The Chinese air force has started carrying out air exercises in the western part of the country over Tibet and close to the India-China border, as India’s capabilities grow.
China’s third-generation aircraft marshaled to the region arrived February 13, according to the Global Times. Notably, J-10 and J-11 jets are now stationed in China’s western theater to bolster air defenses against a possible Indian threat, military expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times on Tuesday.
“Strengthening the third-generation fighters jets or even stationing more advanced fighter jets in the Western Theater Command has been urgent” for the People’s Liberation Army-Air Force (PLA-AF), Song said. “With India importing new jets, China will continue strengthening its fighter jets in the Western Theater Command.”
“The PLA-AF’s primary airbases are located in areas in Tibet having high altitudes and low air densities. This prevents Chinese fighter planes such as the Su-27, J-11 or J-10 from taking off with a full complement of fuel and weapons, negatively affecting their operational abilities,” according a 2017 report dubbed “The Dragon’s Claws: Assessing China’s PLA-AF Today.”
By comparison, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has bases near sea level in northeastern India, meaning the “IAF has no such restrictions and will effectively undertake deep penetration and air superiority missions in the Tibetan Autonomous Region,” the report noted. In other words, they have a big advantage.
Both New Delhi and Beijing have made significant efforts to modernize their aerial fleets. The IAF has an order of 36 French-made Rafale fighters on the way, while China has recently commissioned the J-20, a plane comparable to the United States’ advanced F-35, into frontline operations in the South China Sea.