But how good are they?
China’s six-year-old carrier-aviation branch has been having an eventful couple of months: the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) second operational aircraft carrier, and first domestically built one, completed sea trials on May 22. Reportedly, it will have the space for a larger air wing of thirty-six J-15 jet fighters, though only ten were visible on deck during the launch ceremony. (Its predecessor, the Liaoning, could carry twenty-six.)
Meanwhile, in April 2018 Chinese media trumpeted the debut of a new variant two-seat J-15D electronic attack jet with wing-tip jamming pods. China had earlier developed a similar land-based electronic warfare fighter called the J-16D that seemed clearly modeled on the U.S. Navy’s EA-18G Growler jets, derivatives of the FA-18 Super Hornet. That resemblance is even stronger now that China has created a carrier-based version.
The Shenyang J-15 Fēishā (“Flying Shark”) multirole fighter jet entered service in 2015 and was immediately compared to U.S. Navy’s two-seat FA-18 Super Hornet fighter. In truth, it is very much derived from the single-seat Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter, a large but highly agile twin-engine jet comparable to the F-15 Eagle.