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J-10C For Pak – A Comparison Against Indian Rafale

After India acquired the Rafales, Pakistan is in a panic mode & has reached out to its only friend, China begging for help. It wants to buy 30 J-10C aircraft under emergency procurement from China. Now it becomes fair to compare the J-10C against the Rafale as Pakistan has decided to buy it & this article will address exactly that.

J-10C
J-10C of PLAAF

For starters, J-10CE is the export variant (E for export) of the J-10C aircraft which is the third improved variant of the Chinese J-10A which in turn is a copy of the Israeli fighter IAI Lavi. It is a single-engine, lightweight, multirole combat aircraft with decent performance but nowhere near to that of Rafale. Reasons:

Within visual range (WVR) combat: The J-10C has an empty weight of 8,850 kg against Rafale’s empty weight of 9,850 kg. The Rafale is heavier by one ton when empty but has a far greater thrust coming out of its engines. The two M88 engines of Rafale churn a thrust of 100 /150 kN (dry/afterburner) against 79/125 kN (dry/afterburner) thrust of the J-10C.

Quantitatively, Rafale has a 20% greater thrust for just 11% higher weight than the J-10C. This means for the same weight of fuel & weapons, Rafale is going to have a thrust to weight ratio far better than the J-10C which means better agility & higher energy which is the deciding factor in WVR combat. But what really matters here is that the short-range missile of Rafale (MICA-IR) is generations ahead of the PL-8/9 missiles of the J-10C. The MICA-IR has an Imaging Infrared (IIR) seeker against PL-8’s Infrared (IR) seeker & also has a much higher range, off bore shoot capability, G tolerance & kill probability.

Mica missile on Rafale
MICA-IR missile on the wingtip pylon of Rafale

Beyond visual range (BVR) combat: Two devices matter the most in a BVR combat. A good radar which sees the enemy before the enemy can see & a good BVR missile that can reach far & hit the enemy.

Radar: The J-10C has an Chinese AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar with 1,200 T/R (transmitter-receiver) modules. This is a huge number but the single AL-31 engine of the J-10C isn’t powerful enough to provide the electrical power needed for all the 1,200 T/R modules. Thus the radar operates at lower capability.

The Rafale’s radar is the RBE2 AESA radar with 838 T/R modules. All the T/R modules are functional & it is a technologically superior radar. It has a greater detection range in excess of 200 km & the tracking mode, prioritization of targets ais fully automated. It is fully reprogrammable & can be easy upgraded with anti obsolescence solutions thanks to its open architecture. Both the J-10C & the Rafale have similar radar cross section of 1m2 but due to the higher detection range of the Rafale’s RBE2, the Rafale will have a higher edge in detecting the J-10C first. For other tasks like air to ground, the RBE2 has better modes & more reliability.

Rafale with Radar vs J-10C Radar
Rafale with Nose Cone removed

BVR Missiles: For long range interception, the J-10C uses the PL-15 which is a dual-stage BVRAAM with a 200+ km range. But the J-10C is crippled with a radar that cannot use its full potential & hence even though the missile has a good range, its full potential can never be utilized. The JF-17 Thunder also uses the PL-15 & hence J-10C doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
The Rafale on the other hand uses the Meteor which is unarguably the best AAM in the world it uses a next-generation technology called the ducted ramjet which ensures a high range of 200 km but what’s more important here is it maintains the same kinetic energy throughout its flight range, unlike the PL-15. The meteor actually is the one nodal system that gives so much edge to the Rafale. The capability of the Meteor missile can be judged by the fact that it is going to be integrated in the F-35 too.

Meteor Missile on Rafale
Meteor Missile

Electronic Warfare: There is little known about EW Suite of J-10C, not because it is confidential but because it is not remarkable enough. On the other hand, the Rafale’s EW suite is SPECTRA (Self-Protection Equipment Countering Threats to Rafale Aircraft) which is a state of the art series of RWR, LWR, MAWS, jammer & decoy dispenser. It provides long-range detection & identification of IR or RF threats. It is the EW suite of Rafale that inflates the cost of Rafale so much. It is also updated with the threat library found in Indian conditions.

SPECTRA EW suite vs J10-C EW suite
Components of the SPECTRA EW Suite of Rafale

Maintenance: Finally the J-10C, being Chinese uses Russian components that are not known for their reliability. The Engine is AL-31FN, a variant of the same engine of the Su-30MKI. These engines have a Mean Time Between Overhaul (MTBO) of just 500 hours & a total life of 1,500–3,000 hours. This means higher depot visits & lower availability of the aircraft.
The Rafale on the other hand is an aircraft built with ease of maintenance in mind. The engines have a very high MTBO & higher life. Most of the maintenance can be done at the airbase without any heavy support equipment & the fleet will have a constant availability rate of greater than 75%.

Rafale Engine vs J-10C
Snecma M88 engine replacement in Rafale

Battle Proven: Finally, the J-10C, just like any Chinese fighter has never seen the light of battle or a joint exercise (except with Pakistan). The Rafale has seen combat operations in Mali, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq & Syria. The experience gained from these has been incorporated into the aircraft to optimize it better for live combat.

Our final word on this is that the J-10C is not really a bad aircraft. It has a steller aerodynamic performance as seen during airshows. But when pitted against Rafale, it doesn’t hold ground as Rafale is an evolved & mature platform with a proven success rate. If Pakistan purchases it, the only advantage Pakistan is getting over their existing JF-17 Thunder is an aircraft with better agility, capable of good airshow maneuvers. The weapon’s capability is the same as JF-17 Thunder.

Also, Pakistan is not interested in the J-10C because it is a great aircraft. It is interested because they don’t have any other option.


All the images used in the article belong to their respective owners and we do not claim rights. We are using them under this clause:
Section 107 of the copyright act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

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Subhadeep Paul

Subhadeep is a military aviation & defense systems enthusiast known to write well researched & unbiased content. He has penned down over 400 articles on various online platforms which have helped more than 6 million viewers to have an understanding of Defense. Subhadeep has also been the “Most Viewed Writer” on multiple topics on Quora such as Dassault Rafale, Indian Air force & Fighter Aircraft. Hailing from a military family himself, he has experienced the functioning of Indian Armed Forces for years which has led to the understanding & accurate portrayal of the forces in his content. He frequently writes about aircraft, strategy, weapons & his content is said to be easily comprehensible even by common man with a limited understanding on the subject.

23 Comments

  1. But pakistan has an upper hand as they will be operated by the likes of hassan and the rafale will have abhinandans

      1. AND THEN RETURN THE INDIAN LANDS AND GO BACK TO AFGHANISTAN YOU PATHANS. YOU’RE LIVING ON BORROWED /BEGGED FROM BRITIAN, LANDS. YOU’RE ALL HINDUS TILL 1947 .

  2. Hi, thw writer is biased in his approach as it is a well known fact that so far no published data at least reliable is available in case of AESA radars being used in Chinese jets with exception of KLJ7A and it’s former competitor also from China. Meanwhile reportedly China is using it’s indeginious engine which is higher in thurst and as per Chinese is reliability is also er the AL -31 engine. On other hand the claim of radar annot be used at full potetnial in case of J10 looks to be vague. The words like only friend and begging are not suitable for standard defense related article.
    Hope he shall select better words in future with some more research.

  3. Most of your analysis is built on top of the false assumption that Pakistan’s J-10C using the old AL-31 engine.

    1. Kindly look at global defense journal on comparison of both planes. I do agree that this article should have avoided qualitative discussion. However when it comes to engine based on available data
      Rafale has dual engine thrust generated by Power 2 x 75 kN – 17k lbf
      J-10CE (E for Export) has single engine 1 x 130 kN – 29,0k lbf

      It definitely reduces cost per flight but is not a match for Rafale. Infact F-16 is superior than J-10CE but US has imposed multiple restrictions on usage of F-16 esp usage against India which is a big disadvantage.

  4. Rafale (MICA-IR) is generations ahead of the PL-8/9 missiles of the J-10C??? There are only 5 generations of aam so in your view pl 8 is a cold war era missile.

    Also AS31 FN series 3 has which is an improved version of AL 31 (FN) has 135 kn of thrust. Furthermore China is now using indigenously developed ws 10b engine which has higher thrust then AL 31 (FN),
    https://www.defenseworld.net/news/29567/China___s_J_10C_Fighter_jet_with_Domestic_WS_10_Taihang_Engine_Enters_Air_Force_Service#.YbzBrGhBzIW

    1. Hi Hassan,

      Twin engine with net 150kn (2x75kn) provides higher thrust to Rafale with advantage on 2 key aspects:
      Dogfight Rating Rafale:76% J-10CE:58%
      Maneuverability Rafale:9.3 J-10CE:8.6

      Rafale can detect incoming J-10C in much advance giving further advantage. Twin engine is a boon in case of dogfighting. Rafale also has 30mm caliber compared to 23mm of J-10C proving to be lethal. However J-10C has better firing rate of 3600 rpm compared to 2600 rpm of Rafale.

      Hope Pakistan can get S-400 from Russia as that would be strategic gain for Pak in air-defense else all these planes can be turned into rubble if S-400 is activated.

  5. Mali, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq & Syria had no high end technology or aircraft. After using rafale against these countries won’t make battle proven

    1. Libya had just improved its SAMs with latest Russian networking, anti-stealth stuff and seekers, there was Serbian help too. There were 8 battalions of S-200/400km range version revamped to truly give hell to F-117, F-22 and B-2, A-F band radars everywhere, S-200 were completed with S-75, S-125, BUK/KUB, TOR, Shilkas, etc etc. This made Saddam’s air defences n 1990 look like pussy
      Sorry, but Gaddafi had an absolutely efficient IADS with THOUSANDS of ready to launch SAMs and still retained the most of his large air force including Mirage-F1, the Tomcat’s Nemesis.
      Libya was truly cooked to make it much worse than Yugoslavia.
      What did happen? 30 min after the UN resolution, Rafales entered Libyan airspace and nobody was able to detect them! It’s not without a reason that the Patriot teams at Red Flag 2008 nicknamed Rafales as “Klingon Vessels” : when low freq radars spot passive stealth used by F-117, F-22, F-35, B-2, J-20, J-31, etc, French ONERA started the works on active stealth as soon as 1960!
      Rafales blew main radar sites, S-200 bases, airbases and since A2A kills are classified in France, I won’t say that FrAF shot down anything flying but a NATO brass nicknamed the MICA missile as “Silent Death”.
      Note that FrAF has nothing like AGM-88 HARM or Kh-58 : AASM Hammer guided bombs were used.
      After Rafales cleared the path, dealing with main defences, they were followed by English Tornados which dealt with secondary threats like S-75, S-125, BUK, etc…
      If entering a contested airspace with thousands of SAMs around, totally neutralising air-defences, airbases and an air-force is not being “battle proven”, what do you call as being so?

  6. ok lets assume that Rafal is better then the J-10C but , its only a machine from where u will bring a courage, cause u put your best on 27teb but only payload we received and then a Cup of tea bring down your Two so called Superior jet wowo, lets see what the cost of Rafal is a cup of tea or with a glass of water at the end we will a worf from you THE TEA IS………………………

    1. Well, at least Abhi didn’t ended lynched as the PAF F-16 pilot because a mob mistook the F-16’s Martin Baker parachute which is orange,white, green (and brown) for the Indian flag ;-) And don’t try plausible denial with me : someone filmed the parachutes : Abhi’s Mig-21’s white one and two Martin-baker ones over Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir… If Abhi didn’t shot down a F-16B/D, it were two F-16s down…
      You can cordon the Balakot compound as you will, the Italian journalist at the hospital did the body count and it was over 150…
      Things will be different with Rafale : since ISI is LeT and other terrorist groups master of puppets, Rafale won’t even need to enter in Pak’s airspace to level e.g. the ISI HQ if Indians feel like doing so…

    2. Abhinandan went up against 3rd generation Mig21 bison against 4++ generation F-16 viper and you are talking about courage? Lol

    1. J-10C was ridiculed by RTAF’s Gripen-C during the Eagle Claw “2” drills, and the Thais just had outdated AMRAAM and Sidewinder, note that thanks to AESA, J-10C did much better than J-10A/B and J-11 in WVR…
      So Thailand decided to upgrade with the Meteor and the IRIS-T.
      Actually, even the old Gripen-C PESA radar, which is a mod of the Sea-Harrier’s obsolete radar, behaved better than the J-10C’s KJ-7A in BVR, outgunning it…
      Therefore, even with AMRAAM and outdated PESA radar, Thai Gripen simply humiliated PLAAF in BVR with a 10:1 kill ratio.
      Thais also decided to upgrade their Gripen with the Gripen-E’s SELEX AESA radar…
      The PLAAF colonel who was sent to witness the drills came back saying “We need something like the Gripen”…
      Considering how the Gripen-C with such a config behaved in tests compared to Rafale F2 in Switzerland, 2011, as well as in combat over Libya compared to Rafale, they don’t belong to the same league.
      Actually, if I could only get in touch with either Modi or Singh, Id be able to explain them how Tejas can easily be “rafalized” and why HAL CEO refuses to do the mods despite these were validated by the DRDO. GOI should remind HAL’s CEO who is the owner of the company, that he’s sitting on a Martin-Baker and if he’s not willing to make a Super-Tejas Mk1 AND deliver 40-50 units a year, he can resign to avoid being fired.
      Mk1 can easily be modified to become much better than the future Mk.2, Fly Mach2 for 24 minutes on internal fuel when a Flanker or F-15 can’t last more than 10 minutes, carry a dozen Meteor and go after J-20 even from 200km…
      Tejas can truly be made a single-engine version of Rafale just like Mirage-2000 is a baby Mirage-4000…
      With 15 squadrons of Super-Tejas, 15 of Rafale and 15 of Su-30MKI, for which I have nice mods idea that would make the whole fleet able to perform 11 missions per 24h just like the Rafale can be pushed in intensive use while cutting the hourly cost by 50%…

  7. Pretty much everything but the weight of the aircrafts in your article is wrong. The J10C being received will have the new WS-10B engines, with max thrust of 31,000lbf. Your KN numbers are for the Saturn AL-31 that are not being used anymore. The two M88 engines of Rafale have max thrust of 17,000lbf each for a total of 34,000lbf. Dividing J10C thrust of 31000 by its weight of 8850, you get the thrust to weight ratio of 3.502. Dividing Rafale’s thrust of 34000 by its weight of 9850, you get the thrust to weight ratio of 3.451. So, Rafale is lower. Since the engine is not AL-31 and WS-10B and thrust is similar to Rafale, it is more than capable of supporting the 1200 t/r modules of its AESA radar, and thus has a higher resolution than that of Rafale’s, plain and simple. Given the higher capability of the AESA radar, it supports the range of the PL-15 missile. PL-15 is arguably the most capable LR missile, and has a range beyond that of Meteor’s. Not to mention that the radar cross section of a Rafale is 1.2sq.m., while that of the J10C is 1.0sq.m. So Rafale’s radar and missile are going to have to work harder to hit the J10C. As far as EW, you admitted that it’s completely confidential and you know nothing about it, but in your bias you had to put it down anyway.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking.All his analysis was based on wrong engine AL-31 while J-10c will have either WS-10B or WS-10C having more thurst.And PL-15 missile has easily more range than meteor between 200-300km depending upon altitude.

      1. “And PL-15 missile has easily more range than meteor between 200-300km depending upon altitude.”
        Very useful with a KJ-7A radar only ranging 130km…
        You don’t seem to get how missiles work.
        R-37M or KS-172 even range 400km+ but will only be useful against heavy aircraft.
        Moreover, Meteor’s range is classified, but dig this :
        AIM-120D is lighter and ranges 160-180km with a rocket engine. The French invented the ramjet which is way more full-efficient than anything at speeds over Mach2-3… Then Meteor will keep some fuel for the interception then do 40G manoeuvres which mean you can’t dodge it w.o. taking more than 10G. The only jet fighter taking 10G+ is… Rafale!

        It’s not without reason PAF insists on having Klimov engines on the JF-17 rather than WS…
        Engine thrust isn’t anything, the time of F-104 here to intercept slow Tu-95 with free-fall nukes was 65 years ago!

    2. It is WS-10B that is used for J-10CE and it is only WS-10G is the one which is slightly superior than Rafale by offering 152-155kN thrust. When it comes to thrust WS-10B is same as WS-10A and proclaimed to be 120-140kN. But the biggest disadvantage is single engine of J-10CE vs twin engine of Rafale which gives much greater maneuverability rating. Once an engine is hit then it’s game over whereas Rafale can be still in action if one of the engine is hit. Disadvantage is high cost per flight for Rafale compared to J-10C but in war it hardly matters.
      What the writer has missed is supercruise (SC) capability in which there are only Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale and F-22 available. China is yet to test with WS-15.

      F-16 is still superior than J-10C on multiple aspects but with growing closeness of US and India especially with formation of QUAD it is the best thing that Pakistan could and it is more driven by Mr Imran Khan to achieve political mileage. Good buy for overall PAF strength but strategically should have gone for J-20/Eurofighter Typhoon/F-22 to stay a step ahead of IAF same like when F-16 was acquired.

  8. Why does India media and Indian journalists always blatantly lie and seem so biased? There is so much misinformation about the J10c in this article. Engine is ws10c (142Kn) or thrust vectoring w10G (155KN). Missiles are pl10, pl12 and pl15, all of which modern and world class. The AESA radar in the J10c is world beating even according to western analysts. Indians deny, denigrate, deflect, embellish and plain lie, just to hide their own inadequacy and backwardness.

    1. V.C. :
      J-10C with KJ-7A AESA radar was no match to Thailand’s Gripen-C in BVR, even a PLAAF senior officer acknowledged this fact, even adding “we need something like the Gripen”, and J-10C only faced the old Erickson PESA radar!
      BTW, call yourself “V.C” in French and be a laughing stock : it pronounces like “Vécès” which means…. Toilets in slang.

    2. W-10G is for J-20 variants and it is still not fully tested nor China is mass manufacturing it. None of the J-10 variants till date is anywhere near to Rafale. Once J-20 is equipped with WS-10G and sufficient test data is available then it can be compared with current top notch fighter jets. It is expected to be ready in another year as current J-20 is using WS-10C.
      You can read it here https://www.businessinsider.com/f22-f35-russia-su57-china-j20-5th-gen-fighter-comparison-2021-5 about the current and future jets.

  9. Writer has very beautifully negated the J10C, no doubt Rafale is a very potent aircraft, the so called combat it has seen in Mali, Syria and Afghanistan oh my God what a threat environment to operate, actual capability shall Cdre revealed when both J10C and Rafale lock their horns some day

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