The five brand new Omni-role Rafale jets recently inducted into the Indian Air Force have been conducting day and night sorties in various terrains, including near the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, as they inch closer and closer to full operational capability. The jets that landed in Ambala on July 29 are the first batch of 36 that India had inked a Rs 58,000 crore deal with France to acquire as far back as 2016.
Since their arrival, and against the backdrop of heightened tensions between India and China at the border in Easter Ladakh, comparisons between the Dassault-made aircraft and China’s J-20 fighter have been inevitable and abundant. However, the reality is that the two aircraft have never been involved in an aerial engagement before so whatever conclusion one may draw, ultimately, involves a fair deal of speculation.
But one area where the Rafale stands head and shoulders above its Chinese counterpart is in combat experience. For all that has been written and said of the fifth generation Chengdu J-20, the inescapable fact remains that it has never been tested in a real mission.