the Indian Air Force. It will be the IAF’s most advanced fighter aircraft. Across the LAC, it has to take on China’s Chengdu J-20. Here is a head-to-head comparision.

The Indian Air Force will induct its first batch of Dassault Rafale fighter planes on 29 July, at the Ambala air force station. Following their induction into the 17th squadron, the Rafale will be one of the IAF’s most advanced aircraft in its fighter fleet.

In the context of the recent troop and fighter plane deployment along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), here is a comparison of the Rafale with its equivalent in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

PLAAF operates a range of fighter planes, including Sukhoi SU-27, SU-30MKK and SU-35S, Chengdu J-7 and Chengdu J-10. But since Rafale is one of the most technologically advanced aircraft of the IAF, it is only fair to compare it with the Chengdu J-20, China’s most advanced fighter aircraft.

The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing, multi-role fighter aircraft and considered to be in the 4.5 generation category. The J-20 is a single-seat, twin-jet, all-weather, stealth, 5th generation fighter aircraft developed by China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corporation.

Here is a look at the specifications of the two fighter planes.

Radar systems are used to detect enemy aircraft or any other targets. China has not provided any official information on the radar used in the J-20. However, according to reports, this fighter plane uses an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA). The same radar system is used by the Rafale as well. AESA is considered one of the most advanced radar technologies in the world.

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh put some flowers as a ritual gesture on a Rafale jet fighter during an handover cermony at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, near Bordeaux, southwestern France, on 8 October.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh put some flowers as a ritual gesture on a Rafale jet fighter during an handover cermony at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, near Bordeaux, southwestern France, on 8 October.(Photo: PTI)
Does that mean that they have equal capabilities? Not really. How the radar system is optimised using different avionics and technologies makes all the difference.

One of the key technological features on the Rafale is its electronic warfare suite – SPECTRA.
SPECTRA protects the aircraft against airborne and ground threats. Various methods of detection, jamming, decoying and a highly re-programmable system capable of analysing threats better, makes it extremely difficult to detect and shoot down a Rafale.

Reportedly, the Rafale’s radar and SPECTRA system make up around 30 percent of the plane’s cost.
On the other hand, the J-20’s AESA radar comes with a chin-mounted infrared/electro-optic search and track sensor. The Chinese also claim that a passive electro-optical detection system in the J-20 gives its pilot 360-degree coverage of the battlefield. We’re told that the plane is also capable of accessing real-time data from Chinese military satellites.

The Rafale’s stores management system is Mil-Std-1760 compliant, which provides for easy integration of customer-selected weapons.

With its 10-tonne empty weight, the RAFALE is fitted with 14 hard points (13 on the RAFALE M). Five of them are capable of drop tanks and heavy ordnance. Total external load capacity is more than nine tonnes (20,000 lbs.). Hence, RAFALE can lift the equivalent of its own empty weight in payloads.

“Buddy-buddy” refuelling missions can be carried out in portions of the airspace out of reach of dedicated and vulnerable tanker aircraft.

With its outstanding load-carrying capability and its advanced mission system, the RAFALE can carry out both air-to-ground strikes, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie.

It is capable of performing several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase: a clear demonstration of the true “OMNIROLE” capability and outstanding survivability of the RAFALE.