Here is a look at the features and capabilities of the Sukhoi Su-30MKI and Chengdu J-20, the top two fighter jets in Asia
India and China are the two major military powers in Asia and they have procured and developed some of the best weapons platforms available today for their defence forces. China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) deployed its latest fighter Chengdu J-20 in February 2018 claiming it has stealth and is the most advanced fighter plane in all of Asia. However, the Indian Air Force top-line fighter Sukhoi Su-30MKI has been able to "see" the Chengdu J-20 flying over Tibet despite the latter using stealth technology.
According to IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, the Su-30MKI radar detected and tracked the Chengdu J-20 jet while the latter was flying over Tibet. The Su-30MKI currently has the N011M passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar but the IAF is already in the process of upgrading the fighters with the more advanced Zhuk active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar which will make it even more difficult for the Chengdu J-20 to hide.
While China says the Chengdu J-20 is a "fifth generation" fighter, there are doubts over its stealth and supercruise capabilities.
Here is a look at the features and capabilities of the Sukhoi Su-30MKI and Chengdu J-20:
- Sukhoi Su-30MKI: The IAF's twin-seater multirole fighter aircraft is the product of an Indo-Russia joint venture between Sukhoi Design Bureau and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The Su-30MKI is 21.9 metres long, 6.4 metres high and has a wingspan of 14.7 metres. The maximum take-off weight is 38,800 kg.
- Powered by two Al-31FP turbojet engines, the Su-30MKI can reach a maximum speed of 2120 kilometres per hour (Mach 1.9) and climb at a rate of 300 metre per second. The fighter has fly-by-wire flight control system and a range of 3,000 kilometres without refuelling. Its combat range increases to 8,000 kilometres with in-flight refuelling system. The Su-30MKI has a cruising height of 11 to 13 kilometres and a climb rate of 300 metres per second.
- Its two pilots sit inside a tandem glass cockpit equipped with an integrated avionics suite incorporating Elbit Su 967 head-up display (HUD), seven active-matrix liquid crystal displays (AMLCD) and primary cockpit instrumentation. The aircraft also has multifunction displays (MFD) while t.he the rear cockpit has a monochromatic display screen for air-to-ground missile guidance
- At present, the Su-30MKIs have a N011M PESA radar which will soon be replaced with the more advance Zhuk AESA radar. The aircraft also has OLS-30 laser-optical locator system and Litening target designation pod to guide air-to-surface missile and laser-guided munitions.
- The Su-30MKI is one of the most heavily armed fighters in the world today. The IAF has modified 40 Su 30MKIs to carry the supersonic BrahMoscruise missile. The fighter has a 30mm Gsh-30-1 cannon and 12 hardpoints capable of carrying missiles and bombs. The plane also has Tarang radar warning receiver and jammers for electronic warfare.
- Chengdu J-20: It is a single-seat, multi-role stealth fighter for air-to-air, air-to-ground combat roles with supersonic cruise speed and integrated avionics which was test flown for the first time on January 11, 2011. The jet, developed and manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG), is 20.3-20.5 metres long, has a height of 4.45 metres and its wingspan is 12.88-13.50 metres. The maximum take-off weight is 34,000-37,000 kg. The fighter's range is about 1,200 kilometres which can be increased up to 2,700 kilometres with external fuel tanks.
- While the J-20 is currently powered by the Russian AL-31 engines, China is working in a new and more powerful WS-15 afterburning turbofan engine for the fighter for sustained supersonic speed. The aircraft can fly at a maximum speed of 2,100 kilometres per hour (about 1.8 mach) and its climbing rate is 304 metres per second.
- There are two lateral bays with four hardpoints each for air-to-air missiles while the fuselage has a larger bay under it for carrying missiles and other weapons. It also has an internal cannon. It is equipped with an AESA radar along with a chin-mounted infrared/electro-optic search and track sensor. The Chinese also claim that the J-20 has a passive electro-optical detection system which gives the pilot 360° coverage. The fighter, which has a glass cockpit with a bubble-shaped canopy, can access real-time data from Chinese military satellites, Divine Eagle anti-stealth Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and other airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems.
- The J-20 cockpit has two liquid crystal displays (LCD) and a head-up display (HUD). The J-20 can be operated through the traditional hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) system.