Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Which Fighter Plane is the No:1 in the Indian Subcontinent in the BVR(Beyond Visual Range) arena?

Updated 17th April 2012

*Article written before Rafale and Super-Sukhoi acquisition by the IAF*

Official Specs says Zhuk-ME on board Mig-29K & Mig-29SMT upgrade has a detection range of 120km for a 5m2 target. Using the Radar-Range-RCS equation which states that the detection range varies with the fourth root of the RCS((New RCS/Old RCS)^0.25 * Radar Range for Old RCS), it becomes possible to calculate the range of the radar for different RCS values.
For 20m2, Zhuk-ME detection range is 170km
For 15m2, Zhuk-ME detection range is 158km
For 12.5m2, Zhuk-ME detection range is 151km
For 10m2, Zhuk-ME detection range is 143km
For 8.5m2, Zhuk-ME detection range is 137km
For 3m2, Zhuk-ME detection range is 106km
For 1m2, Zhuk-ME detection range is 80km

Official Specs says N-011M BARS onboard Su-30MKI has a detection range of 140km against a clean MiG-29, whose unofficial RCS is 5m2. Further the Radar Manufacturer(NIIP) is offering a BARS radar with a higher power output or a higher power transmitter, if the export client is interested. The basic version which offers a detection range of 140km for clean MiG-29 has a peak power output of 4-5kw, and hence has an 1.2kw average power output. NIIP is offering as high as 5kw average power output, 4 times the power output of the basic version, if the export customer wishes for it. This lead to some speculations that some N-011M BARS radar variants have a high power output, and hence a higher range than the 140km given above. The precise range for this version is not known. Whether this radar is in-service with the Indian Air force is also not known. And even if it is with the IAF, how many of these high powered N-011M BARS radar equipped Su-30MKI there are is also impossible to determine. Hence under these circumstances, only confirmed news and data can be taken into account.
140km detection range for 5m2 target. Hence:
For 8.5m2, BARS detection range is 160km
For 3m2, BARS detection range is 123km
For 1.5m2, BARS detection range is 104km
For 1m2, BARS detection range is 94km

An internet blog of some individual, posted a pic claiming to be the official brochure from CETC. It claims that the KLJ-7 onboard JF-17 has a detection range of 105km for a 5m2 target. However, PAF isn't too fond of this radar eventhough it has the same range as the APG-68(V)9 on F-16block52 & RDY-2 on Mirage-2000-5/-9(both radar's range according to official specs), & more range than RC-400 radar. Even in its most powerful form(meaning the version with the largest antenna, which the JF-17 cannot house due to its relatively small nose), the RC400 has 20% less range than the RDY-2 radar. RC-400 is the radar which the PAF is planning to equip their second block of JF-17 according to current reports. The APG-68(V)9 has a bigger antenna(bigger radar-dish/bigger antenna gives more range) than the KLJ-7, plus it is manufactured by Northrop Grumman, a more mature and advanced Military-Industrial complex than CETC by a large margin. And APG-68(V)9 & APG-68(V)10 are THE best & latest mechanically scanned array type radars on F-16s(Both APG-68(V)9 & APG-68(V)10 have the same range[Reference 17]). Like the APG-68(V)9 & APG-68(V)10, KLJ-7 is also a mechanically scanned array type radar. So the claim that the KLJ-7 has the same range as APG-68(V)9 seems more unlikely. Also is the fact that the PAF preferred a far lesser ranged RC-400 over the KLJ-7 radar. All this is fueling speculation that KLJ-7's true specs is lower than publicized by the closed-to-scrutiny Chinese Defence Establishments. This speculation turned out to be true when Janes Defence Weekly published that the Radar Range of KLJ-7 is actually 75km for a 3m2 Target.[Reference/Source 8]
KLJ-7 has a 75km detection range for 3m2 Target. Hence:
For 20m2, KLJ-7 detection range is 121km
For 15m2, KLJ-7 detection range is 112km
For 12.5m2, KLJ-7 detection range is 107km
For 10m2, KLJ-7 detection range is 101km
For 8.5m2, KLJ-7 detection range is 97km
For 5m2, KLJ-7 detection range is 85km
For 1m2, KLJ-7 detection range is 57km

APG-68(V)9 has a 105km detection range for 5m2 Target. Hence:
For 20m2, APG-68(V)9 detection range is 149km
For 15m2, APG-68(V)9 detection range is 138km
For 12.5m2, APG-68(V)9 detection range is 132km
For 10m2, APG-68(V)9 detection range is 125km
For 8.5m2, APG-68(V)9 detection range is 120km
For 3m2, APG-68(V)9 detection range is 92km
For 1m2, APG-68(V)9 detection range is 70km

RCS figures are confidential. However unofficially there are some figures available on the internet. They are:
Clean(meaning payload/ammunition not loaded) F-16 after Block 30, which includes block 52 - 1.2m2
Clean Mig-29B & Mig-29SMT - 5m2
Clean Su-30MKI - 10m2 to 15m2

JF-17 without RAM, its RCS would be more than a Clean F-16 block 52 which has RAM & is planform. F-16 block25 & the previous variants, which are planform in construction but without RAM, were said to have an RCS of 3m2-5m2, when clean. JF-17's TWR isn't very high, and adding RAM would mean increasing the weight. So we can expect little or no RAM on JF-17. Also, JF-17 isn't very planform in construction but has DSI and is a smaller aircraft. So lets consider a favorable assumption that the RCS of a clean JF-17 is as low as 2.5m2.[Reference 1]

Su-30MKI's RCS when carrying full 8000kgs AG load is said to be 20m2.[Reference 2]

Lets take Su-30MKI's clean RCS as 11.5m2, higher than a standard Su-27, due to canards & the extra seat.

Mig-29K's RCS is officially confirmed to be 4-5 times less than a old Mig-29, due to composites & RAM. So taking an average value between 4 & 5 = 4.5. When the unofficial RCS of 5 is divided by 4.5 we get an RCS of 1.11. "Considerable increase of flight range is also gained due to increased capacity of drop fuel tanks and in-flight refueling capability (with the possibility to refuel from the aircraft of the same type). Due to special coatings Mig-29K radar reflecting surface is 4-5 times smaller than of basic MiG-29."[Reference 3]

It's well known that RCS increases with external payload. JF-17 cannot carry larger payloads. Its load carrying capacity is only 7900lbs or less than 3600kgs. This compared to Su-30MKIs 8000kgs, Mig-29K's 5500kgs, & F-16's 7500kgs. So only a nominal increase of 2.5m2 RCS is taken into consideration for the JF-17. Eventhough Mig-29K carries less payload than a F-16 or Su-30, a RCS increase more than F-16's is considered for calculations, in order to get a uniform RCS. This is done purely for the ease of comparison, but as a result of this the MiG-29K's RCS figure is much more than what it would be been. In the end:

Take the RCS of a Air-Air loaded Mig-29SMT as 8.5m2, 3.5m2 more.
Take the RCS of a Air-Air loaded Mig-29K as 5m2, 3.9m2 more.
Take the RCS of a Air-Air loaded F-16 Block 52 as 5m2, 3.8m2 more.
Take the RCS of a Air-Air loaded JF-17 as 5m2, 2.5m2 more.
Take the RCS of a Air-Air loaded Su-30MKI as 15m2, 3.5m2 more.

With these RCS values and the above radar ranges, you can now see which fighters will be detecting their opponent fighters first... and first tracking which almost linearly follows detection.

Mig-29K will detect:
Su-30MKI at 158km
Mig-29SMT at 137km
F-16 Block 52 at 120km
JF-17 at 120km

F-16 Block 52 will detect:
Su-30MKI at 138km
Mig-29SMT at 120km
JF-17 at 105km
Mig-29K at 105km

Su-30MKI will detect:
Mig-29SMT at 160km
F-16 Block 52 at 140km
JF-17 at 140km
Mig-29K at 140km

Mig-29SMT will detect:
Su-30MKI at 158km
F-16 Block 52 at 120km
JF-17 at 120km
Mig-29K at 120km

JF-17 will detect:
Su-30MKI at 112km
Mig-29SMT at 97km
F-16 Block52 at 85km
Mig-29K at 85km

Mig-29K comes out as the clear winner. If provided with a long range BVR weapon which could match its powerful radar, Mig-29K navalised version will come out as the BVR winner.
Su-30MKI follows the Mig-29K Naval Fulcrum.
Mig-29SMT & F-16 Block-52 are tied at third, followed by the JF-17.

Related News Article:
Indian Navy's MiG-29s superior to IAF's Sukhoi-30MKI

Additional References:
Radars & their Ranges on their respective Fighters
Zhuk-ME (on Mig-29 Upgrade & Mig-29K)
Can Track- 10 Targets
Can Simultaneously Engage - 4 Targets
Max Detection for 5 sqm RCS - 120 km
Max Track for 5 sqm RCS - 100.8 km (Tracking range is 0.83 - 0.85 of the detection range)
Reference 4

N-011M BARS (on Su-30MKI)
Can Track- 15 Targets
Can Simultaneously Engage - 4 Targets
Max Detection for 5 sqm RCS - 140 km
Reference 4
Reference 5
Reference 25
Reference 25 - Translation 1
Reference 25 - Translation 2

Can Track- 8 Targets
Can Simultaneously Engage - 2 Targets
Max Detection for 5 sqm RCS - 57 km
Reference 4

Can Track- 10 Targets
Can Simultaneously Engage - 2 Targets
Max Detection for 5 sqm RCS - 80 km
Reference 4
(Mig-21 Bison has Kopyo radar. Some Bisons are equipped with Kopyo-21I and some with Kopyo-M.)

Grifo-S(Range of the largest antenna version)
Can Track- 10 Targets
Can Simultaneously Engage - 2 Targets
Max Detection for 5 sqm RCS - 93 km
Reference 6

KLJ-7 (on JF-17)
Can Track- 10 Targets
Can Simultaneously Engage - 2 Targets
Max Detection for 3 sqm RCS - 75 km
Reference 8
Reference 9

BARS-29 (Similar to MKI radar, but is newer, & its antenna adapted to Mig-29's smaller nose)
Can Track- 15 Targets
Can Simultaneously Engage - 4 Targets
Max Detection for 5 sqm RCS - 120 km
Reference 10
Reference 11

Irbis-E (on Su-35S)
Can Track - 30 Targets
Can Simultaneously Engage - 8 Targets
Max Detection for 3 sqm RCS - 375 km(mean of 350 and 400km)
Reference 13
Reference 13 - Translation 1
Reference 13 - Translation 2
Max Detection for 0.01 sqm RCS - 90 km
Reference 18
(Max Detection for 5 sqm RCS - 426 km)
(Max Detection for 1 sqm RCS - 285 km)

APG-77 (on F-22A)
Max Track for 1 sqm RCS - 200 km
Reference 12
Reference 14

APG-81 (on F-35)
Max Track for 1 sqm RCS - 160 km
Reference 12
Reference 14

Captor-M (on EF-2000)
Max Track for 5 sqm RCS - 185 km
Reference 14
Reference 12

Zaslon-M (on Mig-31)
Max Detection for 19 / 20 sqm RCS - 400 km
Reference 12
Reference 23
Reference 24
(Max Detection for 5 sqm RCS - 282.8 km)

RBE-2 (on Rafale)
Can Track - 40/8 Targets
Can Simultaneously Engage - 4 Targets
Max Track for 30 sqft(2.8sqm) RCS - 60nm(111.12 km)
Max Detection for 30 sqft (2.8sqm) RCS - 75nm(138.9 km)
Reference 22
Reference 15
(Max detection for 5m2 RCS - 160.6km)
(Max track for 5m2 RCS - 128.5km)

RDY-2 (on mirage 2000-5/-9)
Can Track - 8 Targets
Can Simultaneously Engage - 4 Targets
Max Detection for 5 sqm RCS - 105 km
Max Track for 5 sqm RCS - 80 km
Reference 14

RC-400 (Smaller radar based on RDY-2. Range of the largest antenna)
Can Track - 8 Targets
Can Simultaneously Engage - 4 Targets
Max Detection for 5 sqm RCS - 84 km

APG-68 (V)9 (on F-16 Block 52)
Max Detection for 5 sqm RCS - 105 km
Reference 16
Max Track for 5 sqm RCS - 80 km
Reference 14

APG-66(V)2 (on F-16 MLU)
Max Detection for 6 sqm RCS - 74 km
Max Detection for 0.8 sqm RCS - 50 km
Reference 19
Reference 20
Reference 21
(Assuming 6sqm for F-4 to be accurate and invoking the radar-range-RCS equation for 0.8sqm of T-37, the result is 45km, which almost tallies with the given range of 50km, thus proving the validity of the RCS and hence the ranges.)

Related Articles:
Thrust to Weight Ratios of all Fighters
Is Pakistan's JF-17 a Thunder or Blunder ? Are the critics right in calling it Junk Fighter - 17 ?
The never ending saga of the Third Generation LCA Tejas
MiG-29 beats JF-17 and J-10 in Myanmar Tender