J-15T CATOBAR Fighter
In late 2021 China revealed an upgraded version of the J-15 ship-borne fighter jet, with reports saying the new aircraft received enhancements in its missile pylons, the infrared search and track system, the radar and the wings. The upgraded J-15, potentially capable of operating with catapults, will play key roles on both China's old and new aircraft carriers.
Shenyang Aircraft Co on 15 December 2021 said it had completed all production and test flights for 2021 as of that day, and it set record highs in producing and delivering aircraft. Shenyang Aircraft Co, under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China, published photos on its social media account, introducing its production work as the end of the year approaches. One of the photos, showing a J-15 fighter jet taxiing on a runway under the assistance of a tug truck, attracted the attention of the media.
Since the tug truck was blocking part of the aircraft in the photo, it cannot be confirmed if the upgraded J-15 has eliminated the main pitot tube, or if its nose landing gear is reinforced to operate on a catapult, but it makes sense that it can be launched by catapult, considering China's third aircraft carrier, which is under construction, is expected to be equipped with catapults.
This J-15 has many differences compared with previous ones, and this means it is an upgraded version. Judging from the photo, the new J-15 uses a new type of wingtip pylon - the same type as the J-16 fighter jet - to replace the older type, which was used on the J-11B fighter jet. The new type can carry China's most advanced short-range combat missile, the PL-10, while the previous version could only launch the older PL-8. The PL-10 is much deadlier than the PL-8, as it can be launched as soon as the pilot sees the target, and it is very difficult to evade thanks to its extreme maneuverability and advanced infrared guidance.
Compared with the first and second generation missiles that must rear-end (first generation)/rear hemisphere (second generation) to lock the engine heat source to attack, the third generation missiles for the first time gave fighters a higher hit rate in the front hemisphere within visual range, which truly gave fighters The ability to attack beyond its own mobility limits can be described as the watershed between the era of machine guns and the era of missiles.
The Pili-10 is currently the most advanced fighting ammunition in China's army. Its chief Liang Xiaogeng once said in an interview with the media that the Pili-10 with infrared imaging guidance has strong anti-stealth fighter capabilities due to the use of a staring focal plane array. With its guidance method, even the most advanced stealth fighters currently cannot escape the missile’s lock.
The infrared search and track systems in front of the cockpit and the front of the wings were changed, which could mean the avionics systems of the new J-15 were improved. The airspeed tube is on the side of the nose, which means that the J-15T has been finalized and phased array radar is used. The basic airspeed tube of the J-15 is directly in front of the nose. This is because the basic model of the J-15 uses an inverted card radar, which can free up a lot of space in the nose, and the airspeed tube is located in the nose. The data collected when it is straight ahead is the most accurate, so fighters that use inverted card radar often install the airspeed tube directly in front of the nose. However, fighters using phased array radars will move the airspeed tube to the side because the antennas of the phased array radar are tightly arranged. Therefore, moving the airspeed tube to the side of the J-15T means that the J-15T used a phased array radar.
Another major change is the difference in the radar is the lightning diverter stripes on the new radome are not the same as the old one. This may mean that the upgraded J-15 could have switched to an advanced, active electronically scanned array radar system, which enables the use of China's most advanced PL-15 beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile. After being replaced with an active phased array radar, the J-15 can theoretically take advantage of the range of the Pili-15. According to the export version of the PL-15E with a range of 145 kilometers, it has an advantage over most air-to-air bombs. Truly "the first enemy discovers, the first enemy launches, the first enemy hits, and the first enemy separates."
The front landing gear door was changed from a single-piece type to a two-piece type. The basic landing gear door of the J-15 fighter is a single-piece right-opening design, but the photos exposed this time show that there is also a landing gear door on the left side of the catapult-type J-15 landing gear, which means that the J-15 also has a landing gear door. The landing gear door of the J-15 is changed to a two-piece type. This design may be due to the thicker landing gear of the ejection version of the J-15, which requires a larger hatch. The upgraded J-15 is likely a fourth-generation-plus fighter jet, up from the fourth generation. It will likely be operable on both China's old aircraft carriers that use ski-jump ramps and new ones that use catapults. It will play key roles in both attack and air-to-air combat, and act together with China's upcoming fifth-generation carrier-based fighter jet and early warning aircraft.
Before the official release of the J-15T, various "spy photos" of the J-15T were already flying in the sky. On the day of the 2016 Mid-Autumn Festival, a picture of a J-15 fighter jet with a thick landing gear barrel and an ejection lever mounted on the front wheel was popular across the Internet. In November 2016, the J-15T took part in the parallel test of electromagnetic catapult and steam catapult as a payload. On November 17, 2020, the Yangguang Military reported that a J-15T fighter with a catapult rod accidentally entered the scene in a report on the land training base of Chinese carrier-based aircraft pilots.
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