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China's 5th generation fighter J-20 Chengdu: Where does it stand compared to Rafale?


New Delhi, Dec 14: Almost all the leading countries in the world are working on developing fifth-generation jet fighters which require high-end research and technological capabilities. There is no precise definition as such about the characteristics that a fifth-generation fighter should have, but it is agreed by and large that it must include stealth technology, supersonic cruising speed, and highly integrated avionics as part of the criteria.

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China's new J-20 is one of the world's most advanced fighter jets and the country's answer to the American F-22 Raptor. The Chinese warplane was developed by the Chengdu Aerospace corporation, which began testing them in 2011 before the first planes entered service in March 2017. J-20 is considered by many as a full fifth-generation fighter.

Rafale vs J-20 Chengdu:

With India having purchased 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault, it is worth looking at the features of J-20 and Rafale fighter.

The Chengdu J-20 is a single-seat, twinjet, all-weather, stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft developed by China's Chengdu Aerospace Corporation for the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The J-20 is designed as an air superiority fighter with precision strike capability; it descends from the J-XX program of the 1990s.

The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions. The Rafale is referred to as an "omnirole" aircraft by Dassault.

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The Chengdu J-20 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.

Rafale is 15.27 meters long and has a height of 5.34 m. Its wingspan is 10.80 meters.

Dassault Rafale is fitted with a RBE2-AA radar system which is an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system derived from the Rafale's RBE2 radar. The radar is reported to deliver a greater detection range of 200 km, improved reliability and reduced maintenance demands over the preceding radar. Active electronic scanning makes it possible to switch radar modes quickly, thereby enabling operational functions to run simultaneously. Rafale incorporates a sleek design and stealthy intakes to reduce RCS. Dassault claims to have built the airframe with over 70% of it been composites.

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The J-20 has a long and wide fuselage and larger surface area is likely to reflect the radar signals at greater intensity. The J-20's frontal and side stealth capacities are believed to be excellent. But it is thought to be more vulnerable to radar from the rear compared with the F-22.

Stealthy aircraft, to remain stealthy, must hide weapons and fuel in internal bays within their fuselages. The J-20 has three such bays, two for smaller air-to-air missiles and a single large belly bay for larger air-to-air, anti-ship, and air-to-ground missiles.

India's fifth-generation fighter program:

India is developing a twin-engine fifth-generation supermaneuverable stealth multirole fighter, called the HAL Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). It is being developed and designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency and will be produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. DRDO defines AMCA as a "fifth-generation-plus platform". Unofficial design work on the AMCA began in 2008, while official work started in 2011 and finished in 2014. The first flight is scheduled to occur in 2023-2024.

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It is a multirole combat aircraft designed for the air superiority, ground attack, bombing, intercepting, strike and other types of roles. It combines supercruise, stealth, advanced AESA radar, supermaneuverability, and advanced avionics to overcome and suppress previous generation fighter aircraft along with many ground and maritime defences.

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