For China, the Veer Guardian 2023 exercise comes as an ominous portent for the future
A deeper study into the Chinese discourse unveils a subdued panic over the increasing military collaboration between Japan and India under US guidance in the Indo-Pacific.
Chinese experts believe that the IAF’s exercise against the F-2 aircraft will help them further understand the F-16 aircraft’s capabilities and combat manoeuvrability which they would use against Pakistan.One, all Chinese Sukhoi fighters except the Sukhoi-35 use the same AL-31 series engines therefore, their flying parameters are similar. Second, in terms of aerodynamics, weight category, weapon-carrying capabilities and combat range, Chinese Sukhoi-27 and Sukhoi-30s are inferior to the Indian variant. Third, Indian Sukhoi-30MKIs carry Western and Israeli avionics and weapons such as Litening targeting pods, Elbit’s Head Up Display, Thales instrumentation and Derby missiles. Their engines are equipped with thrust vector control features. Compared to that, Chinese Sukhois mostly carry Chinese equipment and weapons. Based on the experience of Myanmar’s, Bangladesh’s, and Pakistan’s militaries with Chinese electronics, weapons and combat platforms, these fighters do not inspire much confidence. As expected, Japan is curious to understand Sukhoi-30MKI’s manoeuvrability, cruising range, fuel consumption data, and maintenance turnaround time. The two-week simulation exercise is adequate for the JASDF pilots to achieve a comprehensive assessment of the Indian fighter aircraft. In addition, Japan’s ground-based radars can obtain Sukhoi’s RCS data and combat manoeuvre details at different angles and flight states. These details will help Japanese pilots against Chinese Sukhois, especially their J-16 variant. China believes that its fighter aircraft inventory of J-10, J-20, and J-16 is far superior and in large quantity, allowing it to dominate the air combat scene in East Asia. The J-20 aircraft with its stealth capabilities and the J-16 aircraft with its active phased array radar and a lethal combination of short and ultra-long-range weapons will outperform any competition from Asian powers in the Indo-Pacific. China can also avoid sending Sukhois to the Japanese front and send J-20 and J-10 aircraft instead, about which Japanese fighters have no experience.
The J-20 aircraft with its stealth capabilities and the J-16 aircraft with its active phased array radar and a lethal combination of short and ultra-long-range weapons will outperform any competition from Asian powers in the Indo-Pacific.Moreover, the same fighter can behave differently if flown by a Chinese pilot as their training and flight experiences differ. The Chinese air combat command system also works differently and therefore, the Japanese experience cannot be completely utilised against Chinese fighter patrols.
Japan’s defense budget growth during 2011-2020 has been only 2.4 percent compared to China’s 76 percent and it has forced Japan to look for alliances to create a power balance in the Indo-Pacific.Moreover, Indian and Japanese forces can build their skill sets through regular exercises with the US, NATO, and Australian forces. China does not have the same luxury as its defence partnership is limited to countries namely Russia and Pakistan. Russian Air Force’s yawning performance in Ukraine does not inspire much confidence in Beijing. China has tried to cover this gap by hiring retired military pilots from Australia, the United Kingdom (UK) and other Western countries. However, even that route has come into trouble lately, exacerbating China’s paranoia. For India, which has faced a three-year-long standoff with China on its border, these exercises present a rare opportunity to gain experience over the East China Sea. In addition, Indian Sukhoi-30MKIs have already conducted joint air combat trainings with the US and Australian air forces. Therefore, the joint drill with Japan can become a stepping stone to future quadrilateral air exercises. Furthermore, Indian pilots will learn crucial aerial combat over sea skills where Japan has substantial tactical and operational experience. In sum, the Japan-India joint air drill will impart crucial combat experience to both air forces. It will also further Japan’s approach to involve India deeper in the East Asian security architecture. However, for China, the air drill comes as an ominous portent for the future.
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Dr. Atul Kumar is a researcher at the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University Brisbane Australia. He completed a Ph.D. on the Chinese military from ...Read More +