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Pakistan Buys 25 Chinese J-10C Jets to Counter India’s Rafales

Pakistan has procured 25 Chinese multi-role J-10C fighter jets, the country’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced in a public event last week.

The politician said Pakistan acquired the jets, manufactured by Chengdu Aerospace Corporation, to counter India’s 36 Dassault Rafales, which Pakistan’s regional arch rival is procuring from France since 2016.

Even though Pakistan and China are yet to divulge the deal’s details, the aircraft was spotted earlier during a joint exercise between the two countries.

Delivery of the jets is likely to begin in March. The full squadron is expected to attend the March 23 Pakistan Day Parade.

J-10C Model

Pakistan is likely to buy the J-10C model, which is manufactured with Chinese-built WS-10B or WS-10C turbofan engines instead of the Russian-made AL-31F.

Pakistan first expressed interest in the aircraft in 2006 to add strength to its fleet of US-made F-16s.

However, the acquisition plan got derailed due to multiple reasons including a lack of funding and co-manufacturing of cheaper JF-17 jets with China. But Pakistan was dissatisfied with the JF-17 due to inefficiencies in the aircraft’s engine, which Islamabad was unable to get fixed despite repeated requests to Beijing.

J-10C Versus Rafale

The J-10C, referred to by NATO as a “Firebird” and also known as “Vigorous Dragon,” is a single-engine, lightweight multi-role fighter that can fly in all weather conditions. China designed the aircraft to carry out strikes during air-to-air combat missions.

The aircraft has a large delta wing reminiscent of the French Mirage series of fighters, and two canards right behind the cockpit to give it more maneuverability and control. Like the Mirage 2000, the J-10C is designed to give relaxed stability.

The payload of the Chinese jet is said to be 6.5 tonnes, which is similar to the Russian MiG-29 (4.5 tonnes) and US-made F-16s (7 tonnes) currently deployed by Pakistan.

India’s Rafale jet is a fourth-generation twin-engine jet that can be operated from both land bases and aircraft carriers. It can be deployed for air defense, close air support, anti-ship strikes, and in-depth strikes. It has delta wings, semi-stealth capabilities, and is capable of launching nuclear warheads.

Indian Air Force Rafale fighter jet
India received the first of 36 Dassault Rafale fighter jets at a ceremony in Bordeaux, France on October 8, 2019. Image: Indian Air Force/Dassault

Why Does Pakistan Need J-10Cs?

Pakistan currently possesses a fleet of 37 F-16s jets, 40 JF-17 jets, and 87 Mirage III fighter jets. However, in light of the recent expansion of India’s Air Force, Islamabad is now favoring heavier and long-range fighter jets.

In 2019, the two countries clashed when one of Pakistan’s F-16s brought down an Indian MiG 21.

While Pakistan’s F-16s pose a challenge against India’s Rafales, they’re outdated and powered by a single engine. Furthermore, the US has put restrictive conditions on operating F-16s which compounds Pakistan’s problems.

JF-17 jets, which are currently Pakistan’s main fighter in terms of quantity, have a delta-canard design and heavier take-off weight, making them incompetent against the French jet.

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