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Death Match: Navy F/A-18-F Super Hornet vs. China’s J-15 (Who Wins?)

The United States’ controversial exit from Afghanistan is now in the books, but the nation now must pivot its attention toward the growing threat from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

According to the EurAsian Times, “both the US Navy and PLAN boast uber-sophisticated carrier-based fighter fleets and have been wargaming to gain a competitive edge in the skies over disputed waters. The old but reliable F/A-18-F Super Hornet may potentially see itself pitted against the newer but raw Shenyang J-15, dubbed the Flying Shark.”

The writer went on to add that while a “direct one-on-one dogfight between the two carrier-based aircraft over the Indo-Pacific remains quite possible, there are contradictory assessments of their combat capabilities.”

For Amit Mukherjee, a longtime military aviation expert, the lead in “weapons package” is still with the United States.

“J-15s are aerodynamically far superior to the FA-18 but FA-18 avionics and weapons package is still better. So, in Beyond Visual Range combat, I would expect the F-18 to win. F18- E/F incorporates some stealth features also,” he says.

“The J-15 has a fairly large radar signature. In close air combat, the J-15 should kill the F/A-18. The J-15 take-off from Chinese STOBAR carriers. Hence cannot take off with full weapons payload. The F/A-18 takeoff from the US Navy CATOBAR carriers and can take off with full payload,” he continues.

Advantage at Sea

Meanwhile, Timothy Heath, a RAND Corporation senior defense researcher, noted that the J-15 would have little chance against the F/A-18 at sea.

“If you’re talking about the J-15 going up against the F/A-18 at sea, then the F/A-18 is going to destroy the J-15,” he said.

However, there are other experts who believe that J-15’s ability to carry with it more fuel and a higher weapons payload could, in fact, give it a slight edge in air combat.

For Captain DK Sharma, a decorated Indian Navy veteran, he thinks it is highly difficult to compare the two aircraft.

“Both are totally different like chalk and cheese,” he said. “The F-18/18A is a proven platform with USN. The J-15 has not been seen by the world, and is more of propaganda.”

More than Just Fighter Jets…

More recently, China’s military has shown its improved capabilities in other areas as well—such as being able to launch anti-ship ballistic missiles into the South China Sea.

“These mid-range, anti-ship ballistic missiles are capable of attacking aircraft carriers in the western Pacific,” Adm. Phil Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Their employment during a large-scale PLA exercise demonstrates the PLA’s focus on countering any potential third-party intervention during a regional crisis,” he added.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Slack

    September 21, 2021 at 2:39 pm

    The J-15 normally seen on photos aren’t really fully combat capable jets unlike their counterparts in US Navy’s or the Hornets.

    This is because those jets are
    just training jets as shown by the presence of the forward sensor probe (needle-like protrusion) on the front nose cone.

    Fully combat capable jets like J-16 don’t have those protruding needles because their onboard electronics are latest or most modern types immediately useful or ready for combat.

    A true combat capable J-15 will make mincemeat of its opponent as its radar and engine thrust and missile armament are superior.

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