THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 14 May 2013. Military forces of the People's Republic of China are moving forward in their efforts to develop world-class aircraft carrier -based military aviation capability in a steady effort not only to be a regional maritime power, but also eventually to challenge the U.S. for global aircraft carrier dominance.
China has been refining one of its first aircraft carriers -- an unfinished Soviet carrier that China obtained in 1998 and refurbished -- and reportedly has its first indigenously designed aircraft carrier under construction, which could enter service by 2015.
China also is moving forward with carrier-based aircraft that reportedly could match nearly every other fighter aircraft flying today throughout the world.
The Chinese Shenyang J-15, also known as Flying Shark, is a carrier-based fighter aircraft in development by the Shenyang Aircraft Corp. and the 601 Institute.
Rumors initially claimed the aircraft was to be a semi-stealth variant, yet later reports indicate the aircraft is based on the Russian-designed Sukhoi Su-33 and is fitted with Chinese-designed radars and weapons. While the J-15 appears to be based structurally on the Su-33, the indigenous fighter features Chinese technologies.
Some reports say the J-15 will be one of the best jet fighters in the world, while other reports suggest the combat jet might be underpowered.
An article in the China Signpost reported the J-15 "likely exceeds or matches the aerodynamic capabilities of virtually all fighter aircraft currently operated by regional militaries, with the exception of the U.S. F-22 Raptor."
The article, furthermore, suggests the J-15 might have a 10 percent superior thrust to weight ratio and a 25 percent lower wing loading than the U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Other reports, however, say the J-15's Russian-made engines are not as powerful as those of the U.S. F-35 joint strike fighter.
No matter the details, however, it's clear that China is well along the road to developing dominant carrier-based aviation. In an era of long-term austere U.S. defense budgets, China's emerging capability well may lead to a shift in global military power.