January 4, 2016

China's carrier aircraft and weapons - Part 2 of 3

China may not yet have decided the balance of aircraft, guns and missiles on the second carrier. If China adheres to Russian practices there will be a high proportion of guns and missiles and smaller than Western aircraft compliment.

China's second carrier is likely to have much in common with Liaoning (above) . The second carrier may carry more aircraft and fewer guns and missiles than the Liaoning. 
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After years of rebuilding Liaoning in the 2000s Liaoning began sea trials in 2011. It was commissioned as a testbed in 2012 and also began air launch and recovery trial in 2012 of the J-15 and helicopter takeoffs with assistance from the Brazilian naval air arm.

But China does not yet have a fleet of aircraft or pilots ready for carrier operations. So the Liaoning is being used to test and train them, a task that experts say will probably take several years. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35207369

Like the US Nimitz class the Liaoning (and likely for second carrier) has light defensive armament for anti-aircraft. anti-missile and conceivably (for light cannon) anti-suicide boat uses. Chinese armaments appear to be in the shape 3 x HHQ-10 (FL-3000N) 18 cell SAM systems (above left) and 3 x Type 1030 or 1130 (Phalanx like) CIWS (above left). 


Testing J-15 takeoffs and landings on the Liaoning.
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The second carrier is likely to have more jets and helicopters than the 36 on the  Liaoning. China is testing the J-15 fighter-bomber on the Liaoning (photo above). The J-15, likely to be used in the second carrier, is considered a derivative of the Russian Su-33 carrier fighter. The 4th generation J-15 has been compared to the Super Hornet though the J-15 suffers from the drawbacks of ski-jump launch (lower all up weight, lower fuel load, shorter range) and lack of Chinese carrier based refueling no “buddy” refuelling capabilities are believed to greatly reduce its effective range. Also China has no revealed carrier launched ASW fixed wing or AEW aircraft.

The J-15 itself could be considered only in the development stage. J-15s were only introduced in 2013, with only 21 built so far.

FURTHER READING

Much in concurrence with this Submarine Matters article and comment string is this article Why China's next aircraft carrier will be based on Soviet blueprints of January 7, 2016.

Pete

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Given this is looking like another Liaoning, it is doubtful its aircraft complement will be bigger. I recall seeing a photo of the hangar of the Russian aircraft carrier and it is cramped.

There is a reason The Russians fly Mig-29 off their aircraft carrier. The Su-27/J-15 is just too heavy to get off that ski jump with any significant payload. No wonder the Chinese is looking for more powerful turbofans like the AL-41F1S (used in the Su-35) to offset that weight. These AL-41F1S produce ~10% more thrust but they will also consume more fuel, so range of the "to be improved" J-155 will likely suffer.

Having more aircraft carriers also means China will need to defend them, so they will have to dedicate more resources like the type 052D and type 054A or type 056 to protect these high value targets. I am unsure how useful are they in the small pond that is the SCS. After all the SCS is less than 1100km wide Throw in some 300km SSMs on all sides, there is not going to be a lot of room left for maneuvering.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [Jan 5, 4:37AM]

Yes ski-jump certainly limit takeoff/weapons/fuel weights = short range. The UK will discover this problem with the F-35Bs on the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Elizabeth-class_aircraft_carrier .

Thanks for the jet engine and also escort insights which I'll include in the 3rd article.

Chinese carriers would need to be in open waters (South Pacific and Indian Ocean) to be safer. Ship visits (with escorts) to small nations (Fiji, East Timor, Vanuatu, Mauritius, Seychelles African and South Asian countries (excluding India) may be a big role for these ski-jump carriers until naval doctrine is worked out.

Regards

Pete

imacca said...

" There is a reason The Russians fly Mig-29 off their aircraft carrier. The Su-27/J-15 is just too heavy to get off that ski jump with any significant payload. "

Have they tried adapting the smaller J10 for carrier landings??

Anonymous said...

AFAIK, the J-10 has not been adapted for carrier landing. I do not recall seeing any delta winged plane landing on a flat top. The minimum landing speed may be just too high for this application.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [Jan 6, 4:12AM]

Yes it appears that India and China are relying on Russian designed jets (Mig and small Su) for their ski-jump carrier fighters, so China has not tried to adapt the J-10 (publically or so far)

Re " I do not recall seeing any delta winged plane landing on a flat top."
Note that the latest and main jet for France's https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_aircraft_carrier_Charles_de_Gaulle_(R91) is the canard-mainly delta wing Rafale M https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_aircraft_carrier_Charles_de_Gaulle_(R91)

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi imacca

Re "Have they tried adapting the smaller J10 for carrier landings??"

A good question. The canard-delta configuration of the J-10 may owe something to the F-16 and Rafale. Could be Rafale (or the J-10) don't have the lift for ski-jump ops. France of course uses the Rafale M catapult launched on France's Charles de Gaulle carrier.

China seems to be relying on Russian designs and experience for its ex Varyag Liaoning and probably second carrier designs as well as its airwing (Su33 reverse engineered into J-15).

China may also be relying on Russian advisers (maybe in large numbers) keeping a low profile in Dalian (shipbuilding) and in China's reverse engineering or fresh Russian design aircraft industry.

China may not want to go to the expense, risks and delays involved developing J-10 for carrier, at this stage. A modified J-10 may be more suited to catapult launch carrier physics.

Its notable that the PLA-N operated around 24 x J-10s https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chengdu_J-10#Operators . This small number may represent an experimental number maybe being tested-developed for carrier in long term.

China may be also observing the problems India has expeienced modifying its own light fighter (HAL Tejas NP variat https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HAL_Tejas#Prototypes ) for carrier. India is also basing its carrier fixed airwing on Russian training, designs and experience.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous - posting about "dogs" and "Toyotas"

Too derogatory, tweet like and mysterious for publishing...

Pete

Arden said...

peter can S-3viking takeoff from Ins Vikramaditya , Ins Vikrant[IAC-1]? IF can should IN procure them from USN as those aircrafts are kept in storage and still serviceable.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Arden

I haven't seen any references to the S-3 being used or tested on ski-jump carriers. This may suggest no S-3 use on INS Vikramaditya or New Vikrant is likely.

Also the US Navy has been thinking about returning servicable S-3's to US carrier ASW and refueling uses.

On the other hand small-medium catapult carriers could almost certainly launch and recover S-3s.

If the third Indian carrier Vishal (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikrant-class_aircraft_carrier#INS_Vishal ) has a catapult fitted this would permit it could take an S-3 or S-2 like aircraft (for ASW, AEW, transport and refueling).

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Second response to Arden

Interesting https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikrant-class_aircraft_carrier#Carrier_air_group draws together some issues in this thread with:

"India considered a number of aircraft for operation from its INS Vikramaditya and the planned indigenous aircraft carrier [New Vikrant]. India evaluated the Russian Sukhoi Su-33, but chose the lighter Mikoyan MiG-29K as Vikramaditya was smaller and lacked an aircraft catapult.[32]"

This underlines the presumed downsides of China using the heavier Su-33 like J-15 aboad Liaoning and likely on the second Chinese carrier.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikrant-class_aircraft_carrier#Carrier_air_group goes onto say:

"In June 2012, Flight Global reported that the Indian Navy was considering the use of Rafale M (Naval variant) on these carriers.[35]"

"Note 35 being https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/indian-aircraft-carrier-enters-sea-trials-as-navy-eyes-rafale-372925/ [In 2012] "Sources say the Indian navy is considering the carrier-capable Rafale M as a possible acquisition, with a potential cost benefit to come from the air force's pending deal for 126 of the type to meet its medium multi-role combat aircraft requirement.

Already operational with the French navy and similar in size to the MiG-29K, the Rafale M could potentially be operated from India's future ski-jump-equipped domestic aircraft carriers and offer a greater operational capability than current Russian aircraft and India's Aeronautical Development Agency Tejas naval fighter."

Regards

Pete

Arden said...

Thank you for the info peter.

Anonymous said...

The Liaoning does not have any P-700 Granit. Those were part of the original Varyag design but were removed during the Chinese refurbishment. The current weapon suite is defensive and hardly significant.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at Jan 8, 1:55AM]

Thanks for the correction (your abrupt tone sounds ex-USN or RAN :) I'll change the text accordingly. Without positing ideas (even when proved wrong) progress in intelligence is slower.

Yes my original comment was heavy (non-aircraft) weapons were unusual for a carrier and that the second carrier would have less such weapons.

Regards

Pete

Josh said...

Regarding the choice of MiG-29 vs Su-27 derivatives, I assume the PRC's choice is driven by what fighter types they currently produce. Relying on the Russians for a completely unique airframe type would be very limiting, assuming the Russians were even selling. Su-27 might simply be the only indigenous produced fighter type with sufficient thrust and low enough stall speed that could be adapted to a ski-jump *without* either buying foreign (limiting availability) or a clean slate design (delaying deployment). The choice might be sub optimal but be the best available even if its size negatively affects the embarked air group (I agree with the assessment the airgroup will likely NOT be noticeably larger). Its fascinating to watch video the J-15 lumber off Liaoning; compared to USN cat launches one is almost more reminded of old footage of SBD's lumbering off the front of a Yorktown class.

Agree with another poster that the weapons fit will be entirely defensive in nature and largely match the Liaoning with minor differences in layout. PLAN doesn't want for AShM launchers.

I expect this platform to largely be a clone of the current one - PLAN's approach to naval technology is very evolutionary to date; see the various flavors of Type 52.

Cheers,
Josh

Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh

The J-15 certainly looks too large and dangerously slow as it lumbers off the Liaoning. Seems China wants the prestige of a fixed wing jet aircraft carrier even if the jet performance is very marginal without benefit of catapult.

The same prestige disease may be effecting the Russian and Indian ski-jump carriers. Particulary for medium range + ground attack bombs lifting capacity, catapult launch seems essential.

For its really effective fixed wing naval aviation China may need to rely on long runways on the mainland, on Hainan and on the three South China Sea (Mischief, Subi and Fiary Cross) "Island Aircraft Carrier" reefs.

Regards

Pete

Josh said...

I think the Chinese really aren't kidding when they say its a training carrier. You have to crawl before you can run, and they lack any previous operational experience with large formations, deck handling of aircraft, landing on a deck at night, etc. I think they are realistic that their current plane and CV class aren't a really capable match - they just want to start getting into the game, for both political flag waiving and general operational experience.

I think its unsurprising that no one is jumping into using cats. All other countries largely lack any experience with cat technology, at least with cats that would be useful for an 40 ton aircraft launch. The only other ship using steam cats uses imports from the US (De Gaul). The UK, if it had went that way, was going to use EMALS. Steam cats also require you use oil fired boilers (or nuke plants if you have them) which I believe is generally considered a step backward propulsion wise in terms of efficiency, reliability, and personnel costs. Alternatively you could run boilers separate from the propulsion plant dedicated to the cats, but that isn't a model of efficiency either.

But other countries seem to have aircraft rather better suited for ski jump usage. The most interesting thing to me is what the *next* PLAN embarked air frame will be - there really doesn't seem to be another obvious candidate on the horizon as far as I can tell. J-20 seems far too large (and likely under powered) to be practical, J-31 perhaps if China's engine problems could be sorted out. The mention of J-10 above is interesting and I'm actually surprised more effort isn't put in that direction, though maybe there's some aerodynamic reason that aircraft is unsuitable.

Cheers,
Josh

Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh [Jan 23, 2:46AM] vectored thrust and ski-jumps.

You've made many good points. My next take on all this is historical.

I think there is much unviable Russian carrier development now requiring China and India to relearn old lessons in carrier development.

Noting that Russia is no role model - never used carriers old or new in action - Russia built the Kiev class https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiev-class_aircraft_carrier of cruiser-carriers in the 1970s around the Yak-38 "Forger" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakovlev_Yak-38 vectored thrust jet.

Forgers looked like Harriers, but proved a failure. Nevertheless, like Harriers, Forgers benefitted from ski-jump launch. But even though Russia developed a full deck with ski-jump carrier it never developed an the improved vectored thrust jet (which would have been the "Yak-36".

The Russians saw that after building 4 Kiev "cruiser-carriers" the odd hybrid criser-missile add-on concept failed. So Russia built the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuznetsov-class_aircraft_carrier with a ski-jump which might have made sense if Russia had developed the Yak-36.

India saw that it could buy the old Kiev "Gorshkov" "cheap" from Russia/Ukraine and have it converted up to something like "full carrier" Kuznetzov class. Out of that is INS Vikramaditya. - China bought a Kuznetsov hull ("Varyag") converting it into Liaoning. China's second carrier so far appears to be a "Liaoning II". China cannot escape failed Russian thinking.

These bright Indian and Chinese ski-jump results really needed a successful "Forger" that never eventuated.

Meanwhile Western innovation and experience is far more successful 1. use of the post UK Light Carriers WITH CATAPULTS was successful 2. the UK catapult launched F-4 Phantoms operationally from light-mid size carriers. 3. the UK and the US havd/have good carrier vectored trust aircraft in the Harrier/AV8. 4. Falklands successful use. 5. the US (unlike Russia) is developing a follow-on vectored thrust aircraft (the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-35_Lightning_II#F-35B )

Moral of the story is to make ski-jump logical you need a vectored thrust aircraft. China may be trying to develop a vectored thrust J-18 but reports may be premature https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140705035026-62667533-jane-s-it-s-beyond-all-doubt-china-is-developing-j-18-vtol-stealth-fighter . If the J-18 (or a less ambitious vectored thrust aircraft) were developed then Liaonings I and II would make sense, I think.

The US is unlikely to offer F-35Bs to the Indian Navy due to the high chance of transfer to Russia for reverse engineering.

Regards
Pete