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Russia slams China’s J-15 jet made from ‘stolen’ Russian tech

China's Carrier-Based Multi-role Fighter J-15. (Garudtejas7/Wikimedia Commons)
October 02, 2018

China’s history of ripping off military technology has landed them in hot water with Russia after the two recently established military ties.

Russia’s state-run media outlet Sputnik has waged criticisms over China’s J-15 fighter jet for its numerous failures, although the jet originated from Russia in the first place, according to a Business Insider report last week.

Russia said the J-15 is too heavy for efficient operation, and issues with control systems impact its maneuverability, leading to crashes.

“The J-15’s engines and heavy weight severely limit its ability to operate effectively: at 17.5 tons empty weight, it tops the scales for carrier-based fighters,” Sputnik reported. “The US Navy’s F-18 workhorse, by comparison, is only 14.5 tons,” it added.

China developed the J-15 using the T-10K-3 as a model after purchasing it from Ukraine in 2001. The T-10K-3 was a prototype of the Russian Su-33, a jet which China had attempted to by from Russia. Negotiations for the purchase failed after Russia accused China of stealing their Su-27 to develop the J-11B jet.

“Years ago the Chinese decided to save some money and, instead of buying several Su-33s from Russia for their subsequent license production in China, they opted for a Su-33 prototype in Ukraine,” Sputnik said, quoting Russian military analyst Vasily Kashin.

“As a result, the development of the J-15 took more time and more money than expected, and the first planes proved less than reliable,” Kashin added.

Sputnik also remarked that China doesn’t have enough J-15s in its fleet to supply both its aircraft carriers. It also noted the troubles China has launching the fighter jets from the carriers’ decks.

“The Asia Times noted that Chinese media has disparaged the plane in numerous ways,” Sputnik continued, “including referring to it as a ‘flopping fish’ for its inability to operate effectively from the Chinese carriers, which launch fixed-wing aircraft under their own power from an inclined ramp on the bow of the ship.”

Both the J-15 fighter jet and the Liaoning aircraft carrier were implemented in 2012, but China is reportedly already trying to replace the J-15 – its only carrier-based aircraft – due to the ongoing failures. They upgraded the J-15’s engine earlier this year, but that may be insufficient in overcoming the aircraft’s other issues.

“In order to improve the combat effectiveness of the Chinese aircraft carrier strike groups, it is necessary to develop a new carrier-based fighter,” a Chinese naval expert told the South China Morning Post in July.

Two sources familiar with Chinese military matters told SCMP that the J-15 was involved in four crashes, with two of them resulting in deaths. “The J-15 is a problematic aircraft – its unstable flight control system was the key factor behind the two fatal accidents two years ago,” one source said.

China’s FC-31 could be such a replacement for the J-15, having made its first flight test in 2012. The jet is a smaller and lighter weight stealth fighter. China is also developing a new carrier-based fighter with an electromagnetic launch system that would be compatible with the short deck and ski-ramp style of the Liaoning carrier.