The Tomcat is a looker too and the perfect fleet defence and long range multirole fighter. The timing of the Soviet Union's collapse and rise of China meant the USN were asked to tighten its belt with F-18s until the next generation arrived. The Tomcat if modernised, would be more than a match for any modern flanker. Swept wings mean the best of all worlds (except costs and maintenance complexity) and they could install F-135s on an upgraded build! Imagine the radar and electronic power on such a thing with two F-135s. I think this is why PLAN insisted on avoiding smaller fighters like J-10 and Mig-29 even if they are more suited to the first two smaller carriers. Just doesn't have that raw power in every domain (except stealth). I guess the Su-33 prototype was more available and definitely a familiar platform.IMO, The J-15 is the most beautiful Naval aircraft. Can't wait to see it fully loaded out and taking off from a catobar carrier.
I still see a lot of utility in something like a modernised J-15 and dedicated EW. J-35 will have shorter range and payload compared to J-15s. J-35s also will not be able to carry any long ranged A2A missiles that are designed to target tankers, AWACS, and larger aircraft like bombers. Similar to what the Phoenix was designed to do against Soviet bombers with air launched anti-ship missiles. There really isn't much preventing a flanker from receiving serious electronics upgrades to the point they approach dedicated 5th gen designs which took those electronics in mind from the ground up. The only downside is stealth but it makes up for that in providing utility elsewhere; range, payload, and greater range of ordinance available for carry. To be honest stealthy 5th gens are very limited in what they are tasked to do - either air superiority force multipliers or very limited strike tasks (tiny bays = 2x bombs etc).The big problem is that tomcat is not stealthy. For that same reason, china needs a more modern plane than j-15.