China is developing a new variant of the J-15 carrier-based fighter modified for catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) operations, according to images posted on the Xinhua website.
China's only operational carrier, Liaoning (CV-16), has a short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) configuration based on a ski jump and arrestor cables. The J-15 developments pictured suggest that China's second generation of indigenous carriers will employ a CATOBAR configuration instead.
While the images on Xinhua have been blurred to prevent identification of the research organisation, a version of the photo posted elsewhere online shows the name 'China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation [CASIC] 704 Research Institute' on the J-15's fuselage.
CASIC, China's largest shipbuilder, is responsible for the aircraft carrier programme. The 704 Research Institute is one of CASIC's many maritime research wings, and is also known as the Shanghai Marine Equipment Research Institute (SMERI).
SMERI was founded in 1956 and employs about 1,800 scientists. According to its website, it specialises in research into integrated ship power systems and auxiliary mechanical and electrical equipment. This suggests the institute could be involved in the design and development of the catapult and arresting gear for China's future catapult-equipped aircraft carriers.
Given the development work conducted on the J-15 so it can serve on Liaoning , it makes sense for Chinese designers to adapt the aircraft to operate in a CATOBAR environment, writes James Hardy .
However, there has been no evidence in 2014 that China is ready to launch a CATOBAR carrier. Despite much speculation on carrier construction programmes in recent months, satellite imagery analysis of likely construction sites at Shanghai and Dalian show no evidence of carrier construction - at least in open-air dry docks.