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Get a glimpse of the J-15 fighter jet, the $61 million copy of a Soviet aircraft chosen to wage war from China’s aircraft carriers

Hinese J-15 fighter jets on the deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning during military exercises in the Yellow Sea off China's east coast.

Chinese J-15 fighter jets on the deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning during military exercises in the Yellow Sea off China’s east coast.Contributor/AFP/STR/China OUT/Getty Images

  • China is promoting the J-15 as its first locally manufactured carrier-based fighter.

  • The jet is an unlicensed copy of a Soviet-made Su-33 prototype reverse-engineered by China.

  • Although the jet is one of the best in China, experts say it cannot compete with the US F/A-18 or newer F-35.

The Shenyang J-15 is China’s carrier-based fighter jet. Several dozen units of the jet are currently in service.

The J15 fighter jet prepares to land on China's only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during an exercise at sea.

J-15 fighter jet prepares to land on China’s first operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during an exercise at sea.Contributor/AFP/Getty Images

Nicknamed the “Flying Shark,” the jet first entered service with the China’s People’s Liberation Naval Air Force in 2014. It was manufactured by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, a subsidiary of the state-owned defense conglomerate Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

Around 50 units of the jet are currently in service, according to a May 2021 report by The Diplomat. The J-15 is China’s first carrier-based fighter jet, meaning it was primarily designed for China’s growing fleet of aircraft carriers.

In December 2021, China unveiled an updated version of the jet that includes updates to the missile pylons, radar, wings, and infrared search and tracking system. According to the state-affiliated media outlet Global Times, the upgraded version of the J-15 could be capable of carrying a short-range combat missile.

These improvements prompted a Chinese military expert, speaking to China’s Global Times, to suggest that the fourth-generation J-15 could be considered a “fourth-generation plus” fighter jet.

Generation 4.5 military jets have active electronically scanned array radar, high-capacity data links and the ability to deploy advanced weapons, according to science and technology publication Phys.org, citing definitions from the US Defense Authorization Act of 2020. It it is unclear whether the J-15 meets these requirements.

The J-15 is modeled after the Soviet-made Su-33 jet, according to The National Interest.

J15 fighter jet lands on China's only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during an exercise at sea.

J15 fighter jet lands on China’s only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during an exercise at sea.Staff/AFP/China OUT/Getty Images

China bought an unfinished Su-33 prototype and built the J-15 based on the Soviet jet’s airframe, The National Interest reported. The Su-33 was first produced by United Aircraft Corporation in 1987.

According to a 2017 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, several Russian weapon systems, including the J-15, have been copied without permission.

Because the J-15 is essentially an unlicensed copy of the Su-33, the jets have essentially identical dimensions. According to Military Today, the J-15 is 21.9 meters long, 14.7 meters high and has a wingspan of 14.7 meters.

One difference between the J-15 and the Su-33 is the engines. While the J-15 jet operates with the Chinese-made WS-10, the Su-33 uses the Saturn AL-31.

The native WS-10 engine has been described as “underdeveloped” compared to the Russian engines for which China has traditionally relied on Russia, according to The National Interest. Several other Chinese jets also use the WS-10, including the J-20 and J-16 jets.

In September, Chinese state media released a video that military experts said appeared to show a J-15 warning of a US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, according to the South China Morning Post, according to the South China Morning Post.

J-15 fighter jets are seen on the flight deck of China's only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, as it arrives in Hong Kong waters.

J-15 fighter jets are seen on the flight deck of China’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, as it arrives in Hong Kong waters.Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Yue Gang, a former Chinese colonel, said the warship’s characteristics in the video match those of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, citing its large, four-sided phased-array radar antenna, dual horn and submarine Defense torpedoes SCMP reported.

Chinese military expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times he also identified the warship in the video as a US destroyer. However, other observers noted that Japan and South Korea have ships based on the Arleigh Burke-class design.

The US and Chinese militaries are routinely in close proximity in the Indo-Pacific region, including some tense interactions.

China is trying to build a stronger military that can hold its own against United States forces. According to a December 2021 Harvard Kennedy School report, since Xi Jinping’s reforms in 2015, China has sought to modernize its military to “shift the balance of power” in the growing Sino-US military rivalry.

While the J-15 has been compared to several US jets such as the F-35, it is said to be no match for its US counterparts.

The Chinese J-15 fighter jet prepares to take off from the deck of the Liaoning aircraft carrier during military exercises in the Bohai Sea off China's northeast coast.

The Chinese J-15 fighter jet prepares to take off from the deck of the Liaoning aircraft carrier during military exercises in the Bohai Sea off China’s northeast coast.Contributor/AFP/STR/China OUT/Getty Images

According to Pentagon pundit Kris Osborn of The National Interest, even with upgrades, the J-15 cannot compete with the F-35C and F-35B jets, primarily because the J-15 is only a fourth-generation jet, while the F-35 is a fifth generation aircraft.

Osborn said even an upgraded J-15 will struggle to gain air supremacy over the F-35s, C and B variants of which are deployed aboard US carriers and amphibious assault ships.

Unlike these fifth-generation aircraft, the J-15 does not have advanced radar-evasion capabilities, according to The Diplomat. The F-35’s VLO camouflage allows it to “evade enemy detection and penetrate contested airspace,” according to Lockheed Martin.

The J-15 “would likely be slaughtered” if it were even going up against fourth-generation planes like the F/A-18, experts previously told Insider, noting weaknesses in Chinese launcher designs.

China Liaoning aircraft carrier J-15 fighter jet

The public takes pictures with J-15 fighter jets aboard the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning on July 8, 2017.Felix Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

While the J-15 has weak engines, it can carry more weapons and fuel, allowing it to fly higher and faster than the F/A-18, Insiders reported.

But China’s aircraft carriers are limiting the J-15’s advantages. The Liaoning and Shandong, which carry complements to J-15 jets, use catapult-assisted short launch systems.

According to senior defense researcher Timothy Heath, a ski runway configuration makes it difficult for the J-15 to take off with a full payload. In comparison, the F/A-18 can take off with a full load of fuel and weapons, as US carriers use catapult-assisted launches.

“If you talk about the J-15 going up against the F/A-18 at sea, the F/A-18 will destroy the J-15,” Heath told Insider two years ago.

China has since rolled out a new aircraft carrier with catapults that could allow the J-15 to better compete with the F/A-18.

The unit cost of the J-15 is at least $61 million, SCMP reported, citing Chinese military commentator Zhou Chenming.

China's only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during an exercise at sea.

China’s only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during an exercise at sea.Staff/AFP/China OUT/Getty Images

Though much more expensive than other locally-made counterparts like the JL-9, which Zhou, a Beijing-based military expert, estimates will cost around $10 million, the J-15 is far from China’s most expensive fighter jet. The fifth-generation J-20, which entered service in March 2017, costs between $100 million and $120 million per unit, according to the SCMP.

“The J-15 is expensive because it is an attack fighter and needs to be equipped with sophisticated equipment and weapons,” Zhou told SCMP in a 2020 report.

According to the Office of Naval Intelligence, there are at least five variations of the J-15.

The J-15 jet fighter is displayed at the military parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese people's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the Global Anti-Fascist War at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The J-15 jet fighter is displayed at the military parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese people’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the Global Anti-Fascist War at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.Contributor/South China Morning Post/Getty Images

The original model of the J-15 is a single-seat variant of the jet, according to The National Interest. There is also a two-seat variant, the J-15S.

Another variant of the jet is the J-15T, which is coated with an anti-corrosion material.

The J-15B, the jet’s latest variant, features an upgraded avionics suite that improves air superiority and strike capability, according to The Diplomat.

Read the original article on Business Insider

https://news.yahoo.com/look-j-15-fighter-jet-043835809.html Get a glimpse of the J-15 fighter jet, the $61 million copy of a Soviet aircraft chosen to wage war from China’s aircraft carriers

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