Chinese Military Displays Unexpected Aircraft Capabilities

Dean Cheng /

This past week, Beijing announced that it had successfully launched and landed a J-15 fighter aircraft from its new aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

The announcement, accompanied by videos, makes clear that China has put substantial resources—both financial and human—toward its goal of operating aircraft carriers.

There were several notable aspects to this premier flight:

None of this should be taken to mean that the People’s Liberation Army will be conducting full-blown carrier operations in the South or East China Seas next year. It remains to be seen what other aircraft designs the Chinese have developed, including for airborne early warning and anti-submarine warfare.

But given the blithe, near-sneering dismissal of the Chinese carrier as recently as three months ago, it should remind us of the observations of Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance Vice Admiral David Dorsett:

I think one of the things that is probably true, true from my observation in the last several years, is we have been pretty consistent in underestimating the delivery and IOC [initial operating capability] of Chinese technology, weapon systems. They’ve entered operational capability quicker.