Photographs recently published in online forums show a two-seat Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-15 multirole fighter aircraft equipped with what appear to be wingtip electronic warfare (EW) pods, suggesting that an electronic attack (EA) variant of the aircraft may be at a late stage of development for China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF).
The single-seat J-15 forms the core of the carrier airwing on China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning , and will also embark in the second carrier that is expected to begin initial sea trials shortly.
A two-seat version of the carrier-borne J-15, commonly referred to as the J-15S, was first reported to have flown in late 2012 and it was anticipated that it would be introduced as a two-seat trainer. However, very few images have appeared in open sources and it is possible there are only one or two prototypes.
The recently released images suggest that the latest variant of the two-seat J-15, which has been referred to as the J-15D, may be being developed for the EA role. This has drawn comparisons of the aircraft with the US Navy’s Boeing EA-18G Growler, which can carry the wingtip AN/ALQ-218 Tactical Jamming Receiver (TJR) pods, up to three AN/ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System (TJS) pods, and AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs).
The photographs of the J-15D also show that the aircraft’s infrared search-and-track (IRST) sensor has been removed and that additional electronic equipment has likely been installed behind various panels of a different colouration (grey) from that of the main fuselage (light yellow).
The addition of a second crew member to the J-15 would enable a weapon systems officer to focus on the EW battle, as the associated workload would be greater than that manageable by the pilot alone.
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