First you need to remember the history of the development of the aircraft J-15. According to reports, back in the late nineties, China tried to buy from Russia fifty Su-33 fighter planes. During the negotiations on a possible contract, the number of desired aircraft was constantly reduced and eventually decreased to two units. It is not hard to guess that two fighter planes will not be able to arm even one aircraft carrier, but they can be used for reverse engineering with subsequent deployment of its own production of a copy. Despite the difficult economic situation and the need for new contracts, the Russian aircraft manufacturers refused to China and did not sell a single Su-33. A little later, China agreed with Ukraine on the sale of one of the Su-33 prototypes, T-10K, and some documentation on it. Around the middle of the two thousandth's, the Ukrainian aircraft went to China. In the summer of 2010, the first flight of the J-15 carrier-based fighter "self-developed" was reported. It should be noted that already at that time the Chinese called J-15 the development of the previous J-11 (first a licensed, and then a counterfeit copy of the Russian Su-27SK), and not a copy of the T-10К / Su-33. In this case, it turns out that for some unknown reason, the development of the J-11 project went exactly the same way as it was with Su-27K, which later became Su-33.
The available photos show that the Chinese J-15 has almost no noticeable external differences from the Russian Su-33. Perhaps some of the details and have a different view, but for their detection requires a careful and detailed inspection of the two aircraft. Thus, the structural differences between the gliders of the two deck fighters are likely to have only a technological "nature." The Chinese themselves are talking about some newer and more advanced materials. Most likely, some parts of the airframe are made either from other alloys or from composite materials. Either way, such a design change may entail some relief for the aircraft and easier maintenance. However, no weight advantage was achieved. An empty J-15 weighs as much as Su-33. Other weight indicators also vary slightly. As for aerodynamics or flight characteristics, the J-15 can hardly win in this respect only due to a change in the airframe design.
Much more important element of the aircraft in the context of the characteristics are its engines. Like the T-10K purchased from Ukraine, the J-15 is equipped with two dual-circuit turbojet engines. According to reports, the J-15 installed engines Shenyang WS-10A with afterburner about 13500 kgf. WS-10A give out almost a ton more than Russian AL-31F. Due to this, the Chinese fighter has a maximum speed in M = 2,4, which is approximately 200 km / h higher than the Su-33. In general, the stated flight data of the Chinese fighter J-15 is at least not lower, but for a number of indicators and higher than the characteristics of the Russian Su-33. At the same time, it is worth noting such an important question as engine technology and their resource. Since the WS-10 engine family is directly related to the Russian AL-31 line, several versions appear at once. For example, the Chinese could copy not only the design of Russian motors, but also the technology of manufacturing their parts. It is the technological part of the modern aviation engine-building is one of the most difficult tasks. It seems that full copying failed. Recent modifications to the WS-10 engines, according to open sources, have a total resource of 200 hours. The AL-31F has this parameter five times more. Recently, the Chinese declared that they had found a way to increase the resource of the purchased AL-31F up to one and a half thousand hours, but their technology implies the revision of the motors after the purchase. Perhaps they will be able to introduce such technologies into the production of WS-10, but at present the resource of these engines leaves much to be desired and Chinese aircraft manufacturers have to massively purchase engines from Russia. In general, the WS-10A engine is not a good compromise between high performance and survivability.
The Chinese press as an advantage of its aircraft points to the possibility of attacking ground targets. The Su-33 armament range contains unguided caliber bombs up to 500 kilograms and unguided rockets of various types. During the tests, attempts were made to use anti-ship missiles X-41 "Mosquito", but the production aircraft have no such possibility. As a matter of fact, in the concept of the domestic carrier-based fighter, paramount importance was attached to the protection of ships from air attack, and the attack of ground targets was only an additional possibility. There is no accurate information about the range of weapons of the Chinese J-15 aircraft, and therefore there is every reason to assume that its capabilities to strike at the ground are also limited. If China decides to develop its carrier fleet in accordance with the American views on this question, then it is quite possible that any guided weapons will appear in the J-15 arsenal. At the moment, there is no exact information about this, and in fact all data is limited to the words of Gen Yanshen.
In the case of on-board electronics J-15 information is not much more. It is argued that the computing system of the fighter has much better characteristics as compared with the Su-33 avionics, for example, the speed of the main computer is several times higher. Of course, at first glance, such statements look promising. However, for a full analysis of the combat capabilities of electronic equipment, including the on-board computer, other information is also needed, right down to the specific tasks and characteristics of a particular element of the computing complex. In addition, even a super-powered computer will not provide the expected capabilities if there are no other equipment with relevant characteristics in the avionics. For example, a bad airborne radar is unable to help unleash the full potential of a powerful computer. Interestingly, so far there is no specific information regarding the radar fighter J-15. It is alleged that he carries a station with an active phased array, but there is reason to doubt it. One way or another, the onboard electronics of a fighter must be “balanced”, otherwise the achievement of high performance is by definition impossible. It should also be noted that most of the recent aircraft have developed onboard electronics, including for interaction with the latest guided weapons. At the moment, only the possibility of using only air-to-air guided weapons of the J-15 fighter is known. Guided weapons for strikes against ground targets, requiring a complex set of onboard equipment, is still in question.
And yet it is impossible not to admit that the J-15 fighter-electronic avionics, namely the computing complex, most likely does have higher characteristics than the Su-33 equipment. The reason for the backlog of the Russian aircraft is simple and obvious. In August of this year, 25 celebrated its anniversary of the first flight of the prototype T-10K. J-15, in turn, took off just a couple of years ago. The difference of twenty years could not affect the composition and capabilities of the onboard equipment. So the very comparison of the Su-33 and J-15, undertaken by the Chinese, is doomed to failure. Given the large difference in the age of the aircraft, as well as in the light of the obsolescence of technology, such a comparison is in some sense unsuccessful for the Chinese fighter. Even if J-15 really is ahead of Su-33 in all characteristics - which, I must say, is not observed - it only says that China could not overtake Russia, but the Soviet Union of the second half of the eighties. Such a “victory in the race” would be honorable for a developing country, but for a five-minute superpower, as China positions itself, it already looks rather doubtful.
It is quite clear that Su-33 was chosen as a “rival” in comparison only because J-15 was made, at least, using the documentation on it. Therefore, a new aircraft in some nuances may look better. However, for greater justice, it would be necessary to compare not the old plane with the new one, but two new ones. In this case, the “rival” J-15 could be the updated MiG-29K or its training version MiG-29KUB. The latest version of the MiG-29K is actually a development of the late eighties - early nineties, significantly improved in recent years, which is a bit like the J-15. Of course, the MiG-29K and J-15 are seriously different even at the level of weight and size parameters: the maximum take-off weight of the Chinese fighter is almost one and a half times larger than the Russian parameter. At the same time, the MiG-29K has modern onboard electronic equipment, high thrust-to-weight ratio (more than one with a normal take-off mass) and the possibility of using air-to-surface guided weapons. Thus, the Russian development already has all the advantages that the Chinese boast of, comparing their new aircraft with our old ones.
When comparing the truly new deck aircraft, we can also recall the time frame for the start of service. According to current statements by Chinese officials, the J-15 will be put into service in the 2014-15 year. At the beginning of this year, the Russian Ministry of Defense ordered RSK MiG two dozen MiG-29K and MiG-XNUMKUB fighters. Order date of performance - 29 year. Thus, the MiG-2015K and J-29 will go into operation almost simultaneously. It is also necessary to remind that initially compared with the Chinese fighter Su-15 to the same time it is planned to incapacitate due to the development of the resource. In their place will come the new MiG-33K. As a result, the J-29 is guaranteed to be able to compete with Russian carrier-based fighters only in number. However, in this case, the number of existing aircraft carriers will become a serious limiting factor for both aircraft, which will have to make a start when calculating the required number of fighters. Over the next few years, Russia will have only one aircraft carrier, and the construction of new ones is only planned. It is unlikely that new ships with aircraft on board will be commissioned earlier than 15. China, in turn, also possessing one aircraft carrier, is going to build new ones, although in his case it is too early to talk about the number and timing.
As you can see, the statements of the Chinese military about the superiority of the fighter Shenyang J-15 over the Su-33, if true, then only partially. For example, higher flight data is “compensated” by a small engine resource, and all the advantages in electronic equipment are easily explained by novelty alone. Yet the main problem of comparing these aircraft lies in the age of the machines. This aspect not only eliminates all the advantages of the Chinese machine, but also puts some Chinese citizens in a not very good light, because compared to the newer Russian machine, the J-15 no longer looks modern, unique and invincible.
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