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Image suggests China is producing fourth batch of J-15 fighter aircraft

China's Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) seems to be continuing production of the J-15 carrier-borne multirole fighter, with a recently released image showing an aircraft that appears to be from the fourth production batch.

The photograph, which was released on 1 August via the Weibo social media platform, shows a J-15 in People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF) markings bearing what appears to be production number ‘0401' on the intake: an indication that it is part of the fourth and latest batch. The aircraft was photographed in a hangar, with several naval personnel seen saluting, possibly as part of an event to mark the 94th anniversary of the founding of the PLA.

This comes after SAC, which is a subsidiary of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), indicated in February 2020 that it had resumed production of the J-15. The manufacturer released images at the time showing at least one J-15 painted in green primer, suggesting that the aircraft was part of a new batch, which is now believed to have been the third batch. A few months later, in early October 2020, images emerged of two J-15s bearing production numbers ‘0303' and ‘0306', indicating that they were part of the third production batch.

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. It is not clear how many aircraft from the third and fourth batches have been produced but these aircraft will most likely be required for the PLA Navy's (PLAN's) second aircraft carrier, Shandong

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