Pakistani J-10 delta wing jet dared Eurofighter into a dogfight

In a significant aerial exercise event, Pakistan’s newly incorporated J-10C fighters are rising to the occasion, bearing the test against the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoons for the first time ever.  

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The Pakistan Air Force [PAF] declared on the 10th of January, 2024, that the Zilzal-II, a joint air exercise hosted by Qatar, features the forces’ Eurofighter Typhoons and Pakistan’s Chengdu J-10Cs in a show of combined aerial strength. Presenting a mirror image of an authentic aerial warfare scenario, the exercise seeks to monitor the operational readiness of both air forces. 

As per the PAF, this exercise distinguishes itself as one of the most intricate collaborative training efforts among air forces. Aiming to boost collaboration between the two allied nations, the exercise also offers a common platform for skill exchange and shared learning experiences. 

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As the PAF noted in an official statement, “The PAF’s latest addition, the highly advanced J-10C fighter aircraft, are flexing their prowess against the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s Eurofighter jets in a premier aerial exercise face-off.” 

In March 2022, the PAF introduced the first fleet of J-10Cs, a product of Chinese development, into their air force. The exact number of J-10 aircraft deployed in the current exercise remains a secret.  

All of these activities take place at the Doha airbase, conveniently located near the capital’s primary airport. This stands as a stark contrast to the Al-Udeid airbase, where the presence of the US is notably seen. 

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The PAF lauded the speedy incorporation and operation of the J-10C fighter jets into their fighter fleet, stating, “Their successful induction and their participation in another international exercise within a remarkably brief period is an outstanding accomplishment.” 

In focusing on the importance of the J-10Cs’ involvement, the PAF asserts that this showcases  significant progress towards becoming a “technologically sophisticated and imposing Air Force.” 

The PAF further noted that the seamless integration and rapid operational preparation of these sophisticated fighter jets reinforce the strong commitment of the PAF to maintaining a potent force, competent in addressing emerging challenges and efficiently securing Pakistan’s airspace. 

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The exercise is tipped to provide invaluable points on the comparative functionality of the Chinese platform and deliver a clear understanding of its potential. 

These aircraft are fitted with the latest active electronically scanned array radars and are armed with beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles. Specifically, while the Eurofighter is equipped with the MBDA Meteor, the J-10C operates with the export version of the PL-15. 

The exercise 

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Zilzal-II, a strategic move aimed at advancing cooperative planning measures, underscores the strong defense alliance between these closely-knit nations. Zilzal’s inaugural roll-out in 2020 emphasized strengthening the already robust defense ties between these two countries. The memorable Zilzal-I exercise saw Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder fighters flying alongside Qatar’s Mirage 2000s. 

Built on this solid foundation, Zilzal II serves as a platform that Pakistan believes fosters a deeper understanding, collaboration, and camaraderie between the Pakistan Air Force and the Qatar Emiri Air Force. This collaborative venture is expected to contribute positively to regional stability and security. 

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Qatar’s arsenal, apart from the formidable Eurofighter Typhoons, includes powerful aircraft such as the Boeing F-15QA Advanced Eagle and the Dassault Rafale. However, there’s ambiguity regarding whether the PAF J-10s will interact with other Qatari aircraft in the ongoing exercise. In a strategic move, Pakistan decided to procure the J-10 to counterbalance India’s Rafale acquisition. Experts from both China and Pakistan deemed the J-10 a formidable adversary to the Indian Air Force’s Rafale fighter jet. 

The J-10C, a 4.5 generation medium-sized fighter jet, boasts a level of potency and capabilities that surpasses those of the JF-17, a lightweight fighter jet developed jointly by China and Pakistan and currently in use by the Pakistan Air Force. 

However, Pakistan’s Air Force’s JF-17 has reportedly encountered operational issues, particularly with maintenance, as US sanctions have caused disruptions in the availability of spare parts in the global market. 

This reliance on China for crucial components has resulted in supply chain interruptions and delays, leaving several aircraft within the JF-17 fleet grounded. 

While the exact number of non-operational JF-17s remains undisclosed, available reports suggest that a portion of the fleet is currently unable to function due to these issues. 

The J-10Cs can establish a connection with their Chinese counterparts using the KJ-500 early warning aircraft of the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] Air Force. It’s been reported that the Pakistan Air Force has also exhibited interest in acquiring the KJ-500 early warning aircraft.

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