New details have emerged on the aircraft lineup for the new carrier Liaoning, which analysts say is a “plausible” mix of foreign-designed fighter jets and various helicopters, yet limited due to its lack of other necessary aircraft.
According to the Aug. 28 edition of the Chinese-language Shanghai Morning Post, the carrier will house 36 aircraft, including:
■ 24 Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark fighters.
■ 6 Changhe Z-18F anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters.
■ 4 Changhe Z-18J airborne early warning helicopters.
■ 2 Harbin Z-9C rescue helicopters.
The article was based on quotes from Cao Dongwei, senior colonel and researcher at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Research Institute. The Liaoning is a refurbished Soviet-era Varyag aircraft carrier procured in 1998 by China and commissioned in 2012.
“The overall lineup certainly looks plausible, as the mix of helicopters and fighters is similar to how the Russians outfit their example of this carrier,” said Roger Cliff, senior fellow with the Asia Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council. “The striking thing about this carrier and aircraft lineup is that every single item is based on a foreign system. The Liaoning is a Russian-built ship fitted out with Chinese systems. The helicopters are based on Eurocopter designs. And the J-15 fighters are based on the Russian Su-33 design.”
China’s first carrier air wing reflects a balance between combat and support aircraft seen in the Liaoning’s Russian counterpart, said Richard Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.