China is upset at being called out for reverse engineering the Shenyang J-15 carrier-based fighter from the Russian Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker. The Chinese argue in the People’s Daily–a state media organization–that the J-15 is more advanced than the Su-33.
“Su-33 is equipped with old-fashioned ARINC429 discrete avionics system of one-way low-speed data bus, while J-15 adopts joint avionics system of bidirectional data bus,” the report reads. “TS-100, the Su-33′s fire-control computer, has a computing speed of only 170,000 times per second, while the J-15′s fire-control computer has an estimated computing speed of over several million times per second.”
It’s curious they know the exact specs of the Su-33′s avionics– very curious indeed. You’d think they’d gotten their hands on one or something. Also, it’s apparent that the Su-33′s computer–to use a technical term–sucks.
The People’s Daily also argues that the J-15 has a better radar than the Su-33. “Due to its backward avionics system, the Su-33 can only serve as interceptors, and is incapable of air-to-ground precision strike,” the Chinese Communist Party organ says.
The Chinese claim that the J-15 is constructed out of more advanced materials and is produced using better techniques than its Russian progenitor. Perhaps most significantly “the J-15 is powered by home-made Taihang (WS-10) turbofan engine, which is more powerful than the Su-33′s engine,” the People’s Daily says.
That last part is actually quite a significant development, if it is true. China has not had an easy time of building jet engines. Most of its previous efforts have fallen flat with engines exploding in mid-air and the like. If the Chinese have learned to build their own engines, that could mean that they will not be dependent upon Russian hardware for much longer. However, building reverse engineered engines is one thing, coming up with and building your own design is quite another.
Interestingly, the Chinese seem genuinely aggrieved by suggestions that they copied the Su-33 almost bolt-for-bolt. And, frankly, it’s true–the J-15 is for all intents and purposes a bolt-for-bolt copy like the Tupolev Tu-4 was of the Boeing B-29. All the Chinese have done is performed what amounts to a mid-life update to the reverse engineered Su-33 design– but the airframe, at its core, remains a Flanker. Simply upgrading a design after stealing the intellectual property does not make an original design.
Perhaps the Chinese genuinely don’t get the concept of intellectual property? This is a problem in other industries too.