Updated October 9th, 2023 at 16:17 IST

Aerial Showdown: IAF’s Su-30MKI fighters vs. Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder

Explore the differences between India's Su-30MKI and Pakistan's JF-17 Thunder fighter jets in terms of capabilities and roles in modern air warfare.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
The IAF's Su-30MKI is equipped with advanced radar, targeting systems, and electronic warfare suites. | Image: DG ISPR/IAF

Su-30MKI: Indian Air Force's versatile multirole fighter

In the dynamic landscape of modern air warfare, the choice of fighter aircraft plays a pivotal role in determining a nation's aerial dominance. The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) have deployed formidable aircraft to safeguard their respective skies, with the Sukhoi Su-30MKI representing India and the JF-17 Thunder representing Pakistan. Republic Digital has prepared a comprehensive comparison of these two fighter jets, exploring their features, capabilities, and differing roles.

The Su-30MKI is a product of Russia's Sukhoi Corporation and has been customized for the IAF. It is a twin-engine, multi-role fighter jet with a striking airframe design. India operates a substantial fleet of Su-30MKIs. The journey of the Su-30MKI in India began in the late 1990s when the Indian Air Force (IAF) sought to modernize its fleet with a state-of-the-art multirole fighter. India signed a contract with Russia's Sukhoi Corporation for the licensed production and customization of the Su-30MKI specifically for the IAF.  

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IAF's Su-30MKI vs Pakistan's JF-17

IAF's Su-30MKI vs Pakistan's JF-17

Pakistan Air Force's JF-17 'Thunder'

Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder, also known as the CAC FC-1 Xiaolong, is a joint production of Pakistan and China. The history of the JF-17 traces back to the early 2000s when Pakistan, in collaboration with China, embarked on a joint venture to develop a modern, cost-effective, and versatile fighter aircraft. The project aimed to replace Pakistan's ageing fleet of fighter jets and strengthen its air force's combat capabilities.

Dogfights: A Comparative Analysis

While the Su-30MKI is a versatile multirole fighter capable of air superiority, ground attack, and long-range interception, the JF-17 is a lightweight, single-engine multirole fighter designed for Close Air Support among a range of missions. The Su-30MKI fighters boast impressive supersonic capabilities, with a top speed of Mach 2.0. Meanwhile, the Pakistani counterpart can achieve speeds of Mach 1.6.  

The operational range of over 3,000 kilometres allows IAF’s Su-30MKI to carry out extended missions while carrying a wide array of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, rockets, and bombs. On the other hand, the JF-17 has an operational range of approximately 1,200 kilometres, less in comparison to the Su-30MKI. PAF’s JF-17s can carry a variety of missiles, bombs, and rockets.  

As for avionics, the Indian Air Force’s Su-30MKI is equipped with advanced radar, targeting systems, and electronic warfare suites. Notably, the Su-30MKI excels in situational awareness. In contrast, Pakistan’s JF-17s also feature modern avionics, radar, and targeting systems, enhancing its combat effectiveness.  

Although Pakistan’s JF-17 packs a punch, the Su-30MKI fighter of the Indian Air Force is a heavyweight multirole fighter that excels in air superiority missions and ground attack roles. It provides the IAF with a versatile platform for various combat scenarios. On the other hand, the JF-17 Thunder, as a lightweight fighter, is suitable for a range of missions but is not as heavily armed or capable of air superiority as the Su-30MKI. Moreover, the Su-30MKI boasts a significantly longer operational range, making it suitable for long-duration missions. This extended endurance allows for extended patrols and the ability to strike distant targets. The JF-17, while capable, has a more limited range. 

Published October 9th, 2023 at 11:00 IST