MELBOURNE, Australia — China appears to be fitting indigenous engines on its Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-borne fighter jet.
Footage shown Nov. 17 on state-owned broadcaster CCTV showed a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 with the afterburner nozzles of the WS-10 Taihang turbofans undergoing calibration in preparation for a test flight at the facilities of manufacturer Shenyang Aircraft Corp.
This is the first time a production J-15 was seen fitted with the locally developed engines; there was an occasion in which the WS-10 was seen on a J-15 prototype built during the aircraft’s development phase.
Production examples of the J-15 were previously fitted with the Russian AL-31F engines. The fighter jet is the last modern, indigenous combat aircraft in China’s inventory to be fitted with the Russian engine, and it follows the single-engine Chengdu J-10 being fitted with the WS-10.
The use of WS-10s on the J-15s in China — and on the J-10s after more than a decade in service — suggests China is confident with the performance and reliability of the engine type for use in riskier single-engine and carrier-borne operations.
The WS-10 is already powering production examples of the Shenyang J-11B interceptor, the J-16 strike aircraft and the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter.
Previous reports suggested China was struggling to overcome reliability and performance issues of the WS-10, as the country contended with wider problems in the development of domestic aircraft engines. As a result, China relied on imported Russian engines to power several of its homegrown aircraft, including the J-20 to the Xi’an Y-20 strategic airlifter.
In addition to the indigenous engine, China is continuing to develop the J-15 airframe, which is based on the Russian carrier-borne fighter Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker. This includes a new variant equipped with a catapult-launch attachment on its nose landing gear as China continues construction on its third aircraft carrier and its first to be fitted with catapults for launching aircraft.
China is also reportedly developing a two-seat J-15 for carrier-borne electronic-attack missions, similar to the land-based J-16D first seen in 2021.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.