The first clear images of the new Shenyang J-15D electronic attack aircraft for the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF) have appeared online. The heavily reworked Chinese development of the Flanker family is also understood to carry the designation J-17. Meanwhile, some enthusiasts have dubbed it the ‘Chinese-Growler’, on account of a suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD) role presumed analogous to that of the US Navy’s EA-18G Growler.
Indeed, the ‘Chinese-Growler’ name is not too far-fetched, since the aircraft apparently follows a similar development path to the EA-18G, which was evolved from the two-seat F/A-18F. The J-15D is based on the dual-seat J-15S trainer, which first flew on November 3, 2012, and also incorporates technologies from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s J-16D – itself an electronic warfare variant of the twin-seat Shenyang J-16 strike fighter.
According to reliable sources, a first J-15D testbed was first flown back in October 2016 and this latest aircraft is the first true prototype.
Characteristic features of the J-15D include two huge electronic warfare pods on the wingtips that likely contain either electronic support measures (ESM) or electronic intelligence (ELINT) equipment.
Based on the latest reports, development of the J-15S has meanwhile been abandoned and the project merged with the J-15D to create a true multi-role J-17 carrier variant. Andreas Rupprecht
March 2019As the Royal Air Force prepares to bid farewell to what is arguably its most significant post-war aircraft type – the unmistakeable swing-wing Tornado – the March issue of AFM pays tribute to the Tornado GR Force. Thomas Newdick spoke to some of the last crews active on the force, Jamie Hunter met Air Commodore Ian Gale and there’s a free poster showing every RAF squadron to have flown the ever-popular Tornado GR.
In Germany, the Tornado is still going strong but the search is on for a replacement for the 89 ageing fighter-bombers due to be retired from 2025. With the F-35 now out of the running, Jon Lake looks behind the headlines, while Dr Stefan Petersen checks in on the Luftwaffe as it assesses its national defence capabilities in the air arm’s largest exercise of recent years. And, as a new wave of fighter competitions takes shape across Europe, Alan Warnes assesses the other nations’ requirements.
There’s more exercise action from El Centro, California, where Vortex Warrior provides desert environmental qualification for the RAF’s Chinooks heavy-lift helicopters. We also catch up with the Argentine Air Force in the Patagonian Andes, where the service practises flying in an environment that closely simulates operations in the Antarctic.
Coverage of fighters old and new includes the transition to the Lightning II by the VFA-147 ‘Argonauts’ – the first frontline F-35C squadron – and plans for the final F-4 Phantom IIs of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
Other regular features include Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE’s take on one of the most hazardous missions faced by modern fighter pilots – suppression or destruction of enemy air defences, while the latest of our fleet survey series concludes our analysis of Frogfoot operators among the former Soviet states by focusing on Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.