Saturday, December 8, 2012

J-15 vs Su-33 vs Mig-29K

This past week, there was an article on People's daily called China's J-15 fighter superior to Russian Su-33

I had a couple of thoughts reading through it. My first thought was that finally China is actually defending itself against some of these Western and Russian accusations. It drove me crazy back in the days to see Russian media quoting different people blasting China for copying its weaponry and for making excuses for not fulfilling contracts like the one for IL-76/78. Through all of that, there was nobody from AVIC1 or PLA that spoke against some of those claims. The only times I heard official denials were regarding claims of China selling J-10s to Iran and purchasing Su-35s from Russia. Those were clearly crazy rumours that spread because China did not step in earlier to deny these things. Going forward, I hope CMC/PLA puts a stronger PR effort out there to defend itself against some of the Russian claims.

My second thought was that while it was good to see China defending against Russian claims that a copy can never be better than the original, it should be obvious to everyone that J-15 is a superior fighter jet to the original Su-33. However, it's really not saying much, because J-15 is being compared against something that was developed in the late 80s. If after 20+ years, J-15 is not better than Su-33, then SAC should stop developing and producing aircraft. Compared to the original Su-33, J-15 include:
  • Having multi-role capability and can fire wide range of AAM, AShM, ARM and ground attack weapons
  • Having a more powerful and multi-role fire control system (probably using an AESA radar)
  • Having more powerful IRST/FLIR system, EW suite, RWR and MAWs
  • Having more modern avionics with modern data bus, mission computers, holographic HUDs, modern MMI and fiber optic wiring.
  • Using more composite material and lighter electronics to give better T/W ratio

Now, if the Russians had invested in modernizing Su-33, it could do all of the above. Although, we could argue whether it has the same wide range of ground attack weapons as China or if the sensors/avionics is as advanced or more advanced. It has chosen not to, because it has picked Mig-29K has the future naval fighter.

There are many reasons why it made more sense for the Russians to go with a modern Mig-29K instead of Su-33. My opinion is that India had already paid for the development of a modern Mig-29K as part of its effort to develop a 3 carrier fleet. At the same time, China had rejected Russia's 3 step proposal of first taking the original Su-33s, then upgrading to a multi-role version with Su-30MK2 sensor/weapon suite and eventually upgrading to a final version with PESA radar. As a result, it made more sense for Russia to go with the already developed naval aircraft with production lines rather than re-opening the production lines and pay for the development cost of a modern Su-33. At the same time, Mikoyan needed these orders a lot more than Sukhoi (which has a long backlog of domestic and export orders).

Looking back, I think that China obviously made the right decision to develop J-15 on its own with some help from the purchase of T-10K-3. The experience from developing naval version of J-11B will help SAC develop next generation of naval aircraft like a naval version of J-31. At the same time, there was no reason for China to pay the Russians to develop modern version of Su-33 if it could develop a modern version of J-15 by itself. It's similar to my last post about China's choice of purchasing MKK rather than getting involved in a long running project like MKI. Imports from Russia are always considered interim solutions. If domestic options can be developed in time, there really is no reason to get involved in a foreign project and pay for the development cost.

Looking ahead, I think China is also better off with a J-15 class fighter than a Mig-29K class fighter. There was a competition between SAC and CAC over the first generation of a naval fighter jet. Flanker variant won over the J-10 variant because it was considered to have better multi-role capabilities. The current version of J-15 is already a multi-role aircraft. In the future, we could see different versions of J-15 like a single-seat buddy-to-buddy refueling, a two-seat EW version like Growler or a two-seated mini AEWC&C version. These are not things you can do with a lighter naval aircraft.

7 comments:

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RISHI KOHLI said...

j-15 is nothing more than a jung with 3rd generation aircraft techonology. the option of adding AESA etc can be made on any plane. Keep in mind the third generation airframe of tejas is getting a 5th generation software but still it wont become a air worthy fighter rivalying any 4th generation fighters in real terms.Then about mig-29k ,its not about numbers 29 or 33. The naval version of mig -29k is far superior then any Su-33 naval form ,for CARRIER Duties.

Meng-yuan said...

Kohli,

Generally, extraordinary statements require extraordinary proof, but this being a blog's comment segment, we can settle for well reasoned arguments. But I cannot find even the basic effort to provide one in your post. Wishful thinking, like masturbation, may be fun in private, but it is laughable when you air it in public.

NICO said...

I wonder also if after operating Sukois on these smaller carriers, Russian have decided that operating a MIG29 is easier and probably would help in operations and turn around time. You probably can make up for a smaller weapons payload/range with numbers and faster turn around time.

It is all AMAZING said...

@ Nico,
With an increasing defense budget, Russia will probably reopen its SU33 or an improved version line to meet her naval requirement.
China refusal to purchase the numbers needed to reopen the line killed the project back then.

The MiG29K is only good as an Air Superiority Fighters and with smaller range and a range limited to 700km compared with a 3000km J15 or the rumored 1700 T/R longer range AESA. The only advantage MiG29K has is that production is still opened due to the order from Indian Navy.

It is all AMAZING said...

@ RISHI KOHLI

That remark of yours would have place practically most modern jet fighters in the categories tagged as JUNK including the F15G, F16, etc.
Why mentioned a failed project called Tejas or its abandoned Kaveri engine after it failed to produced the desired thrust or the target weight?
(Incidentally before all these those folks at the Bharat Rakshak boasted that the Tejas is equal to an F22)

Just like I failed to understand how a 700km range smaller MiG29K with its limited payloads or radar is superior to the larger adversary, the 3000km internal fuel storage J15. I need not to even compare the rest of the EW, weaponries, etc.

You would need to clarify.

Looking at the landing of both the SU33 on the Kuznetsov and the J15 on the Lioaning, I am more impressed with the smooth landing demonstrated by the J15.

The wings appeared to fold up automatically compared to those of the SU33.

Just wondering why Kuznetsov has only three arresting cables compared with 5 for the Lioaning.

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