China has upgraded SU-27 copy but still buying generation 4.5 Russian Su-35

The upgraded D variant of China’s J-11 fighter jet, a copy of the Russian Sukhoi Su-27, has made its maiden flight, Chinese media reported. The jet reportedly has new radar and an air refueling system.

The J-11D model, which was tested in the air for the first time on Wednesday, incorporates technologies developed for the J-16 fighter jet.

It is reported to have better active phased array radar, use more composite materials in its wings and tail, and be capable of firing more advanced air-to-air missiles like PL-10 and PL-15.

The J-11D is the latest in Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC)’s family fighters licensed and modified from the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 “Flanker.” SAC has built well over 200 Su-27 and J-11s, such as the licensed produced J-11A and indigenously upgraded J-11B, which had better engines and radar, and a lighter airframe. It is possible that improvements from other Chinese Flanker variants, like the J-15 carrier fighter and J-16 strike fighter, have been applied to the J-11D.

China’s acquisition of Su-35 supermaneuverable multirole fighters from Russia is necessary despite the development of the J-11D air superiority fighter, writes the Beijing-based Sina Military Network.

The J-11D, an upgraded version of the J-11B, conducted its maiden flight on April 29, just as China is preparing to receive its first batch of 24 Su-35 aircraft from Russia.

J11D

Sina Military said both the J-11D and the Su-35s are important for China to maintain a strong military presence in its three key strategic regions: the country’s southeast coast, the South China Sea and the China-India border.

The Su-35 is necessary because it bridges the gap in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force prior to the introduction of China’s new fifth-generation fighter jets, the report said, adding that without Su-35s China would need to figure out how it would go up against Japan’s F-35s and India’s Su-30MKI and T-50 aircraft. Even if the manufacture of the J-11 can be increased to two a month, the numbers would still be insufficient, not to mention it remains unclear whether the J-11 is technically advanced enough to take on fifth-generation fighters, the report said.

India’s Su-30MKI is regarded as more versatile and is significantly better than the J-11 at close and super-close range combat, as well as air-to-land and air-to-sea attacks. The Su-30MKI was designed not only with the J-11D in mind, but also the Chinese and Pakistani air forces’ J-10B, F16 and J-11B. Individually, the Su-30MKI might be superior to each of those jets, but together they are sufficient to take on the threat the Indian fighter presents.

Various sources indicate that in 2014, China only manufactured around 10 J-11B/BS fighters, which is clearly too slow, particularly given that the J-16, leaked four years ago, has still not entered into production. While the J-11D is an advanced version of the J-11B, analysts point out that it is still a J-11 model and cannot possibly match the supermaneuverable multirole capabilities of the Su-35.

The Su-35 has an internal fuel capacity 11.5 tons compared to the J-11D’s nine tons, meaning it would be more suited to surveillance missions in the South China Sea. It is also more structurally advanced with a durability of 6,000 service hours and superior maximum take-off, flight and landing weights. The J-11D’s structure, however, remains limited by the design of the original J-11.

Accordingly, the Su-35 is very important to the development of China’s aviation industry and its value is more than just that of a fourth-generation fighter, Sina Military said, especially as it will include the acquisition of the Irbis-E advanced multi-mode, hybrid passive electronically scanned array radar system.

SU35

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