The intense aerial engagement between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the February 14 Pulwama terror attack led to a dramatic escalation of confrontation in the last few days. While India shot down an F-16 warplane of Pakistan, the Indian Air Force (IAF) lost a MiG-21 Bison during the fierce engagement between the air forces of the two countries along the Line of Control (LoC). Pakistan's retaliation came a day after India on February 26 struck several Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) training camps in Balakot in response to the cowardice JeM attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14. During the airstrikes, IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was also captured by Pakistan. However, Pakistan on Friday handed over Varthaman to the Indian authorities as a "gesture of peace" and the first step towards negotiation with India.
As the tension between India and Pakistan escalated in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack, let us take a look at the air prowess of both the countries.
India has 2,185 aircraft, including 590 fighter jets, 804 attack aircraft, 708 transport aircraft and 251 trainers. Pakistan, on the other hand, has only 1,281 aircraft that include 320 fighter jets, 410 attack aircraft, 296 transport aircraft and 486 trainers. Pakistan outnumbers India with 49 attack helicopters, compared to India's 15. However, with a total of 720 helicopters, India has got the advantage over Pakistan, which has a total of 328 helicopters.
While Pakistan's acquired US-made F-16 Falcon fighter is considered to be one of the most prolific jets in service, India's Sukhoi Su-30MKI, the multi-role all weather fighter, is the most advanced fighter jet in operation with the Indian Air Force.
Pakistan's F-16 versus India's Sukhoi Su-30MKI:
Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, Pakistan's F-16 is used by several international countries, including the United States. The F-16 Falcon is a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter, which was manufactured by General Dynamics, now Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force (USAF). A total of 4,500 aircraft have been manufactured since it was first introduced in 1976. It is popular for being an all-weather multirole aircraft as it offers better visibility than many of its direct competitors. F-16, the AN/APG-68 radar is a long range up to 300 km and a Pulse-doppler radar designed by Westinghouse (now Northrop Grumman) to replace AN/APG-66 radar in the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
On the other hand, Su-30MKI Radar, the forward facing NIIP N011M Bars (Panther), is a powerful integrated passive electronically scanned array radar. The N011M is a digital multi-mode dual frequency band radar. Both fighters are very Agile and Excellent Dog-fighters. While F-16 is very much lighter and has better Speed, Su-30MKI is equipped with TVC (Thrust-Vectoring Control) engines which means its ITR (Instantaneous Turn Rate) can be extreme. Superior Agility and Aerodynamic performance of SU-30MKI easily compensates for its bigger size than F-16.
Pakistan's warplane F-16
Sukhoi Su-30MKI is a multi-role all weather fighter for air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions. It is the most advanced fighter jet in operation with the Indian Air Force and is the primary air-to-air and air-to-ground strike machine. Since December 2000, the Su-30MKI variant that the IAF uses is built in India by HAL under a license agreement with Russia's Sukhoi.
Also known as Flanker (NATO), the Su-30MKI is exclusively used by India and there is an estimate that IAF has 290 operational units of 30MKI till date. Initially, developed by Russia's Sukhoi Aviation Corporation, in Irkutsk, the first unit of Sukhoi Su-30 was inducted in 2002. The Sukhoi Su-30MKI has a top speed of Mach 2 (2120 kmph) and has a maximum take-off weight of 38,800 kg. The jet can carry a wide range of equipment from radars to missiles, bombs and event rockets. The Su-27, which was first produced in the Former Soviet Union starting 1982 is counted among the world’s best fighter aircraft even without any upgrades; but some of the technology and capability that the Su-30MKI boasts has absolutely no parallels across the world’s air forces.