Naval Air: J-15 Arrives

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October 29, 2012: The Chinese carrier fighter, the J-15, appears ready for production. One was recently seen making touch and go landings on the new carrier Liaoning. Several J-15s have been seen at navy air bases painted as combat, not development, aircraft. About twenty J-15s have been built so far for use in testing.

For most of the last decade China has been developing the J-15, which is a carrier version of the Russian Su-27. There is already a Russian version of this, called the Su-33. Russia refused to sell Su-33s to China, when it was noted that China was making illegal copies of the Su-27 (as the J-11) and did not want to place a big order for Su-33s but only wanted two, for "evaluation." China eventually got a Su-33 from Ukraine in 2001, which inherited some when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.

The first prototypes of the J-15 were under construction for two years, and the aircraft made its first flight two years ago. The Russians were not happy with this development. Russian aviation experts openly derided the J-15, casting doubt on the ability of Chinese engineers to replicate key features of the Su-33. That remains to be seen, as the Chinese have screwed up copying Russian military tech in the past. But the Chinese have a lot of experience stealing foreign tech, so the J-15 may well turn out to be at least as good as the Su-33. Meanwhile Russia itself has stopped using the Su-33 in favor of the cheaper MiG-29K (which is also being used by India).

The 33 ton Su-33 is larger than the 21 ton MiG-29K, and both types of aircraft designed were to operate from the three 65,000 ton Kuznetsovs the Soviet Union was building in the 1980s. But when the Cold War ended in 1991, only the Kuznetsov was near completion. The second ship in the class, the Varyag, was sold to China and was rebuilt as the Liaoning. The smaller Gorshkov was rebuilt and sold to India (who believed the smaller MiG-29K was more suitable for this carrier).

 


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