The sighting of advanced fighter jets in Hotan air base, in the Uighur autonomous region of Xinjiang, has made it amply clear that China is in no mood to de-escalate the tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
<p style="font-weight: 400;">Earlier this week Forbes had, via satellite imagery, reported the presence of two Chinese air force Chengdu J-20 stealth fighters parked at the air base, which is about 320km away from Ladakh.</p>
"The J-20 deployment, however temporary, signals Beijing's resolve as China wrestles with India for influence over a disputed region of the Himalayas," the report mentioned.
"The People’s Liberation Army Air Force previously deployed at least six H-6 bombers with KD-63 cruise missiles to Kashgar airport, also in Xinjiang, placing the bombers within striking distance of Indian forces," it added.
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<p style="font-weight: 400;">Taken aback by the report, the shrewd PLA responded that it has not announced any J-20 deployment at Hotan Airport.</p>
"The J-20 is a long-range heavy fighter jet. So when deployed in Hotan, it can potentially cover many areas in Central and South Asia. But foreign media should not over-interpret its possible presence in a flashpoint region, as it is likely part of normal training on long distance flight and environment adaptation. China is a large country with many airfields in various terrains and under different climate conditions, and the J-20 needs to fly in more regions to adapt," China's state-affiliated newspaper, Global Times, quoted Chinese military aviation expert Fu Qianshao as saying.
The Chinese Air Force possesses around 40 J-20s and proudly boasts of it being at par with the US' F-22 and F-35. Ever since India inducted five Rafale fighter jets from France in July, the Chinese regime has gone on an overdrive comparing its air prowess with that of India.
"Chinese military experts said that the Rafale is only a third-plus generation fighter jet, and does not stand much of a chance against a stealth, fourth generation one like the J-20," wrote Global Times.
The so-called 'military experts' of China are going all out to show the supremacy of J-20s.
"Commissioned in 2001, the Rafale can reach a speed of Mach 1.8, with a combat range of about 1,850km (1,149 miles). That compares to the J-20, which went into service three years ago and can reach Mach 2, with a range of 2,000km (1,242 miles). In the Himalayas, where mountains rise over 8,000 metres (26,247 feet), flight ceiling – or the highest altitude a plane can fly at – is a big factor. For the Rafale, that ceiling is about 16,000 metres (52,493 feet), while the J-20 can fly at more than 20,000 metres (65,616 feet)," reported South China Morning Post, yesterday.
<img class="wp-image-9968 size-large" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/11990312bd8a257bba59d9b6c05b2b53-1024×682.jpg" alt="" width="1024" height="682" /> Five of the 36 medium multi-role Rafale fighter jets built by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault landed safely at the IAF airbase in Ambala, last month (IANS)
<p style="font-weight: 400;">But then, truth is hard to pin down. Be it the engine or battle experience—it has been used in combat over Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria—Rafale stands out winner. "Rafale is far superior to the J-20, the Chengdu fighter of China. Even though it's believed to be a 5th generation fighter, it is probably at best a 3.5 generation aircraft. It's got a third generation engine as we have in the Sukhoi," Air Marshal R. Nambiar (Retd) who flight-tested the Rafale fighter jets for India, told India Today.</p>
And it is not just Indian experts who believe that Rafale and the Indian Air Force are better equipped to deal with the high altitude and harsh weather on the LAC.
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<p style="font-weight: 400;">"It's worth pointing out that India has more experience with air operations in the mountains. During a clash with Pakistani forces in Kashmir back in 1999, a single coordinated strike by Indian air force Mirage 2000s hauling Litening camera pods and laser-guided bombs succeeded in knocking out a key Pakistani headquarters," wrote David Axe, a US military correspondent.</p>
<p style="font-weight: 400;">The Chinese government's propaganda machines will, however, never let their citizens know the reality.</p>.