China Reveals Another ‘Growler’

 - May 8, 2018, 9:39 AM
The variation in surface coloration of the fuselage suggests extensive modifications to the J-15 airframe. (Photo: via Chinese search engine,

Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) of China is developing the J-15D, a dedicated carrier-borne electronic warfare fighter. New photographs of the J-15D with jamming pods and primer coating were circulating the Internet in early May, with Chinese observers dubbing the airplane the "China Growler" or "Growler Shark" after the J-15 Flying Shark.

A similar capability was tested on the land-based tandem-seat Shenyang J-16 in 2015, with the designation J-16D. The J-16 is based on the Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKK, with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The "D" variant had the infrared search and track (IRST) system and 30 mm cannon removed, likely to accommodate more electronic warfare avionics on the aircraft. The J-16D also featured two wingtip jamming pods, with four knife-edge antennas visible.

The carrier-based J-15 derives from the single-seat Su-33, but SAC produced a twin-seat variant in 2012, known as the J-15S. This has become the basis of the J-15D, where the rear seat is likely to be reserved for the electronic warfare operator. As on the J-16D, the radome on the J-15D lacks an IRST and cannon and also a pitot tube, suggesting the installation of AESA radar. Photos of the unpainted J-15D show various modifications to the original J-15 airframe, including a possible new antenna installation on the leading edge of the canard. The photos also suggest that composite materials have been used for the elevator, flaps, air brakes, and vertical stabilizer.

Of most significance, the J-15D features an improved wingtip jamming pod, compacting the protruding antennas on the J-16D into a streamlined pod. Little is known about these pods but they are often compared with the U.S. Navy’s Northrop Grumman AN/ALQ-218 Tactical Jamming Receiver found on the Boeing E/A-18G Growler.

The J-15D continues to be powered by Russian NPO Saturn AL-31 turbofans, instead of the anticipated domestic WS-10B engines. Some Chinese sources believe it is due to flight safety on the prototype aircraft and the relative simplicity of integrating with the J-15 airframe.