China did not have a potent navy or airforce when the communists took over the mainland in 1949. The Chinese leader Mao tse Tung however decided that a military was more important than feeding the people. He therefore embarked on a military development spree at the cost of food and as per conservative estimates 20 million Chinese died of hunger and various purges.

The Soviet Union under Stalin initially helped the Chinese military with planes and weapons. Ideological differences came up and the Soviets left. The Chinese are however adept at reverse engineering and they copied the Russian planes and gave them their own name

The Chinese made clone

The Chinese have now cloned the Russian SU-33 and produced their own carrier attack fighter.

This is the J-15 or Flying Shark. The plane first flew in 2010 and its main purpose is to operate from the sole aircraft carrier the Liaoning. The plane is a clone of the Russian plane and has a top speed of 2.4 Mach and a operating range of about 2000 miles. More important, it has been carrying out trial runs on the aircraft carrier Liaoning, which is again a Russian designed carrier. The SU-33 had no problems while landing and taking off from the Russian carrier and thus the Flying Shark is operating from the carrier as well.

How good is J-15?

The Peoples Liberation navy has no experience operating carrier-borne aircraft and as such the Liaoning is designated as a training ship. Despite having the Flying Shark it is not combat ready. The Chinese are however building a number of carriers to match the US fleet but it will be decades before they reach anywhere close to the capability of the American war fleet.

The Russians are skeptical about the actual performance of the J-15.

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It perhaps does not match the capability of the F-18. The Chinese have fitted 2 turbo fan engines and heavily copied the avionics and operating system of US and Russian aircraft. Can the clone be better than the original? The answer is perhaps in the negative, but all the same the world must take note of this Chinese lethal weapon. It could be a major threat in the years to come.