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Comparison and analysis of warfare capabilities of China and India – Must read

Which Party Would be Best Positioned to Claim Air Superiority in a Sino-Indian Border Clash
With tensions simmering between India and China and neither side showing any willingness to yield their territorial claims there is potential for armed conflict between the two parties. Such a conflict would almost certainly be confined to a minor border skirmish rather than a total war between the two nuclear powers, as was the case during the brief border war of 1962. Neither side would be willing to escalate to a destructive total war. The limited confines of the war would mean that strategies employed and the quality of the forces deployed would be far more critical factors than the quantities of weapons and personnel available, as only a small fraction of each country’s military capabilities would be involved. Ultimately whichever side can gain air superiority over the disunited border regions would have an overwhelming advantage and be most likely to force the other to back down. An analysis of the capabilities of each party to claim air superiority is therefore essential to predicting the likely outcomes of a small border war.
A comparison of a the aerial warfare capabilities of China and India is somewhat unusual as since the backbones of the air defenses and air forces of both countries are based on the same Russian made technologies. The main air superiority fighters fielded by both sides are derivatives of the Russian Su-27. India’s Su-30MKI has highly similar capabilities to China’s J-11, Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 air superiority fighters. The capabilities of these fighters are so similar that the side that would prevail in such a conflict would far more likely be decided by the quality of the pilots and the strategies implemented than by any technological advantage. China does however retain a significant advantage in a limited war in that it is capable of deploying an elite force of Su-35 air superiority fighters, which according to American military analysts are the most potent non stealth fighters in the world. The Indian Air Force would be wholly unable to match these capabilities. While China fields just 24 of these, in a limited air war even the deployment of a small spearhead of these super-maneuverable 4++ generation fighters could likely tip the balance against India’s fleet of older Su-30 fighters.
While China would most likely win any skirmishes in the air, superiority in air defense capabilities could help to circumvent either party’s air superiority advantage. Both China and India currently field advanced variants of the S-300 SAM system as their most potent anti aircraft capabilities. Though it is speculated that China has already received the first of its S-400 batteries on order from Russia it is assumed that these batteries either will not be delivered ahead of the scheduled date of 2018, or that they will be deployed to China’s Pacific coasts where they are most critically needed to counter threats from the United States and Japan. Given this both China and India will have near parity in the most advanced air defense capabilities they can deploy, and though Chinese SAM systems far outnumber those of India this numerical advantage would not be a significant factor in a limited border war. With both sides able to deny one another’s fourth generation fleets access to the airspace around the conflict zone, such a situation could well mean a stalemate in the air. Considering however that the S-300 does not have specialized counterstealth capabilities, China may well again have an advantage. China is today one of only two countries to have produced fifth generation stealth fighters, and its J-20 fighter with its high payload, long range and stealth capabilities could well be ideal for neutralizing Indian air defenses. While the J-20 is fielded in relatively small numbers, with only a few dozen in service as of August 2017, a strike force of these fighters could well be decisive in any Sino-Indian conflict – while the opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of its latest aircraft would likely be welcomed by the Chinese military as a show of force to the country’s other potential adversaries. Ultimately the J-20 stealth fighter gives China the ability to ┬áneutralize Indian SAMs and radars from the air – a capability India is currently unable to match.
Though India maintains highly potent SAM and air superiority capabilities, the slight technological advantage, China’s Air Force retains could well allow it to claim air superiority – leading to the war ending decisively in China’s favor. For political reasons as well is military ones, China is unlikely to occupy large swathes territory as it did in the previous war and ultimately preventing escalation and maintaining the status quo on its border with India remains its primary goal. The country’s primary strategic interests lie away from its Southern neighbors towards its Eastern and to a lesser extent its Western borders. A war with India, limited or otherwise, is strongly against Chinese strategic interests and the fastest resolution to the dispute, so long as it does not entail directly ceding territory, would be the most favorable.
While China’s military today retains a significant advantage, India has since their previous border war notably risen from a negligible military force to become one of the world’s foremost military powers. The potency of the country’s air force in particularly is disproportionately great compared to the size of its economy, and aside from Russia, the United States and China it is by far the most potent in the world – one of the few to field advanced air superiority fighters in their hundreds. Since the time of the first border war both countries’ militaries have advanced monumentally – and though China has a military advantage today is arguably not as great as that it enjoyed 55 years ago. While China’s advantage in waging a limited border war lies primarily in its access to more advanced 4++ generation air superiority fighters and its access to advanced stealth technology, this is likely to be negated within the next ten years as India acquires the Russian Su-57. This fifth generation stealth fighter entering Indian service, as well as the acquisition of the S-400 SAM system with anti stealth capabilities on both sides, could well lead to a more even balance of capabilities in future meaning that neither side would have a significant enough technological advantage to be able to quickly and decisively claim air superiority over the border regions. Until that time however China is set to retain a significant capability advantage allowing it to win air superiority in a limited war with India.
Shown below: China’s Chengdu J-20 Stealth Fighter; Indian Su-30 MKI Air Superiority Fighter; Su-57 Stealth Fighter; Indian Su-30 MKI Air Superiority Fighters; J-11; Su-35; S-300 SAM System Fielded by both Chinese and Indian Air Defense Forces.

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