J-15 fighters on the deck of the Liaoning. (Photo/Xinhua)
With some Western experts predicting that the Liaoning, China's recently commissioned first aircraft carrier, could be sunk by a US naval task force in a matter of minutes, a new article in the Washington-based Defense News on Dec. 1 criticized those observers for burying their heads in the sand.
"When photographs appeared, naysayers called them Photoshopped," said Wendell Minnick, a US military analyst, discussing the development of China's J-15 carrier-based fighter, "Then when videos appeared showing them flying, analysts dismissed them as prototypes that will never go into production."
Proving them wrong, the J-15 carried out its first successful take-off and landing aboard the carrier between Nov. 23 and 25.
While recognizing the weakness of Chinese engine development, Minnick said the learning curve of the country's engineers is impressive. From achievements presented at the recent Zhuhai Airshow last month, Minnick said Chinese aviation development appears years ahead of schedule instead of years behind, as many Western observers claim.
Advanced weapons systems such as LD-10A air-to-ground anti-radiation missile, the SD-10A surface-to-air missile, the Minshan engine designed to replace the Ukrainian engine used byL-15 training aircraft and models of various drones were all on display at the airshow. China has also signed a new contract with Russia to purchase 24 Su-35 fighters. By acquiring the Saturn AL-117S engine used by the Su-35, China will be able to continue the development of its fifth-generation stealth fighter, the J-20.
"The recent air operations by the Chinese aircraft carrier demonstrate that the People's Liberation Army Navy is developing an operational aircraft carrier capability much faster than many Western observers anticipated," said Sam Bateman from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. "I have always believed that given Beijing's perceptions of a more threatening strategic environment and China's technological achievements in other areas, the aircraft carrier capability could be developed quite quickly if it were given high priority." To prevent a regional arms race in East Asia, Bateman suggested that an urgent and more focused strategic between China and the United States is required to prevent confrontation between the world's two largest economies.