MIG-29KR Fighters Incoming; Russian Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to Reenter Service With Cutting Edge Aircraft and Cruise Missiles
Eastern Europe and Central Asia , Naval
21 August 2018
With the Russian Navy’s sole aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov currently undergoing a lengthy refit, it has recently been revealed that alongside an overhaul of its propulsion and weapons systems the 65,000 ton warship will also field a new complement of fighters - the MiG-29KR twin engine medium weight jets. The Kuznetsov's long troubled steam turbine power plant is set to be replaced entirely, while new weapons systems will include Pantsir-M point defence systems, capable of engaging enemy aircraft and missiles with considerable accuracy at short and intermediate ranges, and and P-800 Oniks cruise missiles. These anti ship platforms retain an over the horizon firing range of 600km and are travel at two and a half times the speed of sound with fire and forget capabilities and formidable electronic countermeasures. While its capabilities as a carrier leave much to be desired relative to rival platforms such as the U.S. Nimitz Class or upcoming Chinese Type 002, the Kuznetsov may well be the most heavily armed carrier with the most firepower in the world for a warship of its kind - fitting in with its role as a heavy aircraft carrying carrier cruiser rather than a pure carrier.
Formerly deploying approximately 20 MiG-29K fighters alongside a dozen of the heavier Su-33 Flanker air superiority fighters, the new refitted warship will deploy a formidable complement estimated at 40 MiG-29KR aircraft alongside supporting rotary wing craft such as the Kamov Ka-27. The new MiG-29K variant will make use of a number of next generation technologies including new electronic warfare suites, radar absorbent materials which reduce its signature by approximately 78%, new infra red search and track systems and new heavily specialised anti ship standoff munitions. Nevskoye Design Bureau chief Sergei Orlov stated regarding the capabilities of the new fighters: “Some adjustments will be made precisely to accommodate MiG-29K/MiG-29KUB aircraft. Pilots want something new, something better and more reliable. Actually, the entire aircraft and technical compound of shipborne systems will be modernised." Some MiG-29KR jets were reportedly tested onboard the warship during operations in Syria.
While the Su-33 is a considerably superior fighter in terms of its capabilities, there are a number of key factors which have led the Russian Navy to choose the lighter MiG-29K to modernise its air wing. Not only are the Flankers poorly optimised to deploying using the Kuznetsov's ski jump system, performing at a fraction of their potential as a result, but the considerable cost of producing more Su-33 fighters to fulfil a small order for just a dozen or so new jets would be extremely expensive. By contrast not only is the lighter MiG-29K well suited to operating from a ski jump, the role for which it was primarily designed, but the fighter can be produced in larger numbers which significantly reduces the already far lower unitary costs. The jets are already in production for export for the Indian Navy’s own carrier warships, the INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya. Nevertheless, a number of reports indicate that the Russian Navy is planning to potentially retain a small contingent of refurbished Su-33 jets for continued operations from the Admiral Kuznetsov - possibly to retain the service’s familiarity with operating carrier based air superiority fighters in preparation for the planned induction of navalised Su-57 variants onboard planned future carriers.
The new MiG-29K jets, though lacking the specialisation and high performance airframes of the Su-33, will not only be less costly to operate, but will also be far more versatile and able to perform both air defence, air to ground and anti shipping roles to support the Admiral Kuznetsov's own arsenal. The new Kh-35U sea skimming cruise missiles, in service since 2015 and retaining a 300km standoff range, will allow the MiG-29 jets to complement the firepower of the Kuznetsov's P-800 missiles in ship to ship engagements - while also being capable of striking land based targets deep into enemy territory from a safe distance. The Kh-31, a Mach 3.5 platform with a lower but still considerable standoff range of approximately 100km, will also make the MiG-29K lethal as a ship killer and a strike platform. With Russia's carrier strike group relying heavily on surface to air missile batteries to engage enemy missiles and aircraft, moreso than fighter jets, the MiG-29KR strongly reflects this in its capabilities by more heavily emphasising strike rather than air to air combat roles.
First Flight of Iran's Qaher F-313 Imminent? Capabilities of Iranian Military Aviation Indicate a Basic Stealth Jet is Possible - But Fifth Generation Capabilities Remain Well Out of Reach
Middle East , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft
21 August 2018
The Iranian armed forces have recently announced the imminent first public flight of a new indigenous fighter jet of unknown designation, leading to much speculation as to the platform set to be unveiled and whether the Qaher F-313 stealth fighter was the aircraft referred to. While the Qaher is hardly the only indigenous Iranian fighter developed, with other programs to design twin engine light fighters such as the Saeqeh and other similar platforms having been initiated - all of them based heavily on the airframe of the American F-5E Freedom Fighter but incorporating vastly modernised airframes and avionics - all known F-5 derived fighters have reportedly already entered service. The F-313 by contrast, since its unveiling in 2013 by the Iran Aviation Industries Organisation, has never been flown publicly - leading to much speculation that the program was for propaganda purposes only and could not be flown. The single seat stealth fighter was designed with a minimal radar cross section and a small payload of two bombs or four to six air-to-air missiles, and following its release analysts from Western nations and Israel were quick to ridicule the design - asserting that for Iran to produce stealth aircraft would be impossible. As Israeli experts claimed when interviewed by the Times of Israel: "Iran doesn't have the ability to built planes, plain and simple." Iran's adversaries dismissed the Qaher as state propaganda, while Iran's Defence Ministry similarly dismissed foreign claims against Iran's fighter. While Iran had proven its ability to develop capable, though hardly cutting edge, combat aircraft indigenously, early criticism of the Qaher design was somewhat well founded. The seemingly unflyable appearance of early designs and the military's unwillingness to carry out a test flight gave analysts considerable grounds for criticism.
As many of the details of the Qaher F-313 program are as of yet unknown, based on the known capabilities of Iran's defence industry and on the few details of the fighter so far unveiled one can speculate what its capabilities may be. While it cannot be verified at this point whether the Qaher F-313 is or is not a genuine stealth fighter, the prospect for such a program may not be as impossible as Western and Israeli sources have claimed. Firstly one must consider Iran's substantial military industrial capabilities, which supply the vast majority of the country's defence needs independently, effectively and an extremely low cost. Iran has, with assistance from North Korea, developed advanced missile programs capable of striking naval and ground targets across the Middle East and much of Central Asia and East Africa using advanced solid fuel technology. Iran has also produced its own surface to air missile systems, the Bavar 373 being the most prolific example, and can otherwise fulfil most of its defence needs independently.
Regarding the country's military aviation, Iran produces eight classes of military helicopters and twenty five classes of military drone. It has successfully designed and put into production several supersonic jet fighters - the Azarkhsh and Saeqeh being most prominent among them. The country's defence manufacturers have access not only to indigenous and American third generation technology, but also to fourth generation U.S. and Soviet technology. In the late 1970s Iran received a large fleet of F-14 Tomcat air superiority fighters, and country has since developed a military aviation industry capable of producing the parts necessary to sustain its fleet, and has even developed the Fakour-90 long range air to air missile based on the reverse engineered AIM-54, a highly sophisticated U.S. platform with the longest range of any Western air to air platform. Iran also succeeded in developing the facilities required to service the extremely complex and high maintenance F-14 airframes, bringing more and more of the fighters into service from storage, a formidable achievement given that Western analysts almost unanimously predicated the entire F-14 fleet would be grounded well within five years. The airframes have been extensively modernised over 40 years in service, with radar and avionics systems all being replaced. This again was testament to the advanced capabilities of the country's domestic military aviation industries.
In 1991 during the Gulf War and the U.S. led Operation Desert Storm, the Iraqi Air Force sent over 100 of its Soviet and French built fighters to Iran beyond the reach of Western air attacks. These aircraft included advanced MiG-29, MiG-25, Su-24 and Su-25 combat jets, the vast majority of which were never returned to Iraq. The country would move to take full advantage of the opportunity by analysing their technologies in detail, alongside those of more advanced fourth generation fighters purchased from the Soviet Union, which it has reportedly attempted to reverse engineer just as it had previously reverse engineered American F-5 - though without success. Iran also gained access to some of the world's most advanced stealth technology in 2011 following the downing of an RQ-170 US stealth drone. This U.S. system was brought down by an Iranian cyberattack and forced to land in Iran. Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney called for the U.S. to take action to destroy the captured drone immediately, lest its valuable technological secrets be divulged to the Iranians. This course of action was never taken however, and as a result Iran reverse engineered the UAV and produced its own stealth drone soon afterwards. Iranian stealth drones based on the RQ-170 have since reportedly been deployed to Syria where they have been combat tested and, according to Israeli sources, proven highly effective. Former head of Israeli intelligence organisation Mossad Danny Yatom stated regarding the incident: “It was a sophisticated operation. The UAV was almost an exact replica of the US drone that fell in their territory. If it had exploded somewhere in Israel, it may not have been possible to identify it as an Iranian manufactured drone.”
Iran has shown itself to have a substantial military industrial base, a history of producing jet fighters, advanced stealth aircraft and an ability to reverse engineer foreign weapons systems. That being said, a fifth generation fighter comparable to the U.S. F-35 or Chinese J-31 requires a highly advanced technological base which is likely still several decades beyond Iran's capabilities. Lockheed Martin, which has developed two of the wold's most prolific stealth fighters including the F-22 Raptor, defines a fifth generation fighter as one with all aspect stealth even when armed, low probability of intercept radar, a high performance airframe, advanced avionics and a highly integrated computer system. Designing aircraft with such capabilities has cost all states which have attempted to do so tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars. While Iran has proven itself able to produce efficient weapons systems at relatively low costs, a fifth generation fighter program would still be an extreme stretch for its meagre defense budget of under $10 billion and would likely be beyond the technological capabilities of its military industrial base.
The Qaher F-313 is highly unlikely to have all the capabilities of a fifth generation fighter, or to be a fighter with anything near parity with the U.S. F-35, Chinese J-20 or Russian Su-57. This does not however indicate that the Qaher is in any way fake or that it is not a stealth aircraft. Indeed, Iran never claimed its jet was an analogue these aircraft or a fifth generation platform - only that it made use of a stealth airframe. A fighter does not need to have fifth generation capabilities to operate with a low enough radar cross section and heat signature to be considered stealthy. The highly effective radar evading Ho-229 design prototype from 1944 serves as proof of this. Considering the capabilities of Iran's military industrial base, including its access to third and fourth generation technology and to stealth technology, Iran's Qaher is most likely a low cost light stealth fighter with capabilities well below those of a fifth generation fighter - but incorporating the stealth technology usually found only on fifth generation fighters. This would make it most likely a stealthy third generation fighter, something well within Iran's proven capabilities to produce, fitting well with the Fars News Agency's description of the fighter as a short distance light jet
The Qaher's capabilities are likely to be similar to those of a heavily upgraded Nancheng Q-5 or F-5 with stealth modifications - well below those of a fifth generation air superiority fighter like the American F-22 Raptor. A number of countries have attempted to apply stealth technologies to lighter and older fighters, one example being prototypes for advanced variants of China's J-7 which tested radar cross section reducing technologies and limited stealth capabilities in the mid 2000s. It has yet to be seen whether Iran's light stealth fighter will prove effective in combat, and whether it remains affordable given Tehran's limited defence budget. If successful however, the Qaher would likely be the world's least costly stealth aircraft and could well prove an attractive platform for a number of developing nations unable to afford more sophisticated systems such as the F-35. Whether the platform will be designed for air to air combat, or less demanding ground attack or strike missions, also remains uncertain - with the latter remaining the more likely option given the complexity of modern aerial warfare combat oriented fighters.
Indian FGFA Stealth Fighter Program To Go Ahead? Delhi Still Wants Russian Su-57 Jets After All
South Asia , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft
20 August 2018
Despite Indian media announcing the country’s withdrawal from the FGFA next Generation Fighter program with Russia, under which the Su-57 air superiority platform was set to be modified with Indian avionics and jointly manufactured under a similar arrangement to the Su-30MKI in the early 2000s, the Indian armed forces have contradicted these reports and refuted their withdrawal from the joint venture. Yuri Slyusar, president of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) responsible for the development of the Su-57 and the Russian side of the FGFA program, reported on August 19th that India was set to continue its involvement in the program. He stated: "We continue to discuss with India joint development of a fifth generation fighter jet. The topic is not closed. It has been said that India is withdrawing from this project. No, they are not... I hope very much our talks will be ultimately crowned by the designing stage and we will develop our joint fifth generation aircraft.”
With the FGFA considered a vital program for both parties, confirmation of its continuation is a highly positive development for the armed forces of both countries. India for its part; despite the sophistication of the Su-30 which currently forms the mainstay of its aerial warfare capabilities, requires a more advanced fighter capable of contending with the latest platforms developed by its neighbours. While Pakistan is reportedly working on a low cost fifth generation light fighter under Project AZM, a joint venture with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) which is set to contribute key sensitive technologies as a major partner, the primary threat comes from China itself. India has increasingly struggled to keep pace with the PLA’s aerial warfare capabilities, with China inducting a number of elite next generation fighters far surpassing the Su-30 in their capabilities. These have included the Russian Su-35, the stealthy J-20, the heavily armed J-16 and the upcoming J-11D and J-15B, all next generation aircraft capable of air superiority. The next generation J-10C single engine light fighter first inducted in March 2018 is also a considerable threat, and technologically far surpasses anything in the Indian arsenal at present. With India’s own military aviation well behind that of its norther neighbour, the the troubled HAL Tejas light fighter program set to field similar capabilities to the J-10B should it materialise, the country desperately needs the Su-57 from Russia to match the vast advancements recently made by the PLA.
Russia for its part is in need of export clients for its Su-57, as much like most other major fighter programs in the post Soviet era the aircraft cannot be acquired in sufficient numbers through domestic demand alone to facilitate low unitary costs and mass production. With Russia having delayed the initiation of mass production, and reportedly focusing more on the development and integration of sixth generation technologies onto the fighter’s airframe before full scale production can be initiated, export orders may well bring this date forward considerably. Mass production of a less costly fifth generation variant of the Su-57 may as a result become viable, rather than waiting for sixth generation technologies to materialise as initially planned. Russia has reportedly gone to great lengths to prove the viability of the Su-57, including deploying the platform abroad for combat testing in Syria, and Indian participation - particularly now that the country’s other major export client the Chinese PLA has developed their own fifth generation technologies - is particularly critical. Indian export orders may well increase foreign interest in the air superiority fighter, and should fifth generation export variants enter mass production in the near future Iran, Vietnam, Algeria, Belarus and possibly even the United Arab Emirates are all leading potential clients.
The United States has openly exerted considerable pressure on Delhi to cancel acquisitions of other advanced weapons systems, namely the S-400 Triumf air defence platform, to achieve the dual strategic goals of strangling Russia’s defence industries and undermining the country’s military cooperation with India. Given this, and the FGFA fifth generation fighter program’s far greater scale and importance, it has been widely speculated that Western pressure has been key a key factor forcing India to reconsider the weapons program. With the S-400 and other relatively small sales having already been targeted, it is highly unlikely that Washington would fail to press Delhi over the far more critical Su-57 - a deal which is considerably more important to Russia’s defence sector. The refutation of the FGFA program’s cancellation notably comes just weeks after India’s Defence Minister reaffirmed her country’s plans to acquire the S-400, under which the official tacitly berated Washington’s attempts to interfere in the country’s relations with its longstanding defence partner.
Taiwan Inducts Lethal New Apache Attack Helicopters Into Service - But Can They Really Affect the Balance of Power in the Taiwan Strait?
Asia-Pacific , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft
20 August 2018
Taiwan’s armed forces have recently activated a brigade of elite AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, with 29 of the new aircraft acquired under a $1.9 billion with U.S. defence manufacturer Boeing. The helicopters were ordered in 2011 for the 601st Air Cavalry Brigade, originally for 30 helicopters though one crashed into a building during a 2014 training flight, and delivery of the platforms was completed in 2014 - after which Taiwanese crews took time to integrate the aircraft into their armed forces and provide crews with the training needed to reach full operational capability. The elite cavalry brigade is reportedly tasked with the defence of Taipei and the far north of Formosa, a strategically critical region facing the Chinese mainland from where the bulk of enemy attacks are expected in the even of a cross strait war. The brigade‘s Apaches are comprised of two combat squadrons, which train to work closely with special forces, infantry and artillery and provide much needed support for the ground forces’ ageing Vietnam War era battle tanks.
The AH-64E is very likely the most capable Western attack helicopter ever designed, and is set to retain a considerable edge over the lighter but formidable Z-10 fielded by mainland China. The most capable iteration of the Apache, the platforms are armed with Longbow radars and either 16 Hellfire anti tank missiles or four Stinger anti aircraft missiles each alongside an assortment of gun turrets allowing them to deliver a fearsome amount of firepower. The aircraft are set to serve as a formidable complement to the 61 lighter AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters already fielded by Taiwan’s armed forces.
The Apache has a fearsome reputation as a tank hunter, and its acquisition could well be ideal for Taiwan’s forces to counter the elite armoured warfare capabilities of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s tank divisions. This asset can be considered particularly critical given the vast qualitative superiority of Chinese battle tanks such as the Type 99 and Type 96, which even in small numbers would very likely prove well beyond the capabilities of Taiwan’s ground forces to handle. With the mainstay of the Taiwanese ground forces being comprised of M48 battle tanks, platforms dating back 65 years to the year of the Korean War’s end, and with its most modern tank, the Vietnam War era M60, considered outdated and ineffective by the early 1970s, Taiwanese armour has little chance of engaging a spearhead landing force of Chinese Type 96 tanks - let alone the elite Type 99 which is considered one of the world’s foremost battle tanks. Lighter platforms deployed by China’s Marines, though in many ways less capable than those of the Army, will nevertheless also make use of state of the art protection systems which will allow them to engage Taiwanese armoured units many times their size.
The AH-64E, as by far Taiwan’s most capable tank killer, provides a much needed means of threatening the elite of China’s armoured units - and allows its ground forces to contend with platforms such as the Type 099 in small numbers expected for a beach landing force. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Taiwan’s ability to make use of the Apache relies heavily on its ability to deny China’s People’s Liberation Army air superiority over its airspace - something in serious doubt given the highly limited capabilities of its ageing aerial warfare assets relative to those of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Indeed, with China having recently acquired the elite Russian made S-400 surface to air missile system, a asset which came at similar cost to Taiwan’s Apache fleet, and the platform can be used to target up to 80 aircraft over Taiwanese airspace simultaneously at hypersonic speeds - including those operating at altitudes as low as 5 meters. Though helicopters are safe against most air defence platforms of this type so long as they remain at low altitudes, the S-400's capabilities effectively eliminates this possibility and thereby seriously undermines the platform's viability even in a basic defensive role. While the Apache was designed with a considerable degree of survivability against rocket propelled grenades, the cannon of battle tanks and even basic MANPADS such as the STINGER, the 48N6E2, 48N6DM/48N6E3, and 40N6 missiles fired from batteries on the Chinese mainland are a threat of an entirely different category - one which is set to allow the PLA to enforce an effective no fly zone over Formosa and ground the Apache fleet from the very beginning of hostilities.
Taiwan may well have been far better of attempting to acquire an S-400 battalion of its own as a much needed addition to its air defence capabilities for a similar price rather than Apache helicopters, given its situation and the fact that the primary threat posed by the PLA is not on the ground - but in the air. The risk of drawing Washington’s ire for purchasing Russian arms however, though they are a potential game changer for Taiwan's defence, makes such a course of action a political risk Taipei is almost certainly unwilling to take given its longstanding reliance on Western patronage for its defence.
What Use Can the Russian Air Force Make of a Dozen Su-57 Fighters? The Role of Initial Production Variants of the New Air Superiority Platform
Eastern Europe and Central Asia , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft
19 August 2018
With mass production of the Su-57 next generation air superiority platform postponed, Russia’s Air Force is set to place an order for just a dozen initial production variants of the fighters which will be delivered over several years - possibly followed by further orders of similar sizes in the early 2020s in the interim until full production begins. The Su-57 airframe will continue to be modernised in the interim, with new sixth generation technologies continuing to be tested, and the jet will reportedly be put into mass production as a sixth generation fighter with these technologies already integrated once their development is complete. With initial production variants fielding only fifth generation technologies, which Russia’s armed forces claim are sufficient to match those of the American F-22 Raptor - but insufficient to match the upcoming America's sixth generation Air Dominance Fighter currently under development - the role of these less advanced Su-57 variants has been put to serious question.
While for a smaller country a dozen elite next generation fighters can be a game changer, Indonesia’s induction of eleven Su-35 jets being a prime example, for the Russian Air Force - fielding the second largest air superiority fleet in the world only to China - the significance of twelve new fifth generation fighters for the service's combat capabilities - even those as formidable as the Su-57 - will remain small. The true value of the fighters however, other than the prestige they will provide the Russian military as the third in the world to have developed and deployed a fifth generation aircraft, is the experience of operating next generation technologies. Flying, maintaining and servicing next generation jets will provide valuable knowhow to Russian pilots and crews, which upon the entry of a sixth generation variant of the Su-57 into mass production will allow it to seamlessly be inducted into a service already familiar with its operation.
Much as operating the Su-35 over Syria has provided the Russian military with invaluable experience, and led the Air Force to order modifications to the jets to refine their capabilities on this basis, so too will operating the Su-57 for over a decade before mass production begins likely contribute a great deal to the refinement of the design. With weaponised prototypes having already been deployed to Syria in early 2018, where lessons learned were reportedly valued highly by the aircraft’s developers, so too could early production variants prove invaluable in war games and in limited deployments to combat theatres - not for the contribution they would make to the Russian fleet’s capabilities as such, but rather for the lessons the Air Force can learn and use to refine the platform’s design. As a result, upon the initiation of mass production, the fighters will already be highly optimised for combat operations and their integration into service will be far less troublesome that it would be if the Air Force lacked this experience operating early production airframes. The induction of the Su-57 into active service as a fifth generation fighter, even in small numbers, could also potentially lead to foreign orders for the aircraft - which currently represents the only fifth generation air superiority fighter available for export anywhere in the world.
China’s Elite New J-16 Fighters Entering Service in Larger Numbers; Heavy Strike Platforms Form a Lethal Triad Alongside the Next Generation J-20 and J-10C
Asia-Pacific , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft
19 August 2018
The J-16 twin engine heavy fighter was developed for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force as the most revolutionary and extensive modification to date of the Su-27 Flanker airframe, which the country acquired and manufactured under licence during the 1990s and has since developed into a number of specialised new derivatives. As the latest Chinese Flanker variant, the J-16 is considered a ‘4++ generation’ fighter fielding a number of next generation technologies - one which is set to prove a considerable asset for China’s armed forces for many decades to come. While inheriting the advanced manoeuvrability and air superiority capabilities of the Su-27, the J-16’s primary role is that of a strike fighter - deploying guided bombs and standoff missiles for strikes on enemy ground and naval targets. The aircraft is one of the first modern fighters the PLA has developed with an offensive role in mind, with the goal of the fast majority of its previous designs such as the J-11B and J-8II being heavily oriented towards defence of the Chinese mainland.
According to a number of reports, as of 2018 the PLA has stepped up its induction of new J-16 strike fighters, which appear based on checks on their serial numbers to be exiting production lines at a fast growing rate. The aircraft fulfils a similar role to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15E Strike Eagle and Russian Su-34 Hellduck, though it is slightly different in its purpose and in many respects a unique design. Despite not being a dedicated air superiority fighter, the J-16 is in many ways more capable than older air superiority platforms such as the F-15C, Su-30 and J-11B in its air to air combat capabilities - in particular due to the fact that it can deploy the PLA’s latest PL-15 air to air missile - with a formidable engagement range of over 150km far surpassing the PL-12, AIM-120C and R-27ER used by the J-11, F-15 and Su-30 respectively.
In line with its heavily offensive orientation, a specialised variant of the J-16 has been developed to complement the capabilities of the baseline fighter - a platform with a minimal kinetic armament specialised in electronic attacks, and thereby providing a heavier, faster, longer ranged and higher flying analogue to the American EA-18G Growler. It is likely based on its capabilities that the J-16D, the name of the electronic attack jet, will become the world’s most formidable electronic warfare platform of its kind given both the vast investments being made into its development and the considerable potential and survivability of its Flanker airframe. The J-16 is one of three next generation fighters to have entered service in the Chinese military, with the highly sophisticated ‘4++ generation’ J-10C single engine light fighter entering service in April 2018 and the more prolific and stealthy J-20 fifth generation air superiority fighter being inducted into the Air Force a year earlier. These jets between them form a highly complementary triad, as first demonstrated publicly in combat exercises carried out in June 2018 - where the J-20 was was asked with clearing the skies and gaining air superiority in order for the J-16 to proceed with precision strikes on ground targets - with the lighter and unspecialised J-10 providing support in either role as needed. While the J-16 is more than capable of holding its own against all manner of threats in air to air combat, the synergy between the new strike platform and other complementary next generation fighters makes for the most lethal and effective combination to combat near peer threats. Indeed, the fighter's design is reportedly so formidable that next generation variants of the carrier based J-15 Flying Shark may well borrow a number of its features. Ultimately with new production facilities being built for all three of these jets, they today represent the new elite of the PLA’s aerial warfare capabilities - and while the J-20 has gained by far the most attention due to its additional integration of a stealthy air superiority airframe, the the roles fulfilled by the J-10C and J-16 are also critical to China's plans for the modernisation of its fighter fleet.
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- First Flight of Iran's Qaher F-313 Imminent? Capabilities of Iranian Military Aviation Indicate a Basic Stealth Jet is Possible - But Fifth Generation Capabilities Remain Well Out of Reach
- Indian FGFA Stealth Fighter Program To Go Ahead? Delhi Still Wants Russian Su-57 Jets After All
- Taiwan Inducts Lethal New Apache Attack Helicopters Into Service - But Can They Really Affect the Balance of Power in the Taiwan Strait?
- What Use Can the Russian Air Force Make of a Dozen Su-57 Fighters? The Role of Initial Production Variants of the New Air Superiority Platform
- China’s Elite New J-16 Fighters Entering Service in Larger Numbers; Heavy Strike Platforms Form a Lethal Triad Alongside the Next Generation J-20 and J-10C