No surprise here. Like some of China's other new planes, its new J-15 fighter jet is really just a clone of an older Russian design. But can a clone surpass its master copy? China hopes the answer is yes.
The J-15 Flying Shark is a derivative of the Russian SU-33, which entered service in the mid 1990s. However, the indigenous Chinese weapons platform is outfitted with domestically-produced sensory systems, weapons, and engines. It measures 22m long and 6m tall, with a 13m wingspan, and it's powered by a pair of 900kg after-burning turbofans, which reportedly give it a top speed of Mach 2.4 and a range of about 3200km.
The Flying Shark was first unveiled in 2010 and was met with immediate scepticism from military analysts around the world. While the debut of the J-15 was quite surprising in terms of its technological advancement and flight capability, analysts quickly realised that much of the plane's modern avionics were, more than likely, closely copied from existing American and Russian technology.
According to Colonel Igor Korotchenko (Ret.), a member of the Defence Ministry's Public Council, per the Ria Novosti newspaper, the J-15's highly-publicized landings on China's new Liaoning aircraft carrier were no fluke — given that the Su-33 had no problems doing so on Kuznetsov Class aircraft carriers upon which the Liaoning is based.
"The Chinese J-15 clone is unlikely to achieve the same performance characteristics of the Russian Su-33 carrier-based fighter," said Korotchenko. "And I do not rule out the possibility that China could return to negotiations with Russia on the purchase of a substantial batch of Su-33s."
China's spokesman of the Ministry of National Defence, Geng Yansheng, responded to these allegations in November of 2012, saying, "the world's military affairs have an objective law of development. Many weapons have the same design principle and some command and protection methods are also similar. Therefore, it at least is non-professional to conclude that China copied the aircraft carrier technology of other countries only by simply comparison." Nearly as unprofessional as shamelessly reverse engineering an ally's weapons systems, when negotiations for the real thing stall out.
The J-15 does sport a more modern avionics system than its Su-33 predecessor. However, the Flying Shark remains unproven in its abilities as a carrier-based multi-role fighter. Hopefully, we won't have to see how these stack up against the F-18 Hornet, America's closest analogue, anytime soon. [China Defence - Wikipedia - Policy Mic - People's Daily]