Images released on 21 February in an announcement by the Shenyang Aircraft Company (SAC), a subsidiary of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), indicate that the manufacturer has resumed production of its carrier-borne J-15 multirole fighter aircraft.
The images, the publication of which comes about three months after the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned its second aircraft carrier, Shandong , show at least one J-15 painted in green primer - suggesting that the aircraft is part of a new batch - and technicians working on the platform at what appears to be a factory.
Although the SAC announcement does not specifically mention the J-15, the aircraft type can be identified by its shape and canards. The images also feature a short text, stating, among other things, "full resumption of production".
It is unclear, however, when the images were taken and whether the new J-15s will be different in any way from the ones currently in service with the PLAN on the service's first aircraft carrier, Liaoning .
That said, the technicians are wearing surgical masks presumably as protection against the Covid-19 coronavirus, indicating the images were taken relatively recently.
Since 2012 the J-15, which is a Sukhoi Su-33 derivative, has been the PLAN's sole fixed-wing carrier-borne aircraft. Only 24 of these aircraft had been delivered to the PLAN in two batches before production was apparently halted in mid-2017.
At least two J-15s have so far been lost and two more have been damaged, meaning that fewer than 20 of these aircraft are believed to currently be available for the PLAN's two carriers as well as for training. The additional aircraft will most likely be used to set up a second carrier-based air wing to be assigned to Shandong .
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