The Japanese air force is eager to exercise against India’s Su-30MKI, to let Japanese pilots know the capabilities of the Russian-origin Su-30 fighter, which is currently the main fighter in the Chinese Air Force.
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force, which is actively preparing for joint training activities with the Indian Air Force in the coming months, will involve combat aircraft units from both sides, including the 6 most powerful fighters of the Indian Air Force, the Su-30MKI.
During the first ‘2+2’ meeting involving the foreign and defence ministers of India and Japan in late 2019, the two nations agreed to hold a military exercise involving their fighter aircraft.
It would have been the first such training venture between the two countries, which have held drills involving warships, land-based forces and transport aircraft of their air forces. The fighter exercise, proposed to be held in mid-2020, would have involved the Indian Air Force deploying its Russian-designed Su-30MKI fighters to the Komatsu airbase to train with the US-designed F-15J fighters operated by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
For the Japanese Air Force units, the opportunity to train against the Su-30 is highly appreciated, as it provides perhaps the closest simulation of the capabilities of the Chinese air force. Japan has to face the J-16 if there will be a conflict between the two countries and Japan can’t afford to lose from China.
Su-30MKI is a 4+ generation aircraft; This is an improved version of the Soviet Union’s leading air superiority fighter, the Su-27 Flanker, developed by Russia specifically for India. The Su-30MKI has been in service with the Indian Air Force (IAF) since 2002.
Su-27 Flanker variants are also the backbone of the PLA Air Force; however, the Chinese versions of the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2, are considered less modern than the Indian version of the MKI.
China, after mastering technology from Russia, has begun to “copy” versions of Su-27 such as J-11BG, J-15B and J-16, which are considered superior in combat performance compared to the previous original version. In addition, China also owns two squadrons of Su-35 purchased directly from Russia, which is considered the most modern variant of the Su-27 series.
Japan’s main fighter formation today is the F-15J Eagle, which first entered service in 1980 and currently has about 200 F-15Js in service. The Japanese F-15J Eagle was formerly considered the undisputed number 1 air superiority fighter in East Asia; but then its capabilities were surpassed by the more advanced Korean F-15Ks, purchased about 20 years later.
The problem that worries Japan is that China already owns the Su-27 fighter, then the Su-30MKK and most recently the Su-35, as well as clones such as the J-11B, J -16 have similar features, even surpassing the country’s F-15J Eagle.
Some of China’s top fighter jets include the J-10C, J-16 and J-20, all of which feature modern technologies, such as active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and other Long-range weapons, such as the PL-15 air-to-air missile, have a range superior to those on Japanese fighter jets.
In fact, the Su-27 was released by the Soviet Union to confront the American F-14 and F-15 during the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US Air Force purchased a number of used Su-27s from Belarus, in the 1990s, for testing purposes. Many US assessments have concluded that the Su-27 is actually superior to the F-15 in air combat. But that is only the first version of the Su-27, not to mention modernized Flanker variants such as the Su-30MKI and especially the J-16, the latest copy of China.
The J-16 version is considered to be China’s Su-35, has a twin-seat configuration, is a multi-role fighter, uses next-generation technologies, such as AESA radar fitted to aircraft, AESA radar-guided PL-15 missile, and also it has stealth coating.
Since the end of the Cold War, Japan’s F-15 fighter jets have received little modernization. Among them, only a part of the F-15J fleet has been upgraded to be able to use modern American AIM-120 long-range air-to-air missiles. The majority of Japan’s F-15Js still use outdated, semi-active radar-guided AIM-7 missiles; along with electronic warfare countermeasures several generations out of date, less likely to pose a threat to modern fighters from long distance.
The Japanese F-15Js will have a chance to confront the Indian Su-30MKIs; with previous mock battles with American F-15s, saw the Su-27s win overwhelmingly. A similar result may also occur between the Su-30MKI and the F-15J.
Currently, two great rivals of India, Pakistan and China. It is difficult to win against Indian Su-30mki for the F-15, but with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, the useful experience in countering the Su-30 will bring many benefits. interests, not only China but also against neighboring Russia, which Japan has a territorial dispute.
The Russian Air Force currently relies mainly on the Su-30SM, which is directly derived from the Su-30MKI, as well as other Flanker variants, to protect the eastern regions of Russia.
This is a great opportunity for Japanese fighter pilots to improve their combat skills when dealing with Su-27 fighters, when situations arise. Meanwhile, adversaries such as Russia and dream China also have no chance of a hypothetical confrontation with the F-15s.