J-16 vs Su-30MKI: Is China’s Multi Role J-16 Fighter a real threat to Su-30MKI
A Chinese flying instructor with the PLA recently claimed that the country’s multi-role fighter J-16 is a generation more advanced than the original Russian Su-30 fighter from which it was derived.
He went on to claim that the fighter jet is “flawless and much superior” to even the Su-30, in an interview with a Chinese news channel.
J-16 Fighter Jets
Reports indicate the Shenyang J-16 multirole fighter, which China introduced in 2014, is gaining traction with the PLA and its production has now been stepped up by the country.
While the Indian military experts have always dismissed China’s Flanker derivates and their copies, such as the J-11 fighter, as being inferior to its own Su-30MKIs, the arrival of the J-16 fighters has changed that game.
Armed with the modern multi-mode AESA radar, J-16 is built for both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions unlike J-11 or even Su-27.
The introduction of new datalinks, improved EW systems and increased use of carbon composites by the Chinese on this Su-30 derivate gives it a superior combat capability to even the latest Russian Flanker, the Su-35S.
The J-16 is powered by the indigenously built WS-10 Taihang turbofan engine, which may not be as reliable as the Russian AL-31F engines, but they generate the same amount of thrust.
J-16 incorporates improved technologies as compared to Su-30MKI featuring composite air-frames, Missile Warning System (MAWS), and Radar Warning Receiver (RWR).
That, however, won’t provide the jet any superiority in terms of avionics over the Indian Su-30MKI since it also employs the PESA radar which is equally good with almost the same search and track range.
But that could change if China decided to reverse engineer the Su-35 fighters that the country is reported to have imported from Russia.
Both Russia and China rely heavily on the Su-27/30 Flanker family of combat aircraft and their various derivatives. The countries fly similar combat aircraft fleets, but China is now fast catching up in most technical aspects of combat aircraft development, military analysts say.
Chinese fighters have improved offensive capabilities with the country making advances in both within-visual-range (WVR) and beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missiles. The PL-10 comes with an imaging infrared seeker, improving resistance to countermeasures, which is not present with the Russian R-73M.
Besides, the Chinese are rapidly advancing the carbon composite technology that helps the aircraft reduce weight and carry more weapons and sensors. Also, the new ‘glass cockpit’ in J-16 replaces the dials found in older Russian jets.
The UK think tank Royal United Services Institute even called the J-16s as “China’s most capable multirole and strike aircraft.”
J-16 vs Su-30MKI
Su-30MKI still enjoys a reliable AL-31F engine with Thrust Vectoring Nozzles and Indo-Israeli avionics with French systems but Chinese by various improvements are trying to bring parity if not edge over IAF’s Su-30MKI fleet which should ring some alarm bells in HQ of IAF. Indo-Russian talks over upgrading Su-30MKI has been undergoing on for a long time now and but little has happened on the ground. Indian defense analysts have been urging Public-Private sector companies to come up with local modernization plans for the Su-30MKI fleet but that has not happened yet. While IAF has placed orders for 12 more Su-30MKI with HAL off late, we have to remember that current technology of the Su-30MKI was defined and is based on the technology which was developed in 1997-98 and it’s over 20 years old now and fast approaching obsolescence levels and its time we do some catch-up of over own.
Nonetheless, the Chinese will work hard to match and even outpace the capability of J-16 to India’s Su-30MKI, which is employed by the IAF in large numbers.
Therefore, if not upgraded to the latest technologies in the market the Russian fighter with the IAF may well be overpowered over time by J-16.