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Why China Has the Worst Fighter Jet

A silent observer looking around. At times he must protect his identity with avatars and weird sounding names.


Again I’m not here to troll every Chinese people around here. Being an Asian myself I know too well how to be the victim of racism. We do have Chinese people in places like Taiwan and Malaysia, and even the citizens of People’s Republic of China need respect. Yet thanks to their relentless and blatant attempts to bully smaller Asian nations, I will be reserving my angst to PRC’s government. They think they are gods among men; they even came up with this map that claims the whole of South China Sea. I mean just look at it, their so called territory is so ridiculously close to some South East Asian nations’ backyards. Nevertheless these gods among men can’t even do one thing right. And it came in the shape of a failed fighter jet.

Being carrier borne, with twin engines and capable of supersonic flight the Shenyang J-15 fighter jet is a frightening sight to behold. Surely no one wants to mess with something nicknamed “The Flying Shark.” Officially it is classified as 4th generation fighter jet. Though not an F-22 Raptor rival, it still way too advanced compared to other fighter jets in neighbouring nations. And seeing the aircraft in its full glory, it’s exactly what one had in mind of a fighter jet; sleek and fast.

At least that’s what people thought of it.

It looks like this piece of military hardware is all bark and no bite. The PLA just came up with a piece of junk and not a competent fighter. In reality, the so called Flying Shark is no more than an oversized flopping fish.

What China Claim

J-15 firing its missile.

J-15 firing its missile.

From the start, China claims that the J-15 is an amazing aircraft. In fact when words got out that China will be producing locally made jets, it was rumoured that it was of a semi stealth design. An article of China Signpost even stated that it is the best fighter jet there is, second only to the F-22 Raptor. Compared to the F/A-18 Super Hornet, it has 10% superior trust to weight ratio and 25% lower wing loading.

The J-15 chief designer going by the name of Sun Cong said that when it comes to drop load, combat radius, bomb load and mobility, it is a match to the F/A-18. Rear Admiral Yin Zhou of the People’s Liberation Army Navy added that the Flying Shark is better than the F/A-18 in terms of combat capabilities. Lastly is the electronics equipment, said to match those of the fifth generation fighter.

It Is A Knock-off Fighter

The Flying Shark (left) Next to the legit Flanker (right).

The Flying Shark (left) Next to the legit Flanker (right).

Again hearsays mentioned how the J-15 will be a semi stealth variant. But when the Flying Shark went on public, it turns out to be nothing more than a bootleg fighter. We all know how China is having problems with copyright infringements. And its reputation as the bootleg capital of the world was further cemented by their creation of the J-15. Yes, the Flying shark is an unlicensed copy of the Sukhoi Su-33. It all started when China acquired an unfinished SU-33 prototype from Ukraine in 2001. It was studied, reverse engineered and the J-15 was born. On the outside the similarities are uncanny. What’s inside is vastly different though. The radars, engines and weapons are locally designed unlike its Russian twin.

But surely it could fly like the SU-33 right? The SU-33 was codenamed by the West as the “Flanker” due to its agility and performance. But as it turns out that’s not the case.

It Cannot Carry Heavy Weapons

YJ-83 anti -ship missile. One of the weapons the Flying Shark carries.

YJ-83 anti -ship missile. One of the weapons the Flying Shark carries.

For one thing a fighter must be sufficiently armed. It is next to useless if it ran out of weapons fast. Now the problem is as what the Beijing-based Sina Military Network (SMN) mentioned, is that the Flying Shark cannot fly from the aircraft carrier with heavy weapons. Now an F/A-18 Hornet could carry 17750 pounds of weapons. A J-15 on the other hand could carry only 14000 pounds, and when flying from an aircraft carrier it is limited to 3000 pounds thanks mostly to the ski jump it uses. Hence when blasting away from an aircraft carrier, a J-15 will only carry a pair of anti-aircraft or anti-ship missiles, or six 500 pound bombs.

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Talk about outgunned.

The engine is also under powered. It uses two Russian made AI-31 engines which is less powerful than that of an F-35. The J-15 is also the heaviest carrier borne fighter jet in current operation, weighing 17500 kg (compared to 14600 kg for a Super Hornet).

With such shortcomings, it is no surprise how SMN tagged the Flying Shark as no more than a “Flopping Fish.”

It Keeps Crashing

What remains of the fighter jet.

What remains of the fighter jet.

It’s one thing for a combat pilot to die fighting. A heroic death while streaking in the sky is a fitting end to a warrior’s life. But to get killed while testing a defective piece of junk is a terrible (and embarrassing) way to go for a combat pilot. And even though the J-15 is yet to head out into battle, the fleet already lost several aircrafts due to accidents. This includes crashes and technical failures. The problem is despite of the initial shortcomings of the Flying Shark during its development, China still presses ahead. And now they got these:

  • A J-15 fighter jet crashed due to malfunctioning flight controls during simulated carrier landings. That was on 27 April 2016. Pilot Zhang Chao ejected only to die from injuries.
  • A pilot named Cao Xianjian survived a crash with serious injuries after he ejected from his crashing J-15. The cause is another flight controls gone crazy. That was on 6 April 2017.
  • Yuan Wei safely lands his J-15 after its engine caught fire. That was on 17 August 2017.

And China Decided To Scrap The Darn Thing

The Flying Shark being launched from an aircraft carrier.

The Flying Shark being launched from an aircraft carrier.

With their aircrafts keep crashing and burning, you probably knew where it is heading. Too bad as this combat jet looks amazing, but any superpower in the making will never consider a failed hardware. Eventually after outrageous claims on the Flying Shark’s so called superb performance, the People’s Liberation army decided to replace the J-15. The series of crashes and technical failures are simply too much. In the end their so called Flying Shark is no more than an overrated flopping fish. I have a feeling that karma gets the best of them for illegally copying Russian technology.


Mark Adam on September 05, 2018:

Good article. Their planes may be bad, but I think their pilots are probably even worse.

Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on September 03, 2018:

Thanks Cecil for stopping by!

Cecil Kenmill from Osaka, Japan on September 02, 2018:

Good points. These projects only show how much money a country has. They are handouts to engineers and contractors. They never even meet in real combat. Remember the saying, "The best weapon is the one you never have to use."

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