Based on the type of missions these Multirole fighters can perform ,the Author have assumed possible Combat Scenarios of both. Taking into consideration the Flight Characteristics of LCA mk1 and JF 17 block l as standard input from their respective official websites and the number of weapons they can carry. This comparison is made. I have neglected such missions that involve both aircraft being supported by AWACS or any other aircraft ,because that varies from air force to airforce. I have considered all variants of LCA and JF 17 for the sake of worst case scenario.
To add flavour I have given all possibilities a story line so that Defence enthusiasts enjoy reading the article and not get bored.
1 If LCA goes on a bombing Mission and is intercepted by JF 17.
24 August 2030 , Briefing room of an Airbase. The Wing Commander instructs his boys, " Our troops are unable to move forward ,because of heavy concentration of Enemy's Artillery. If we our army provides our marching troops with our artillery via a land route, it will be too late, The troops have demanded a Close Air Support immediately".
The brave Squadron Leader acts swiftly , prepares four LCA aircraft each loaded with two KAB - 1500L laser Guided bombs , two R 73 CCMs , two drop fuel tanks. He instructs his pilots to do last minute checks. The squadron prepares for takeoff. At midnight they takeoff from their home base ,upon reaching near to the friendly troops, Squadron leader passes a message to all , " Pilots , Break Right and and select your air to ground weapon. We reach the designated target in no time, Everybody will make only one approach and the sequence will be , kirpan 1, then Kirpan 2, kirpan 3 and Kirpan lead ( code names of pilots). " , Upon reaching the area of interest which they earlier saw on their NAVIC system of Navigation. They make approaches and start bombing enemy artillery.
" Red Alert , Red Alert, Red Alert, I am picking up signals from my RWR , their is an enemy aircraft inbound" , the squadron leader shouts in the radio. He later instructs his team mates, " As soon as you finish bombing , fly away back to base, I will ensure your passage". Soon Kirpan 1, Kirpan 2 and Kirpan 3 are out of picture. The aircraft came to intercept is JF 17. armed with two PL- 12 BVRs , two Pl 5 short range missiles. It is also carrying two drop fuel tanks. Both The Pilots fly in crossing paths approaching each other, so close that they both see each others 'highly determined' faces. Both take a U turn and are now ready to engage.
The JF 17's internal fuel capacity is 2330 kg and it always carries 2 X 1100 kg external tank. Total fuel capacity is thus 4530 kg. While the LCA's fuel capacity is 2458 kg with 2 X 1200 kg external tanks that total up as 4858 kg. That means LCA carries 328 kg more fuel. This small gap of '328 kg' can also be a tactical advantage. The LCA has more thrust to weight ratio and also it's engine gives more dry thrust than that of JF 17. This means that in a combat Scenario LCA can move swiftly away from JF 17 for a while until the opponent runs out of fuel. LCA can give same speed as that of JF 17 with low afterburner settings and using less fuel. This advantage depends upon skills of a pilot. Once JF 17 runs out of fuel , it will be forced to return to it's base.
The JF 17 pilot must not waste time in such a scenario , It's Service ceiling is slightly larger than LCA , The JF 17 can climb to its maximum service ceiling to avoid being targeted and approach LCA as fast as he can..........then Radar Lock on.................BVR missile firing..................... and Boom.
LCA going on a Bombing Mission would be carrying bombs , drop tanks mainly. It would be equipped with R 73 which has short range and is not BVR capable. So LCA's Air to Air combat effectiveness is restricted in this scenario. The LCA would deliver the bomb , but would face challenge from JF 17.
Conclusion :- Although there are slight chances for LCA but the argument tilts in favour of JF 17.
2 If JF 17 goes on a bombing role and LCA intercepts it.
War is about to start between two countries. The Air base of Black Spiders receive intelligence that enemy is about to move it's highly capable cruise missiles near the border. The Black Spiders prepare for a mission to destroy these mobile missile launchers before they come close. And four JF 17 Thunders Fly zooom. Squadron leader instructs, " Today we would do, what we waited for our whole life, we will approach enemy from behind whom we expect to be at highway no. 26 right now, 16 kms from dhuti city. They would take a break and we would bring down Thunder on them."., The squadron leader further instructs, " Spider 2 and Spider 3 prepare your H 4 glide bombs, while me and Spider 4 will pounce the second wave and fire our GB 6 missiles".
All Aircrafts then fly in a tight formation to mock as a civilian transport aircraft and swiftly come down their designated target area. Spider 3 moves ahead to select target and says, " Spider 1 , I am selecting a target with the help of my WMD-7 targeting pod, let us connect".
Soon the Spider 2 sees some ball of fire in the air at a distance, the ball of fire/light is seen coming closer, he reactivates his RWR and scans the nearby area. His eyes go wide open , he shouts on the radio, " Spider 1, seems to me like we have got a company at our 2 'o clock". Everybody gets shocked. It is LCA Tejas armed with Astra BVRs and R 73 short range missiles. The battle is on ..............
JF 17's combat radius is 1352 km. So it can effectively perform ground attacks deep within hostile airspace. Out of it's 7 hard points ,2 will always be for Drop Fuel Tanks. The centreline hard point for a targeting pod. The wingtip hard points for PL 5 short range air to air missiles. Thus it is left with just two Hard points for Air to Ground Munition. The JF 17 can carry a wide range of Smart Weapons including Air Launched Cruise Missiles and Glide Bombs. Making it more effective ground attack aircraft than LCA mk 1. The Advantage of JF 17 is that it is equipped with indigenous weapons which makes it an attractive choice for those airforces that are on a war righ now and wants a cheap solution. Just like the Nigerian AirForce that faces challenge from BokoHaram.
The Disadvantage here is JF 17's mutimode radar can look up to just 50 to 60 kms and so can it's targeting pods. It may be equipped with weapons with 100 km of range but cannot be able to launch them. The Block l and Block ll variants do not have BVR targeting system. As of Jan 2016 JF 17 Block lll isn't finalised. So the production line can only offer the current version.
For a Bombing Mission JF 17 has to go very near to its target almost within the range of ground based defensive missiles. In such a case if LCA intercepts it ,it will be equipped with 2 X R77 BVR missiles. Only 20 LCAs are of the type that are WVR all other variants are BVR. So we can safely assume that any variant of LCA can successfully intercept JF 17 block l and block ll and possibly even Block lll because Block lll will not have increased amount of weapons. LCA would be relying on its LEVCONs and BVR missiles , while JF 17's hardpoints carrying Air to Ground Munition will be equipped with two WVR Air to Air missiles only.
Conclusion :- Neither The JF 17 would be able to deliver its weapons nor it will be able to save itself from LCA'S Air to Air weapons. Against a mobile target JF 17 is ineffective when LCA is guarding it.
3 IF JF 17 attacks an airbase where LCA is stationed. ( Both Aircrafts in A2A mode).
ALERT ! ALERT ! ALERT !
The tower of airbase shouts in the radio. "We have enemy aircrafts approaching overhead , all pilots are clear for priority take off ". The LCA pilot taxis his aircraft getting ready for takeoff. To his surprise from nowhere Two JF 17s arrive. One of them drops the Matra Durandal anti Runway bombs and damages the runway. The tower passes the message " SP-14, If you are listening to me , abort your takeoff. The runway is damaged and is filled with cluster bomblets". The LCA Pilot ignores this warning , he knows that LCA can take off at a mere 400m. He passes a message in return , " Tower, be relaxed, I am quite comfortable here, let me make my guests feel comfortable too". And he takes off.
The Bomber JF 17 is out of picture now and there is only one left that was sent to provide air cover.
The JF 17 which provide air support to it's friendly JF 17 is now ready to engage the LCA which has flown just now from a damaged runway. The LCA as soon as it takes off would do its best to manoeuvre and quickly engage JF 17. But JF 17 would like to do the same. At low speeds JF 17 is more manoeuvreable. Both realise this is the game of manoeuvrability. The JF 17 has got g limits as +8/-3 g and LCA has +8/-3.5 g. The minus values of Gs are experienced when aircraft is reducing its altitude at a very fast rate.
The JF 17 can fly at a service ceiling of 16920m whereas the LCA has 16000m.
The JF 17 has thrust to weight ratio 0.9 whereas LCA has 1.07.
As Mach number increases, the turn rates lower for the conventional cropped delta tailed configuration aircraft models at a faster rate than that for the pure tailless delta model with a crossover point at Mach 0.65. At all higher Mach numbers, the difference in turn rates increases substantially once more. Beyond Mach 0.6 Tailess delta wing aircrafts are more manoeuvrable than conventional tailed Cropped delta wing models. JF 17's DSI inlets here play a significant role in providing good post stall characteristics. To win ,it has to keep raising its altitude and deliberately stall for a short time and regain speed , thus it can outrun LCA.
Here in this graph uploaded above a comparison between LCA and F 16 is given where it is clear that LCA can pull high 'Gs at high Mach speeds, that means it can take more sharp turns at high speeds. This graph is made assuming sea level as flying altitude of both. In case of JF 17 and LCA at higher altitudes things would tilt in favour of JF 17 but not too much. Because of different air intakes of both and density of air being less at greater heights.
The LCA had got onboard oxygen generating system that allows LCA'S pilot to operate for large amount of time. Whereas JF 17 has got oxygen tanks that run out of Oxygen after 2 hrs.
So the LCA owing to its slightly greater EW capabilities , thrust to weight ratio and slightly greater speed can engage JF 17 and won't be allowing it to return home. The JF 17 if successfully climbs to a height of 16900m then it may trick LCA. LCA still has got chance although it can't safely fly above 16000 m but surely can put its nose upwards to target JF 17. The JF 17 simply cannot escape. JF 17 will be on the mercy of it's KG-300G radar jammer. But how long???. LCA carries targeting pod on its extra hard point located beneath port side intake. This passive IR targeting against JF 17's hot engines are surely gonna add a kill mark on LCA.
But there can be a twist.
While LCA is taking off. If JF 17 is behind LCA. That means if JF 17 is at LCA's '6' . LCA is largely in a disadvantageous position neither LCA can evade JF 17 in a turn manoeuvre nor it will have time to climb up to a safe position and save its back. The SD 10's of JF 17 would hit LCA. So once again Pilot's Skill and Timings are largely necessary here.
Conclusion :- This argument tilts in favour of LCA doing a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) mission. There are chances for JF 17 but it will be a bad choice for the role of aerial cover if LCA is to be dealt with.
4 JF 17 approaches for an AntiShip role and NLCA intercepts.
Their is an emergency kind of situation in the Naval Port. A big Armada of enemy ships is approaching there. It passes SOS message to a nearby Air Base and then the Hero appears. The JF 17 is here, armed with CM 400 AKG at its centreline pylon. The JF 17 pilot says , " Need not to worry dear friends, I am 08-106 from the Black Panthers, At the stroke of Midnight our Thunder Strike will happen".
The enemy Armada of ships goes on full alert. Their radars detect an inbound aircraft. The lead ship destroyer moves forward and is now skimming almost alone. It calls for support. The NLCA takes off from it's aircraft carrier Vineet. Zooms at a speed of Mach 1.8 , armed with BVR astra missiles ready to bang on. The NLCA reaches for support of The lead Ship Destroyer.
JF 17's radar cross section is 5m². LCA's radar cross section is 1.5 m². Although in within visual range air to air combat it hardly matters.
The JF 17 armed with YJ 12 / CM400 AKG. Approaches the armada. To avoid being detected it raises its altitude to its maximum until it reaches very near to it's target, the lead destroyer of that armada. The Best thing in such cases is Dive Bombing. Although the technique is for bombing but effective for missile launch also.
As the Radar of JF 17 can't see beyond 60km. It has to go that much close to it's target. Any normal destroyer is equipped with medium range SAMs of 70 to 100kms of range. That means JF 17 isn't completely safe. But owing its rate climb it can turn upwards and successfully get out of range of SAMs before they hit it. We are assuming that JF 17 is not getting any support from AEW&C or ASW aircraft. So it is all alone. The CM 400 AKG is undoubtedly very difficult to intercept. If the mission is agianst just one ship then JF 17 may score. But Against a high value target like Aircraft carrier it won't be able to hit it. An aircraft carrier is surrounded by many ships , big enough to stop any intruding aircraft. It floats with its entire Carrier Battle Group. Even normally it has got two ships alongside it.
Things would become difficult if JF 17 faces opposition from an NLCA as discussed in this case. The NLCA here would be equipped with BVR R 77 missiles and won't give any chance to JF 17. IF LCA arrives after JF 17 hits the target , The JF 17 wont waste time and would escape. But if JF 17 is yet to hit its target..............
Imagine the JF 17 performs a steep dive almost making an angle of 70° with sea surface. It would approach with its maximum speed. Going Full afterburner and Then its adversary LCA arrives. The LCA would be relying on the Support of Radar of its home aircraft carrier to know the location of JF 17. The Mk 1 NLCA is for testing purpose and not for production any real combat ready NLCA would definitely be equipped with AESA radar. Having Movable LEVCONS it would also be more manoeuvreable than JF 17. The Block l and ll does not have any significant changes not even a new cockpit design. Just some minor upgrades. So it is pretty clear that if a turn combat happens , NLCA is going to add a kill mark on itself.
If NLCA faces JF 17 block lll even if we consider the most upgraded Variant of NLCA. The battle would be at equal level If we expect Block lll to be using Carbon Composites and AESA radar, the NLCA being at same. The JF 17 would have a hectic time to deal with NLCA. Any imaginable turn Combat's result would be depending on Pilot's skill. The Basic Variant of LCA is less manoeuvreable than JF 17 and the later variants have Movable LEVCONS and more powerful engine to add to the manoeuvrability.
Conclusion :- This argument is highly case specific and Both have equal chances of Victory and Lose.
5 LCA goes on a Precision Strike on a beach and is intercepted by JF 17.
A Naval LCA patrols above the Arabian sea at the altitude of 10000m. The sun is about to set and N-LCA is about to return. It was a regular patrol on the politically tense days, so N-LCA was armed. The LCA revives a message on his radio , " NF 07 , get ready , it is a big time sensitive mission and you are our only guy in sky. You will be serving our country in the glorious traditions of Black Panther sqaudron " . Initially tense but now confident the Pilot responds , " Certainly Sir, whatever you ask for ". The pilot was thinking of many possible scenarios , As he was alone on the mission he just checked his health , and the weather around. While doing some settings in his flight Computer, his leader comes up on the radio and says, " Good Evening my boy , See their is an enemy ship preparing to load an enemy VIP. The target is very important for us if we destroy the ship we may end this war, we are relied on you, our nation is relying on you ". The pilot becomes patriotically emotional for a while but he responds an affirmative and turns himself towards the enemy position.
The LCA after receiving intelligence that it has to destroy a high value target located at enemy port, moves swiftly. It will climb up at 15000m and would fly straight at it's target. Will do a steep dive. The precision strike weapon configuration of LCA is as such that it has to carry 2X Drop Tanks, 2X R77 BVR missiles , 2X R 73 CCMs and 1 X Kh - 35 anti ship missile as a stand off weapon. After delivering the standoff weapon what will happen to it is a different issue.
The Authorities on that targeted port get the wind of what is happening in the nearby airspace and call up for help. It is almost dusk , The JF 17 standing there at sunset is readied for combat with full air to air load takes off and swiftly moves towards the port.
If combat happens after LCA delivers it's stand off weapons then matters are different for it. LCA would first jettison it's Drop Fuel Tanks, to get relived of load. And owing to its increasingly manoeuvreable design would show some radar locking skills to it's opponent. The LCA would definitely be dominant in most number of possibilities if all variants are considered. The possibility of JF 17 engaging LCA after delivery of weapon is less. Because LCA is not a stealth aircraft and can be detected. As in the case discussed above LCA is approaching a Naval Port where many big ships are stationed. Naturally such a place would get a high end radar coverage. As soon as the 'bogie' LCA is detected an Interceptor will be launched and will be ready to welcome the bogie.
Conclusion :- The victory of LCA depends upon Pilot's skills but the JF 17 in this case have an upper hand.
LCA and JF 17 both are awesome fighters completly fitting to thier roles. The Goal of LCA program was to develop the infrastructure in India and The Goal of JF 17 program was to meet the requirment of filling up of gaps. Both the programs met their demand. If any nation wants to purchase a cheap fighter for taking it mostly to the battlefield JF 17 is an attractive option. For any AirForce who has maintenance and operating cost a big issue and Needs a precision strike low end , Advanced Fighter then LCA is the best. JF 17 is maneuoverable. LCA is reliable. JF 17 have wide variety of weapons. LCA has BVR capability.
It is not necessary that LCA and JF 17 would be used in a war By India and Pakistan. Seeing the military doctrine of both , such chances are low that IAF LCA would face PAF JF 17. It may be possible that both be exported to some countries and they go on a war with each other fielding LCA and JF 17 against each other. Don't make the Tejas Vs JF 17 an India vs Pakistan, be specific while commenting here.
:- ADA- Tejas Brochure 2015.
:- beta coefficient blogspot.
:- some private sources in IAF.
:- Various articles uploaded in defence.pk , Indiandefence.com, idrw.org and magazines related to military like Asian defence review, combat aircraft magazine etc.
:- ADA , Deb Rana
:- Official Websites of LCA and JF 17.
:- beta coefficient blogspot
THANK YOU !
Stay Tuned For Part ll of this article