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J-15 Flying Shark (Jianjiji-15 Fighter 15) - Design

It only took less than five years from importing the only T-10K test machine to manufacturing the first J-15 in 2009, showing that China's cloning technology is extremely high. If aircraft materials, radar, and avionics technology cannot reach a certain stage of independent technological development, they cannot be cloned.

Many other technical details about J-15 were not immediately known. Like the Su-33, the J-15 is designed to take off from a ski jump rather than a catapult. Judging from the photos, the J-15 has the same build airframe as the Su-33, though built along the lines of integral triplane with forward canar tail. Chinese media claim that despite the remarkable external similarities of the J-15 and Su-33, the J-15 is based on the J-11B fighter, which in turn is an evolved copy of Su-27sk. The changes relate primarily to wider use of stealthy coatings, the design of the front horizontal empennage [the J-15's canards are somewhat different from those on the Su-33] and more complex trailing-edge flaps. Other differences from the Su-33 included advanced Chinese avionics with an active phased array radar antenna. Missile launch rails and wide-angle holographic Head Up Display (HUD) clearly indicated that the fighter is equipped with domestic sensors, avionics and weapon systems, just like later models of the Shenyang J-11 fighter. The electronics, radar, and weapons systems seem to be all Chinese and far newer than the circa 1980's equipment of the Russian Su-33.

The J-15 is an improved version developed by the Su 33. As is well known, the front landing gear of the Su 33 is designed with two wheels and the stand is straight. Judging from the picture, the F-15 also has such characteristics. The coating of the radome is different. During the test flight, the radome of the J-11B was black, and the J-15 was gray. This distinction is necessary because the radar has different skills. As a naval fighter, the F-15 radar must add an interface for air-to- ship weapons.

The J-15 carrier-borne fighter jet filled the technological gap in the related fields. Compared with land-based aircraft, the carrier-borne aircraft raised more and higher requirements in technological aspects. In March 2013 Sun said the carrier-borne fighters must have the same combat capability as the land-based fighters in terms of bomb load, combat radius, and maneuverability; it must have good low-speed performance. It also raised higher requirements in terms of blocking landing in the sea and ski-jump takeoff.

Authoritative sources said that the J-15 still used the Russian AL-31F turbofan engine. As a new aircraft, the risk of using a new engine is greater. "The engine is the key. If we can halve the fuel consumption, the combat radius will increase." Sun said that a J-15 equipped with domestic engines can have a combat radius of more than 1,000 kilometers. Considerable progresses have been made in fire control radar and guided missiles. "The indicators of J-15 are generally close to US F/A- 18 Hornet , reaching world-class standards."

Presumably, the J-15 uses the Shenyang WS-10A engines, capable of thrust with afterburner of 132 kiloneutons. It is believed that the enhanced version of the WS-10g engines are used on the prototype of Chinese fifth-generation J-20 fighter bomber which made its first flight on 11 January 2011.

The F-15 with foldable wings is very similar in appearance to the Russian-made Su-33. Western military experts even mistaken the first J-15 as the T-10K that China had previously purchased from Ukraine. Some experts pointed out that the reason why Chinese aircraft manufacturers can develop the J-15 carrier-based aircraft in a short period of time is mainly because they have mastered the overall technology of this type of fighter through the T-10K. At the same time, the advent of the F-15 also shows that the Chinese have solved the problems previously encountered in folding wings.

The Su-33 is capable of speeds of up to 2,300 kilometers per hour and can fly for distances of up to three thousand kilometers. The fighter has Al-31F series 3 engines, capable of thrust in afterburner of 122.6 kiloneutons. The aircraft armed with 30 mm gun and had 12 points for both guided and un-guided missiles and bombs. The total mass of the fighter's payload can be up to 6.5 tons. China had begun negotiations with Russia for the purchase of up to 50 Su-33, subsequently the projected order was reduced to only two aircraft. Russia then halted the negotiations in March 2009, given a well founded fear that China would simply copy the design, as had been done with the J-11B, which was a copy of the Su-27, developed in violation of agreements on the protection of intellectual property.

China's J-15 carrier-based fighter will not be able to compete with Russia's Su-33 fighter on global markets because it is inferior to the Russian aircraft, according to one Russian military analyst. "The Chinese J-15 clone is unlikely to achieve the same performance characteristics of the Russian Su-33 carrier-based fighter, and I do not rule out the possibility that China could return to negotiations with Russia on the purchase of a substantial batch of Su-33s," said Col. (Ret.) Igor Korotchenko, a member of the Defense Ministry's Public Council. Korotchenko said China was unlikely to solve technical problems related to the design of the folding wings and to develop a reliable engine for the aircraft.

It is at least unprofessional, if not an intentional attack, to claim China copied foreign aircraft carrier technology through a simple comparison since the laws for military development are objective, and the principles of building military equipment, the command and safeguard methods are similar, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a regular news conference 30 November 2012. Geng made the remarks in response to reports that the carrier-borne J-15 fighter jet, which made its debut in a landing and take-off exercise on China's first aircraft carrier the Liaoning, is a Chinese adaptation of the naval version of Russia's Su-33.

"China adheres to self-dependent scientific innovation. We have sufficient know-how and capability to build and develop our own aircraft carrier," Geng said. It is true that China used to rely heavily on imported Russian military equipment to modernize its troops, but people should not use that as an excuse to criticize Chinese people who have made tough endeavors and even sacrifices in developing the J-15's engine, fire-control system, electronics system and other key components, said the Xinhua News Agency.

Guo Xiaobing, deputy chief of the Institute of Security and Arms Control Studies under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the "crime of plagiarism" is a severe insult to Chinese researchers including Luo Yang, head of the production phase of the J-15 who died on Sunday of a heart attack during the carrier's voyage return to base after the planes' landing exercise. Geng said the J-15, which is still conducting related experiments and training, would equip the army in accordance with the military's schedule. Experts said it will be a while before the Liaoning can be put into operation.

Future production batches of J-15s are also expected to be fitted with more modern avionics, such as those already fitted to the J-16 fighter that will included an active electronically scanned array radar.

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Page last modified: 25-03-2021 11:55:39 ZULU