China's Carrier-Based J-15 Begins Mass Production, Delivery
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

China's Carrier-Based J-15 Begins Mass Production, Delivery


China has begun mass producing and delivering its J-15 carrier-based multirole fighter jet, according to Chinese-language reports from state media.

The official People’s Daily reported this week that Shenyang Aircraft Corporation had begun mass producing the J-15. The report, which included a segment from CCTV, also said that Shenyang had begun delivering the aircraft to the People’s Liberation Army.

“The mass production and delivery of J-15 jets not only breaks apart the slander and doubt of some foreign media, it also serves to further boost the progress and level of training for the Liaoning,” The People’s Daily report said, referring to China’s aircraft carrier.

The J-15, which is sometimes called the flying shark, is expected to be China’s primary carrier-based aircraft. It was reversed engineered from Russia’s Su-33, one of which China acquired from Ukraine, but “boasts more advanced, indigenously made avionics, including a shortened tailcone, an arresting hook, and strengthened landing gear,” according to Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins. The J-15 is also reportedly powered by  Chinese-built Taihang (WS-10) turbofan engine.

A prototype of the J-15 first conducted a flight test in August 2009. It began take-off and landing tests from the Liaoning aircraft carrier late last year.

Chinese analysts and state media have often compared the J-15 flying shark to the U.S.-built Boeing F/A-18 Hornet. Back in March, the J-15’s chief designer declared that J-15 is “generally close to the US F/A-18, reaching world class standards.” In state media, Chinese military analysts began picking up this line again early in September, with some analysts suggesting that the J-15 fighter jet was superior in some ways to other fourth generation aircraft like the F-18, French Rafale, and Russian Mig-29K.

By the end of September, however, state media had begun heaping rare criticism on the J-15, calling it nothing more than a “flopping fish.” These reports focused in on the fact that the heavy aircraft could not take off with a full load from Liaoning’s ski-jump ramp. This limitation would, among other things, prevent J-15s from carrying PL-12 medium-range air-to-air missiles, and force the jets to instead rely on the PL-8 short-range missiles.

“Even the Vietnam People’s Air Force can outmatch the PL-8 short-range missile,” these later reports reflected, negatively. “Without space for an electronic countermeasure pod, a huge number of J-15s must be mobilized for even simple missions, a waste for the PLA Navy in using the precious space aboard its sole aircraft carrier in service.”

Amid a flurry of Chinese state media reports this fall on the J-15, The Diplomat noted there were growing signs that the J-15 had entered into mass production. The reports this week seem to confirm these suspicions.

PLAN is currently conducting training exercises with its lone aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. Its unclear if this is related to the initial deliveries of the J-15. However, such training exercises are likely to become more frequent in the months ahead, if the reports on the J-15 are accurate.

B. Smith
December 22, 2013 at 17:22

The American crashed three moon landers and the Russians 11 before a successful soft moon landing. China was successful n their first attempt. As far as aircraft carrier operations are concerned it’s much easier than a soft moon landing. It is ignorant to think that it would take China 50 years to master carrier operations. If it took the Americans 50 years then I would deduce that they were incompetent. During the development of carriers by the US they crashed hundreds of aircraft. China’s program has been crash free to date.

December 8, 2013 at 11:04

“This limitation would, among other things, prevent J-15s from carrying PL-12 medium-range air-to-air missiles, and force the jets to instead rely on the PL-8 short-range missiles.”


From official photos of the J-15 launching and landing on the Liaoning, we have clearly seen that the J-15 actually can have PL-12 BVRAAMs and even a pair of YJ-83K air launched Anti Ship Cruise Missiles. What the hell is the state media (?) talking about?

J-15 with YJ-83K AShM:

Launching with YJ-83K AShM:

Touchdown with PL-12 in the centerlien pylons and PL-8 on its wingtips:

December 6, 2013 at 23:44

China’s Carrier-Based J-15 Begins Mass Production, Delivery

Could (MASS PRODUCTION) be defined ????
1 bee is a nuisance 50,000 bees could be a real issue

Poor reporting !!!

December 7, 2013 at 07:46

More like poor comprehension on your part.

“Mass production” as far as aircraft go more or less means that rather than assembling the design one plane at a time for R&D purposes, a line has been set up for production of more than one at any given time.

December 6, 2013 at 07:04

Please note that a J-15 with half of its max weapon load is still more capable than a fully loaded Mig-29K, regardless if its for an air defence misison or a anti-ship or ground attack mission.

And please also not that a fully loaded Mig-29K cannot take off by ski-jumping from any of the current Indian or Russian carriers.

The third note to be taken is that China is developing catapult-based new class carriers, India and Russia are not.

December 6, 2013 at 06:50

“… By the end of September, however, state media had begun heaping rare criticism on the J-15, calling it nothing more than a “flopping fish.”… ”

Apparently this author was quoting from another article posted on, an western online media, which claimed that a “Beijing-based Sina Military Network (SMN)” was calling the J-15 a “flopping fish”. I did some googling, no where can I find this Beijing-based state media outlet, or think tank, or whatever it is.

A made-up story maybe?

Can the author of this article provide direct link to the Chinese “state media” that called J-15 a “flopping fish”? If he can’t, I gues I am more entitled to be called a journalist than him. At least I understand the importance of verification.

December 6, 2013 at 05:43

There is a saying that naval pilots are better than air force pilots. Why, anybody can land a plane on a mile-long run way- just look at the long streak of tire marks. It’s a different story landing on a weaving/bobbing postage stamp target, and hook the no. 3 wire.

So it is not just the plane(s) per se, but the guy(s) behind the stick- and there will be a lot of them.

December 6, 2013 at 04:38

Why do people keep insisting on locking in J-15 with the Liaoning aircraft carrier? You mean the Chinese cannot use the J-15 on their next catapult driven aircraft carrier, which will utilized the max take off capability of the J-15?

December 5, 2013 at 19:53

Chinese media was calling the J-15 a Flopping Fish?

Makes sense when you realize that the Russians and even the Indian navy uses the MiG-29K instead of the SU-33. The Ukraine confirmed they sold a rusting SU-33 to China along with the rusting Varyag carrier.

Russia only built a total of 20 to 25 SU-33s for the Admiral Kuznetsov and are now officially scrapping the heavy and limited to only fleet defense SU-33s for the more multi-role capable MiG-29Ks.

I’m sure the Chinese military is still stating the J-15 is superior to the F-18, MiG-29K, and Rafael but Chinese J-15 is likely just like the refurbished Varyag carrier……………….a LEMON!

December 6, 2013 at 05:57

The J-15 is superior to the Rafale, F/A-18, and the Mig-29k in some respects (if you look at the article, they did not claim anything more – the key word is “some”).

Of course, the data provided comes from Chinese sources, so take it with a grain of salt.

In all likelihood, the J-15 is probably a middling to decent carrier aircraft, but with improved engines it could probably be considered a low end modern jet fighter aircraft.

Another thing to consider: if the Chinese media (which is state-controlled for the most part) is calling the J-15 a flop, it might be part of a disinformation campaign aimed at foreign viewers or part of a smear campaign by a rival design bureau. Once again, take it with a grain of salt.

December 5, 2013 at 19:47

I’m not the least bit worried. Clearly these goons spend more time practicing marching in these bad ass formations than they do on actual flight combat skills. Just look at the picture.

December 5, 2013 at 12:28

hmm, no sales of su-33 were made to china and india…so, “reverse-engineered” is far-fetched.

December 5, 2013 at 11:21

There’s no rush. They need to get the full complement of J-15s in order to further the training of carrier ops. It will be a good number of years before they are truely operational. As with other Chinese military projects, its one step at a time.

December 5, 2013 at 10:04

I don’t know why China is bothering with a carrier program when the air-craft carrier is fast approaching its use by date. Maybe their hypersonic missile program isn’t going so well.

December 5, 2013 at 11:27

It might be of limited use vs first word powers, but against the third world? Priceless. An aircraft carrier suddenly means China has the capacity to hurt nations around the world who threaten its commercial interests. A South American nation who defaults or a post coup African nation that nationalizes say a sinopec oil field might have to think twice.

December 5, 2013 at 15:23

“An aircraft carrier suddenly means China has the capacity to hurt nations around the world who threaten its commercial interests. “……..

That’s providing the Americans let them,of course.

I take your point , but I thought the whole premise of the Chinese naval build-up was to push the US back from the Western edge of the Pacific,thereby securing its’ maritime trade routes. I wonder how much money and time they want to spend on a program like this.

Cyrus Tronco
December 9, 2013 at 08:03

You have a point, however you are talking as if the United States is not a factor at all.

December 5, 2013 at 09:55

Hi avove, how do you know that China will not test its first carrier for next 10 years? Massive production of J15 does not mean that the Carrier is ready. It means that the Carrier can handle 20 or 30 J15 and conduct the meaningful test. You can not expect that the carrier only carry one or two J15 for a meaningful test, can you? You better make your thought more sense before making such childish comment.

Peter T
December 5, 2013 at 09:49

You learn the most from your mistakes. They know the risks and are prepared to face them apparently.

December 5, 2013 at 09:15

The author is mistaken again. The J-15 is not a reverse-engineered Su-33. The avionics and electronics are completely new, just like the J-11B. The airframe is noticeably different from that of the Su-33. Why is that writers at the Diplomat always seem to be writing about things they know nothing about????

China is making a huge mistake
December 5, 2013 at 08:18

China is making a huge mistake by rushing their carrier program so quickly. It took the US over 50 years to get where it is now with lots of trial and errors. China will only end up embarrassing themselves.

December 5, 2013 at 09:01

That sounds more like wishful thinking than an informed opinion. India acquired its first aircraft carrier back in 1961 and it didn’t take them 50 years to get the hang of it. If anything, given the modern availability of both information and resources, China’s learning process should be much more accelerated than previous nations’ efforts at mastering aircraft carriers. This has nothing to do with any inherent superiority the Chinese might possess and everything to do with the fact that knowledge and experience, when passed on to others, shortens the amount of time needed to master a particular skill. I wouldn’t doubt it if foreign pilots with carrier experience had or were currently teaching Chinese pilots right now.

In regards to the J-15, its sole problem is its engines. They’re underpowered and I agree that producing them at this point in time is a bit premature, but engines can be swapped out at a later date so even this is not much of an issue.

December 5, 2013 at 10:56

rushing? lol what?

liaoning took like 8 years to refit, hardly “rushing”

it still only flying with 3 j-15 a year after its hand over to the navy, hardly “rushing”

officially its a “training and research carrier” hardly “rushing”

the pace their going at is clearly well thought out and not rushed what so ever and they are imitating the best carrier crews in the world, aka the US navy

on the topic of the j-15, the inability to take off with max load is hardly the j-15′s fault, its an inherent problem with ski-ramp carrier designs

December 5, 2013 at 11:22

It is far easier to follow in others footsteps than push the boundaries yourself, especially when one has such a prolific and sucessfull espionage arm. What took the US 70 years might just take the PRC 20.

I wouldn’t expect them to produce systems that surpass America’s but then that’s not necessarily necessary. Quantity having a quality all of its own and all that.

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