23 June 2011

China’s J-15 No Game Changer

Gabriel B. Collins and Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s J-15 No Game Changer,” The Diplomat, 23 June 2011.

Following is a guest entry from Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, co-founders oChina Sign Post.

Gen. Chen Bingde, Chief of Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has reportedly said that, for the first time, a Chinese ‘aircraft carrier is under construction.’ China is also already preparing the refitted ski-jump carrier Varyag, purchased from Ukraine in 1998, to go to sea.

Given these developments, it seems a good time to look at the first carrier-based aircraft that China will employ: the new J-15 ‘Flying Shark’ carrier-based heavy fighter-bomber.

As currently configured, the J-15 is no ‘great leap forward,’ but is nevertheless triggering concern in the region because it indicates rapid improvement in Chinese naval aviation, and suggests Chinese determination to extend its regional blue water presence. The J-15’s initial role will be linked to, and limited by, its first operational platform: a ‘starter carrier’ to project a bit of power, confer prestige on a rising great power, and master basic procedures. … … …

Andrew Erickson is an associate professor at the US Naval War College and fellow in the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Programme. Gabe Collins is a commodity and security specialist focused on China and Russia. This is an edited and abridged version of a longer analysis. The full version can be read here.