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J-15 Flying Shark (Jianjiji-15 Fighter aircraft 15) / F-15

The J-15 Flying Shark, China's first carrier-based fighter, said to be a Chinese copy of the Sukhoi Su-33, is comparable to the US F/A-18 Hornet. The Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) procured one of the first prototypes of the Soviet Su-33 carrier fighter T-10k-3 from Ukraine in 2001 (or by other reports, in 2005). The J-15 reportedly conducted its first test flight on August 31, 2009, powered by Chinese WS-10 turbofan engines. The first takeoff from a simulated ski jump was reportedly conducted on 06 May 2010. Presumably, China will take another few years to conduct flight tests J-15. It is also believed that the new aircraft will be launched after 2015, while the medium-aircraft carrier "Shi Lan" (ex-"Varyag") may begin running tests in 2011 and enter service in 2012.

On 26 April 2011, some Chinese media published a series of photos of the new J-15 carrier-based fighter (Jian-15) Flying Shark. These pictures are spyware style (as if the photographer was hiding the bushes), but the very fact of such photos in the press said that Beijing had no objection to their publication. The pictures J-15 were taken at the Factory No. 112, the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation factory in the North-East. The photos appeared on the Chinese military website and the forums on 25 April 2011 and only the next day were they printed in official Chinese media. Presumably, the fighter had already passed a series of factory tests.

Many other technical details about J-15 is not yet 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, built along the lines of integral triplane with front horizontal 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.

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 Su-33 is capable of speeds of up to 2,300 kilometers per hour and 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.

Sun Cong is chief designer of the J-15 carrier-borne fighter jet and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. When the piloted J-15 fighter landed on the Liaoning aircraft carrier for the first time and successfully took off, Sun was filled with excitement.

The J-15 carrier-borne fighter jet has 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.

"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."

By 2018 the PLAN only had a single type of fixed-wing carrierborne aircraft in service - the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark multirole fighter. The J-15 is one of several Chinese-developed derivatives of Russias Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker family. Like the land-based J-11 and J-16, the J-15s are equipped with indigenous avionics and weapons, although the engines are still the Russian Saturn AL-31 turbofans. Approximately two dozen J-15s had been produced so far in two production batches, and these are currently only able to operate from the ski jump-equipped Liaoning aircraft carrier and the Type 002 carrier being fitted out in the city of Dalian.

China was known to have at least one of the six J-15 prototypes fitted with catapult launch accessories on its nose landing gear, and the country is carrying out catapult tests with this aircraft, using what are believed to be a steam catapult and EMALS at an air base near Huludao, Liaoning province in northern China.

In addition, China was developing a twin-seat variant of the J-15, with at least a single prototype known to be flying from Shenyang Aircraft Corporations facilities located in its namesake city. It is likely this variant, designated the J-15S, will operate from the future, catapult-equipped carrier China will build after the Type 002 as a two-seat multirole fighter alongside single-seat J-15s, much like the mix of single-seat Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornets and twin-seat F/A-18Fs onboard a typical U.S. Navy carrier air wing.

Future production batches of J-15s were 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. The electronic warfare/electronic attack technology being developed for a specialized variant of the J-16 may also be introduced on the J-15. However, these are unlikely to be fielded in the near term, but rather are expected to enter service in the early part of the next decade, at the earliest.

A modified two-seat variant of the J-15 fighter jet was spotted at a Chinese aircraft carrier training base in a December 2018 TV program, suggesting the carrier-based warplane is already being tested and expected to greatly expand the carrier's combat capability with electronic warfare equipment that one pilot cannot manage. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy only operates the single-seat J-15 fighter jet on the Liaoning aircraft carrier at the moment, but military analysts predict the two-seat variant of the warplane would be able to join the ranks within two years.

The new fighter jet, which resembles the J-15 but with a larger cockpit, was seen parked in a hangar at an unspecified Chinese carrier-based aircraft training base in a China Central Television (CCTV) program 09 December 2018. CCTV's website,, published a separate report on 11 December 2018 titled "China's most mysterious carrier-based fighter jet quietly appears, greatly accelerating the pace of aircraft carrier's combat capability," saying the aircraft in the program is a modified two-seat version of the J-15.

The variant might already be undergoing tests with the PLA Navy, the report said. It is painted with military camouflage instead of the flight test color, which further supports the guess, military experts said. Modifying the single-seat J-15 into a two-seat version can greatly increase the combat capability of the fighter jet and the aircraft carrier, reported. The new aircraft can also conduct electronic jamming missions, the report said.

In April 2018, photos of the variant equipped with wingtip electronic warfare pods surfaced online, but their authenticity could not be verified. A single pilot cannot manage to fly the jet and engage in complicated electronic battles at the same time, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on 12 December 2018. The extra seat can also be used to train new pilots, the report said. Wei said that having an experienced pilot to teach a trainee in actual flight is very effective and will contribute to the talent program, noting that the control panels for both pilots are the same. However, having an extra pilot means the variant might need to reduce its payload or sacrifice mobility, Wei said.

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Page last modified: 12-12-2018 16:29:09 ZULU