Russia Is Angry That China Stole and Copied Its Jet Fighter Designs

Michael Peck

Key point: China has often stolen foreign military technology but there are risks to doing so.

Remember that Russian carrier-based jet that China copied without permission? Those airplanes are crashing, and Russia doesn't seem too broken up about it.

Though Russia and China are now friends, even holding joint exercises, Russia's Sputnik News recently trotted out an article titled "Chinese Navy Short on Carrier-Based Fighters, Only Has Problem-Ridden J-15."

The J-15 is an unlicensed copy of Russia's Su-33 carrier jet, which is a 1980s derivative of the Su-27K land-based fighter. China had acquired a T-10K-3, an Su-33 prototype, from Ukraine and then reverse-engineered it.

With a barely disguised touch of schadenfreude, Sputnik News delved into the woes of the J-15. "Love for the fourth-generation J-15 jet is seldom shown in Chinese circles," said the Russian news site. "The Asia Times noted that Chinese media has disparaged the plane in numerous ways, including referring to it as a 'flopping fish' for its inability to operate effectively from the Chinese carriers, which launch fixed-wing aircraft under their own power from an inclined ramp on the bow of the ship. The J-15's engines and heavy weight severely limit its ability to operate effectively: at 17.5 tons empty weight, it tops the scales for carrier-based fighters. The US Navy's F-18 workhorse, by comparison, is only 14.5 tons."

Many shoppers on eBay and Amazon can attest to what happens when you buy "unlicensed" products, though one can ask how many of these problems began with the original Russian design. In any event, so many J-15s have crashed and burned that China is developing a new carrier jet, the J-31.

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