Even if some analysts compared it to the F/A-18 Hornet, the Shenyang J-15 “Flying Shark” may not be the powerful and deadly threat to the U.S. Navy Air Power in the Pacific.
Indeed, in spite of the recent claims that it had succesfully achieved full-load take off and landing on the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the China’s embarked plane may not be able to operate from Beijing’s first supercarrier.
According to the Sina Military Network, that has (weirdly) criticized the Flying Shark calling it a “flopping fish”, the recent tests with heavy weapons have limited the attack range of the J-15 to a distance of 120 kilometers from the carrier: whilst it is said to be capable to carry 12 tons of weapons, when the aircraft is fully loaded with fuel, it can’t carry more than 2 tons of missiles and munitions, meaning that only two YJ-83K anti-ship missiles and two PL-8 air-to-air missiles could be carried (in an anti-ship configuration).
People’s Liberation Army Navy’s next generation carriers will have electromagnetic catapults that will safely launch heavy J-15s. The problem is the ski-jump ramp of the current, only PLA Navy aircraft carrier, that makes take off of aircraft exceeding 26 tons of total weight extremely difficult unless you have a more powerful aircraft, as the Mig-29K.
That’s why a lone Soviet aircraft carrier with ski-jump is no match for a U.S. flattop. And a J-15 carrying only handful of medium and short range air-to-air missiles in air defense configuration to be able to launch for Liaoning would probably be no match for U.S. carrier-based F/A-18E/F Hornet.
Image credit: www.news.cn
So let’s consider the J-15 – which I believe the Chinese themselves coined the nickname flopping fish for its frequent water “landings”. Remember these are Russian powered planes which means the engines burn 40% more fuel for 40% less thrust. Also, it is blessed with Russian avionics which literally weigh tons and seriously cut into payload and or fuel not to mention have not been well received by potential customers like India. So if the Chinese have not mastered manufacturing modern jet engines yet I am not holding my breath on their electronic aircraft launching systems. Remember their sole aircraft carrier was a ship planned to be operational about 50 years ago and was obsolete before it was ever put away to rust. And finally the US has about 80 or 90 years operational experience including major warfare with aircraft carriers, China 2 years? Believe it or not some things cannot be arrived at with shortcuts like engineering and manufacturing and materials expertise or operational experience. Ask the Russians why they do not have any aircraft carriers and why they can’t build a modern jet engine.