Chinese Air Force J-11 and Su-27SK aircraft participated in an air battle with the Thai Air Force during the Falcon Strike 2015 exercise.
This was the first time the two countries had conducted joint air drills. China deployed the Su-27SK heavy fighter and its self-made J-11A. The only difference is that the J-11A has an additional channel to fire missiles using the RVV-AE active radar detector, while the Su-27SK can only use the missile carrying the semi-active radar detector R-27.
The Thai side used 12 JAS-39C/D Gripen light fighters to participate in drills and confront Chinese fighters in simulated air battles.The Chinese Air Force overwhelmed the enemy when “shooting down” 25 Gripen and lost only one Su-27SK fighter in the first two days of the Dogfights melee rehearsal. However, the situation completely reversed in the remaining 4 days of the exercise, when switching to the content of BVR long-range combat and defending fixed targets.
The report of the Chinese side shows that the country’s fighters hit 86% of targets within a range of less than 30 km, 14% in the range of 30-50 km and did not shoot down any Thai aircraft outside the range of 50 km. Meanwhile, the target destruction rate of the Thai Gripen squadron was 12%, 64% and 24% respectively, helping them to win with a score of 41-9.According to experts, Chinese pilots have poor situational awareness. They are too focused on the front, instead of paying attention to the surroundings. Coordination between the aircraft responsible for the attack and the aircraft escorting them was also poor.
With large-scale aerial battles, the JAS-39 fighter can easily defeat targets protected by Chinese J-11A and Su-27SK fighters. Meanwhile, the Chinese aircraft encountered many difficulties and almost could not penetrate the defense network of the Thai squadron.Experts believe that the Su-27SK and J-11A hold the advantage in close combat thanks to their aerodynamic design optimized for this mission and are equipped with two powerful AL-31F turbofan engines.
They are also equipped with R-73 short-range air-to-air missiles with the ability to aim in the direction of the pilot’s view, while the JAS-39s carry only AIM-9L missiles and IRIS-T series
Although overwhelming in close combat, Chinese pilots also learned a lot from the enemy. Their tactics were simplified and easily neutralized when Thai fighters took advantage of the sun to hide infrared signals, Chinese pilots occupying an advantageous offensive position often rushed to find a way to shoot them down. target and fall into the enemy’s trap.The Chinese side lacked experience in 2v2 situations, pilots often misjudged the threat and did not take adequate measures to avoid missiles. Meanwhile, Thai pilots thoroughly used decoys and maneuvers to limit the risk of being shot down.
The PLAAF achieved better results in subsequent exercises by deploying J-10A and J-10C light fighters instead of the J-11A squadron. Experts say that the J-10C has the same performance as the JAS-39C/D thanks to its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, carries the PL-15 long-range missile and is significantly smaller than the J-11A.
The information released about the exercise is unprecedented and is being evaluated by US intelligence. It also shows Beijing’s concern with the limitations of China’s fighter pilot training.Currently, Chinese pilots are very active in practicing air combat with the Pakistani or Russian air forces and the country’s later fighters are much more modern, such as the J-10, J-15, and J-16.
The story of the Chinese Air Force’s failures in 2015 against the Thai Air Force more or less helped them learn useful lessons for their ability to operate on the offensive, including the items of close and far air combat, surface attack ground or defense point The Thai Air Force currently owns 12 JAS-39 Gripen aircraft purchased from Sweden (of which 01 crashed in 2017). JAS-39 light fighters purchased in 2012 with a total value of $ 1.3 billion. Each Gripen C or D (two pilots) costs about 76.1 million USD.