J-15 Dreams

China Aircraft carrier


Since joining the Flightglobal team I’ve been burning towrite about the elephant in the room: China‘s aircraft carrier.

That she exists is beyond question. Formerly the Russiancarrier Varyag, the flattop is tied up in Dalian covered by scaffolding, a tantalizing plume of smoke rising from her island.What’s going on in there? Engines gearing up? Apparently she even has a name, ShiYang, and an auspicious number, 83. Shi Yang was an admiral who invaded Taiwan in 1861.

There is plenty of speculation on the Internet, but from theChinese navy only silence. 

Being a military aviation fan (which, as luck would have it,is now part of my job description) I can’t help but think about the Shi Yang,and the J-15 that might fly off it one day – especially after it was allegedly caught on film. I was hoping to see the J-15 (basedon the eighties-era Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker-D) appear at the recent air show inZhuhai, but no dice. 


“Man, I’m certain this thing will put in appearance,” says Ito a colleague before the show.

“No way,” said he. “China doesn’t like surprises.”

He was right. Not only was the J-15 absent, but also theJ-11, China‘scopy of the Sukhoi Su-27, and any other Russian kit of note. And my exhaustivesearches through the sprawling show revealed not a single carrier illustration- not counting the American carrier, all planes on her deck, getting pummelled byChinese missiles in one of the COSIC murals (the subject of a previous post).

There was also no mention or illustration (again,unsurprisingly) of the much discussed base somewhere in China that has a runwayrigged like an aircraft carrier deck, apparently for pilot training.

What, exactly, is going on? When will the Shi Yang emerge?Will she one day be operational? Or will she serve only as a training ship,training cadres of naval aviators and sailors for some future,built-entirely-in-China,  fleet of supercarriers? Who knows? For now all we can do is ponder internet photos, and anunsatisfying video of what is believed to be a J-15.

China Aircraft Carrier IIIChina Aircraft Carrier II

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