In October 2019, Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Bhadauria said that India planned to upgrade its Su-30MKI with modern “radar and weapons capabilities and also enhance features that tackle obsolescence management and electronic warfare aspects.”
Vijainder K Thakur, Air Force veteran and defence analyst said that if the report was true, it would probably be the NIIP N035 Irbis E (Snow Leopard), a 20 KW class steerable hybrid ESA radar fitted on the Su-35.
“At full power, the radar can detect an F-35 at a distance of 58-km (36-mi), In tracking mode, the distance drops to 29km.”
Harsh Vardhan Thakur, an experimental test pilot said: “When defining pick up and rack ranges for the F-35, the low-observability may have been exaggerated. I think F-35 can be picked up at larger ranges, just as a J-20 can.”
It is unlikely that these upgrades had taken place in the recent reports that the J-20 fighter jets had been detected.
It should also be noted that in 2018, the Indian Air Force claimed that it had the means and had detected Chinese J-20 fighter jets.
Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, back then, said that signals from the J-20s can be picked up easily by existing radar from several kilometers away against the currently held belief.
“The air force is on a strong wicket against China. Whatever requirements are there from the budget, have been sent to the government,” the Air Force Chief said.
In 2018, the Indian Air Force repeatedly claimed that its Su-30MKI fighter jets were able to detect the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s J-20 stealth fighters.
The very fact that the J-20 stealth fighter jet was detected by the radars of the previous generation of fighter jets causes great reputation damage to Chinese aircraft. If true, it would also be quite showing about the effectiveness of the “stealth” technology.
Recall that in China they claim that the J-20 fighter jet belongs to the fifth generation of combat aircraft, in the same class as the “invisible” F-35.
India claimed that the detection of J-20 stealth fighters is due to several reasons. One of them is that, J-20 fighter jets were detected during a flight over a mountain range, and it appeared that the Chinese aircraft were causing a thermal lensing effect that led to their discovery. The emerging “additional thermal anomalies” at certain heights became a factor in discovering an aircraft flying at the location.
Whether that is the only explanation is unclear, since the Indian side hasn’t revealed anything else.
China claimed that the Indian side can simply use information published in the media about military patrols in the western segment of China’s airspace by J-20 fighters as a possibility of allegedly “detecting J-20 stealth fighters.”
Regardless, if the reports that the J-20 stealth fighter jet could be detected by radars from the previous generation, and modern radars could potentially also detect both it and the F-35 fighter jet from a larger distance, that is worrisome for country’s that are betting a lot on stealth technology.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- China’s Chengdu J-20 Stealth Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (Infographics)
- China Is Nearing Mass Production Of J-20 Stealth Jets – Report
- China’s J-20 Fifth-Gen Fighters Carried Out First Sea Training Mission