On December 8, 2023, the Bing Jiang Tang YouTube channel shared a video showing footage of PLA Navy J-35 fighter jets, which are the Chinese counterpart of the F-35, on the deck of the Fujian aircraft carrier. The video also covered the various speculations in Chinese circles about the plane and the way it will be deployed.
Bing Jiang Tang: "Regarding the appearance of a fighter jet model on China's first domestically built electromagnetic catapult aircraft carrier, the Fujian ship, it has become a recent focus of discussion and debate among military enthusiasts. Due to the ridiculously low resolution of previous photos and various angles, the aircraft's appearance initially bore a resemblance to the American F-14 Tomcat carrier-based fighter. Some voices suggested that it might be a model of the J-15 carrier-based fighter with folded main wings or the carrier-based version of the GJ-11 unmanned aerial vehicle.
"However, with the emergence of a slightly clearer photo, the answer has become clear. Our previous speculations were all wrong. From this slightly clearer photo, it can be seen that this fighter jet model adopts a conventional aerodynamic layout with a distinctly diamond-shaped stealthy nose design and side-by-side twin engine exhaust nozzles, with the main wings in an upward folded position.
"Clearly, this is neither the J-15 with a three-wing surface aerodynamic layout, nor the G-11 with a flying-wing aerodynamic layout, but the carrier-based J-35 stealth fighter. In other words, the current shipyard test team is most likely conducting preliminary deck handling tests using a model of the J-35 that was lifted onto the Fujian ship's deck.
"This may indicate two things. Firstly, as one of the most important supporting equipment projects for the Fujian ship, the progress of the J-35 stealth carrier-based aircraft is very promising. Considering the appearances of the J-35 without pitot tubes, and the increasing frequency of test flight videos, it likely means that the domestically produced second fifth-generation fighter, the J-35, is nearing a fully developed status, possibly already achieving technical freeze, and commencing small-scale production and service. The high confidence in the progress of the J-35 is why we are using a full-scale model of this aircraft for deck handling tests.
"Secondly, since the Fujian ship is about to undergo sea trials and the new carrier-based aircraft J-35, which is paired with it, is progressing well, it is not ruled out that the most advanced J-35 will be used in the first real catapult launches and landings [sic] tests on this ship, instead of relying on the relatively traditional catapult-based J-15.
"In other words, during the testing of the Fujian ship's electromagnetic catapult, jet-blast deflectors, arresting gear and landing systems, we may simultaneously test the new stealth carrier-based aircraft in a one-step approach. This can greatly simplify many processes and accelerate the delivery and combat readiness of the two new equipment types. At least based on the current performance of the new aircraft carrier, there should be no significant technical challenges, and the likelihood of successful implementation is not small. As future testing of the Fujian ship includes more items and becomes more comprehensive, the answer regarding the primary aircraft loading mode for the People's Navy will likely become clear. Just from the ship's displacement of over 80,000 tons, its aircraft carrying capacity should be around 60 to 70 aircraft. Regarding the possible number of fixed-wing carrier-based fighter aircraft, there are roughly two opinions in the outside world: 36 J-35 and J-15T aircraft or a total of 48 aircraft. The 12-aircraft difference primarily centers on the number of fixed-wing carrier-based drones that the Fujian ship might carry. Some believe that the number of carrier-based drones will be in the single digits, while others believe that it will reach double digits.
"However, regardless of the specific numbers, there is a general consensus in various circles about the types of aircraft that the first domestically built electromagnetic catapult aircraft carrier will carry, which includes the J-35 stealth carrier-based fighter, J15T carrier-based fighter, KJ-600 carrier-based early warning aircraft, carrier-based versions of the Z-20 and Z-18 helicopters, and carrier-based drones. When the time comes, the Chinese aircraft carrier strike group, centered around the world's first non-American 'super carrier,' will appear with a formidable presence before the world."