China has been having a lot of problems with its J-15 carrier based fighters. Until recently, the Chinese have stated there were only two accidents
with the J-15, one of which was fatal and a second of which was bad enough it took significant time for the pilot to recover. However, the Chinese
just acknowledged there were actually two more accidents and one of those was fatal. The two fatal accidents were related to the flight control
systems and mechanical failures are apparently somewhat common. Apparently, enough is enough and the Chinese are out to replace the aircraft.
Lieutenant General Zhang Honghe of the PLAAF (1) came out to state the Chinese are now developing a replacement. What it will be, remains to be seen,
but the Chinese are NOT noted for making proclamations about vaporware development programs. In fact, they almost always announce them relatively
shortly before the unveiling of an aircraft, though it could be still two or more years before we see it.
One Chinese naval expert has stated the replacement aircraft may end up being based on the J-31/FC-31 fighter. That aircraft was not developed with
government backing, but there was a mockup spotted on one of China's 'land carriers,' buildings laid out in the same manner as the carriers to make
sure they have clearances, conduct tests and what have you. While this is a possibility and even a higher a likelihood than some of our crazier ideas
around here, I'd caution against assuming this is the case. Had China wanted to, it would have moved the J-31/FC-31 along faster then. The J-20
has, after all, been inducted into service, while the J-31 has barely built its second prototype.
Another possibility is the Chinese may finally come out of the dark with their VSTOL aircraft. I, personally, don't think this is likely to be the
case, but its a
possibility. A Rolls Royce engineer was arrested(2) for attempting to sell engine data for the F-35 to those he thought were
Chinese spies, so it stands to reason the Chinese really want the capability the F-35B (or an equivalent) represents. After all, they are building
their own version of the Wasp and America class LHDs(3). A VSTOL would be useful off those and the CV01/CV01A classes of carriers. On the other
hand, its not necessary for the newer CV02 since it will have a set of catapults.
I think it remains to be seen as to what we the Chinese will develop. It will at least match the range and payloads of the J-15, if not significantly
improve upon them. However, for those of us here on ATS, we have been alerted to a new aircraft project to watch for.
1. Author Note: Why PLAAF? Why not PLAN? Are the pilots on the carriers all PLAAF?
it should be noted the Type 075 are the same displacement as the America class LHA.