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The veil has been lifted on Pakistan’s airpower ambitions, with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) officially announcing plans to acquire China’s J-31 stealth fighter jets. This move marks a significant shift in the regional arms race, raising questions about its impact on the delicate power dynamics between Pakistan and India.

The J-31 boasts advanced stealth capabilities, designed to evade radar detection and penetrate deep into enemy airspace. Its twin-engine configuration offers enhanced power and payload capacity, making it a formidable contender in modern aerial combat. However, the J-31’s price tag and operational costs pose challenges for Pakistan. The exact number of jets to be procured remains unclear, with estimates suggesting a modest squadron due to budgetary constraints.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) officials told in a measured response to Pakistan’s J-31 plans. While acknowledging the jets’ potential, IAF officials maintain confidence in their existing arsenal and future acquisitions. They point out that the J-31’s stealth capabilities might not be as cutting-edge as initially perceived, potentially falling short of overwhelming the IAF’s defenses.

India’s Su-30MKI fighter jets have been a mainstay of their airpower, proven effective in various scenarios. The IAF’s assessment suggests that these jets can effectively detect and engage the J-31, nullifying its stealth advantage. Additionally, India’s focus on indigenous fighter programs like the Tejas MkII and the ambitious fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) demonstrates a long-term vision for aerial dominance, unaffected by Pakistan’s J-31 acquisition. Su-30MKI fighter upgrade with modern AESA Radar also means J-31 won’t have upper hand in many Scenarios

The J-31 deal’s timeline remains uncertain, with deliveries expected within the next 4-5 years if finalized. The impact on the regional balance of power is also debatable. While the J-31 undoubtedly adds teeth to the PAF, its effectiveness against the IAF’s existing capabilities and future modernization plans remains to be seen.

The J-31 acquisition marks a significant step in Pakistan’s airpower modernization efforts, but its true impact will depend on the number of jets procured, their operationalization, and the IAF’s response through its own modernization plans.

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