The People’s Liberation Army Navy has finally broken the silence about its new carrier-based jet fighter, the J-15. While outside observers have strongly suspected for several years that China intended to deploy the J-15 – an adaptation of the Russian Su-33 – aboard the PLAN’s first aircraft carrier Shi Lang, Chinese officials didn’t confirm it until last week.
Confirmation of the J-15 came with some revealing details about the plane’s missions and limitations. It’s clearer than ever that the J-15 will inherit most of the Su-33’s limitations, particularly with regard to payload and range. As a result, Shi Lang could be highly vulnerable to foreign naval forces in combat.
Unnamed ‘Chinese aviation officials’ said that three J-15 prototypes would begin testing this year, and that the last of them would have all the features of the planned operational version, including folding wings to allow more compact storage aboard Shi Lang, a refurbished Soviet vessel that displaces just two-thirds as much as a U.S. flattop.