China’s J-10CE vs Eurofighter Typhoon: jets face off in Pakistan-Qatar air drills

Chinese military enthusiasts are claiming a win for a Chinese-made fighter jet against a European counterpart in a military exercise between Pakistan and Qatar.

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fielded its Chinese-made J-10CE jets against Qatar’s Eurofighter Typhoon fighters for the first time in the Zilzal-II air exercise, which got under way in Qatar on January 10.

Chinese social media users saw the exercise as a test for the Chinese 4.5-generation fighter against a European-made jet of the same generation.

Military influencers and bloggers, in particular, celebrated an unverified claim that the J-10CE prevailed over the Typhoon in all nine drills against each other.

The J-10CE is the export variant of the J-10C, a jet made by state-owned Avic Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group).

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Pakistan Air Force and Qatar Emiri Air Force personnel prepare for the Zilzal-II exercise in Qatar on January 10. Photo: X/ @DGPR_PAF

The aircraft is at the forefront of China’s efforts to promote military exports, particularly to developing countries that are looking for cheaper alternatives to Western weapons.

The upgraded J-10C had its first public outing in the Middle East with an appearance at the Dubai Airshow in November, and has been on display at military trade shows since then.

Pakistan received its first batch of J-10CEs in 2022, assigning them to the No 15 “Cobras” tactical attack squadron.

Typhoons are built and developed by a consortium of Airbus Defence and Space, Britain’s BAE Systems Military Air & Information, and Leonardo, an Italian firm.

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The jets are being operated by various European and Middle Eastern states, including Britain, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Social media users on Douyin, the Chinese version from which TikTok was developed, said the Zilzal-II drills were a showdown between the two fighter jet types.

Some said Western-made military aircraft were no longer a source of admiration, citing unverified claims that the J-10CE won in four air combat exercises beyond visual range and another five dogfights.

“If this claim can be confirmed, it shows that China’s previous-generation fighter jets are being continuously improved and have achieved similar, or even superior, ability compared with European fighters,” Liu Xiaofei, a military influencer with 7.4 million followers, said in a video on Douyin on Saturday.

The Pakistan Air Force did not respond to a request for confirmation of the size and performance of the J-10CE fleet in Qatar.

But after the drills started it said: “During the exercise, the PAF’s newly inducted state-of-the-art J-10C fighter aircraft will flex its muscles against Eurofighter jets of the Qatar Emiri Air Force in their first ever face-off in an aerial exercise.”

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The Zilzal series of exercises were first held in 2020.

The Pakistan Air Force also relies on French and American fighter jets.

Pakistani officials have indicated an interest in acquiring another Chinese fighter jet, the fifth-generation FC-31 “Gyrfalcon”. The jet is sometimes known as the J-31.

At a ceremony on January 3 showcasing the PAF’s acquisitions, air force chief Zaheer Ahmed Baber was quoted by the force as saying “the foundation for acquiring the J-31 stealth fighter aircraft has already been laid”.

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