The Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark—the first Chinese carrier-based fighter that is designed to match and even surpass the American F/A-18E/F Super Hornet—is no longer a test prototype. This photo shows fully operative serial units on the deck of the Liaoning, People's Liberation Army Navy's aircraft carrier.

According to the US Naval Institute, "these aircraft are very likely based at the newly constructed base near Huludao, Liaoning Province. Purpose-built as a carrier training facility, the base boasts of 24 shelters for a regiment of fighter-sized aircraft, maintenance hangars, as well as ski-jumps and flight-deck markings that replicate those found on the Liaoning."

Together with the Liaoning—a refurbished Soviet Kuznetsov-class carrier—these J-15s complete China's very first step towards the creation of a naval force that can serve their global strategic interests and, eventually, be capable of facing the US Navy in combat. At this point, however, they are still very far away from matching the unparalleled power of the US Navy—both in numbers of ships and aircraft as well as technological superiority. Even if the United States stopped to build new vessels and aircraft right now, it will take the Chinese at least a decade or two to get anywhere near the level of the American naval forces. Still, having the ability to put an air base anywhere in the world is something that can't be ignored.

The Liaoning aircraft carrier in action.


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