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J-11 Fighter

The PLAAF was the first true export customer for the Sukhoi Su-27, operating the single-seat SU-27SK Flanker-B and the two-seat Su-27UBK Flanker-C since June 1992. After taking delivery of 48 Russian-built examples, China decided it wanted to build their own the Su-27 – Shenyang J-11 Fighter. On 6th December 1996 the Russian military sales organisation Rosvo’oruzheniye (now Rosoboronexport) signed a licensing agreement worth an estimat­ed US$ 2.7 billion with the Shenyang Aircraft Co., allowing the latter to manufacture 200 Su-27SKs – subject to the proviso that they would not be exported. Initially the fighters would be assembled from CKD kits supplied by the Komsomol’sk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO); the licence did not cover the engines and avionics, which were imported from Russia. By June 1997 SAC had received a full set of manufacturing documents for the Flanker.

In keeping with Chinese practice the licence-built Su-27SK was designated J-11 Fighter, inheriting the designation of a stillborn fighter project J-11 (and, ironically, devel­oped at Shenyang). Some sources, however, apply this designation retroactively to the Russian-built examples as well; moreover, the same sources refer to the PLAAF’s Su-27UBKs as ‘JJ-11s’, although the two-seater was not covered by the licensing agreement!

In 1998 KnAAPO delivered the first two kits; both aircraft rolled off the SAC assembly line and were test flown in December. However, the local workmanship turned out to be substandard, and Russian technicians had to rebuild both aircraft. To remedy the situa­tion, further imports of Russian-built Flanker- B/Cs followed in 2000-02.

Five aircraft had been assembled by 2000; by 2003 this number had risen to 20. By late 2004 all 105 parts kits (of diminishing com­pleteness) representing the first batch had been delivered from Russia, of which 60 had been assembled and delivered to the PLAAF, but there was no sign of the follow-up order for 95. The Chinese-built machines entered service with the 1st Division based at Anshan AB and the 2nd Division at Suixi AB.

In late 2002 Shenyang reportedly began devel­oping its own multi-role version of the J-11 fighter incorporating up to 90% of locally made com­ponents, as the Chinese considered the SU-27SK ‘old technology’. The changes includ­ed an indigenous multi-mode radar which had been tested on the Shaanxi Y8CB avionics testbed. The radar and other avionics allowed integration of the domestic PL-12 (SD-10) active radar-homing AAM and Chinese or Russian precision-guided muni­tions. The second major change was a switch to the Liming WS-10A turbofan which had been tested in a Su-27SK (or J-11) in 2002.

At least three J-11B prototypes serialled 523, 524 and 525 were tested by the CFTE. Finally, in February 2008 the PLAAF’s 1st Air Division took delivery of the first two produc­tion examples (‘10121 Black’ and ‘10123 Black’). A two-seat version equivalent to the SU-27UBK but incorporating the same changes as the J-11B was developed and des­ignated J-11BS {Shuangzuo - two-seater). The prototype was in final assembly at the Shenyang Aircraft Co. by May 2008.

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