Chinese state media released on 25 April the first official close-up pictures of the J-15, which is expected to become the first carrier-based multirole fighter for the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
The pictures, which showed folding wings, a shortened tailcone and strengthened landing gear, were released a day after Chinese defence web sites posted images of the aircraft outside an Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) facility in Shenyang. The images are the first showing the J-15, nicknamed the 'Flying Shark', in standard PLAN grey.
Analysts believe that Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, an AVIC subsidiary, obtained a prototype of the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-33 from Ukraine in 2001 and used it to design the J-15, reportedly improving the avionics and guidance systems. The J-15 is believed to have carried out its first test flight in mid-2009.
The release of images comes amid unconfirmed reports that another defence manufacturer may have test-flown China's first vertical/short take-off and landing (VSTOL) prototype aircraft - reportedly also based on an Su-33 - earlier in April.
Although China's Ministry of National Defence has yet to confirm the news, reports claim the J-18 Hong Ying (Red Eagle) also has foldable wings and will be carrier based.