China’s J-15 Carrier Based Fighters Dump Russian Engines For Indigenous WS-10: Joining Broad Fleetwide Trend

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s prime carrier based fighter class the J-15 Flying Shark has been seen for the first time integrating indigenous WS-10B engines. The development marks a major milestone in both China's aircraft carrier programs and in the development of the country's aircraft engine industry, and follows a broader trends towards Chinese fighter units phasing out their Russian built AL-31 powerplants in favour of the WS-10. The J-15 first entered service in 2012 as a carrier based derivative of the land based J-11B heavyweight air superiority fighter, and while both classes used Russian engines at the time the first J-11 unit was confirmed to have transitioned from the AL-31 to the WS-10B in January 2022. This was followed by reports earlier in November than lightweight single engine J-10B fighter units had also begun to retire their AL-31s and integrate the WS-10B, doing so long before the Russian engines’ service lives had expired.

The J-15’s requirements for carrier based operations, often in weather where corrosion risks are high, were likely key factors in making it the last fighter the WS-10 was certified for. The WS-10 is considered to offer a superior performance and greater reliability than the AL-31, with engines considered the final area in which China's combat aviation sector belatedly bridged the gap with that of Russia. Over 70 J-15s are thought to be in service making it the most widely used carrier based fighter class outside the United States Military, although numbers are expected to continue to grow as the carrier fleet rapidly expands. An enhanced variant of the J-15, the J-15B, has begun production in China’s Shenyang province and is expected to form the backbone of the air wing of the Navy's Type 003 Class supercarriers - the first of which was launched in June 2022.

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