Another reason could be that the PLA Navy briefly considered the steam-powered Catapult-Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) and designed the doors for its simple launching mechanism and force, but after deciding to skip the step and settle for EMALS, the design merely carried over.
The development of a catapult variant of the J-15 is also necessary to keep a fully ready carrier-borne fighter fleet ready for the next decade, as the FC-31′ Gyrfalcon’ Gen. 5 stealth fighter is fully readied into the carrier-borne J-35 in about the half of that time.
FC-31/J-35’s serial production stage is scheduled to be aligned with the operational readiness of Type 004, expected to be launched in the next 4-5 years. The J-15B/T will be the mainstay of the PLAN carrier-borne multirole fighter fleet.
Thus, one can safely assume that the J-15s will undergo another round of massive upgrades in electronics, avionics, and engines that can put them in the Gen. 4++ class.
They can thus support the FC-31/J-35 and the J-20 in air superiority roles, leaving the more complex missions to the stealth fighters.
J-15s can also undertake missions attacking land and sea targets with Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACM) and Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCM).
|The photo of what is believed to the latest variant of China’s J-15 carrier-borne fighter jet. (via Twitter)|
Launching smaller missiles and guided bombs at tactical targets like tanks, air defense vehicles, ground units, and fortifications contributed immensely to an invasion of Taiwan.
One should also not be surprised if the J-15 might have a dual-seat variant with dedicated electronic warfare capability like the US Navy’s EA-18G Growler.
Moreover, having a proven carrier-borne fighter also means a robust platform to train many more PLAN pilots for carrier operations. Earlier this year, there were reports about the first group of fully carrier-trained pilots being ready after training on the J-15Bs.
Why Can’t China Rely on the FC-31?
EurAsian Times had reported that the fifth-generation jet – originally a technology demonstrator for various materials and aviation technologies – had been undergoing trials from mock carrier decks as per leaked photos from June last year and March this year.
The former showed FC-31 and J-15 dummies on a mock-up carrier deck. This has led analysts to conclude that they might operate together from Type 004.
The March 2022 satellite pics of the PLA Naval Aviation Testing and Training Complex at Liaoning showed FC-31s alongside J-15s.
Interestingly, while the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC)-made FC-31 was earlier turned down by the PLAN and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), it was revived to be improved for carrier operations after growing tensions with the US in the Western Pacific since the Donald Trump administration.