Naval Air Brigades - The composition of present and future PLAN air wing


tphuang

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I looked and couldn't find a recent thread on the composition of PLAN air wing, so I thought I would start one here. I want to explore the current and future composition of PLAN air wings.

From what I can see, CV-16 started off with a regiment of 24 J-15s + about a dozen helicopters of various types along with some JL-9G trainers. Those trainers are not going to be used on missions. The helicopters seem to be about 2 or 3 Z-9s, 3 SAR Z-18s, 3 AEW Z-18Js and 3 Z-18Fs. Based on Huitong's list of photos, I see that they built 6 more J-15s for CV-16 after losing 2 to crashes. I also see that they built 28 J-15s for CV-17. So, that seems to indicate PLAN is willing to operate at most 28 J-15s on Varyag. Although, that would probably mean much fewer helicopters. The smaller Charles De Gaulle class managed to be deployed with as many as 30 Rafale, 2 E-2Cs, 2 Dauphins and 1 NH-90 as its largest air wing. With J-15s and Z-18s' large size, I think an air wing of 28 J-15s, 6 Z-18s and 2 Z-9s would probably be the most they could realistically operate off Liaoning. It would be more than the Russians ever tried to operate off Admiral Kuznetsov carrier. It would also be a lot more capable than what IN can operate off INS Vikramaditya. If they could upgrade J-15s with more modern avionics/missiles, it could be comparable to Charles De Gaulle class in overall capabilities.

The problem is that the first generation J-15s are quite limited in terms of avionics and missile support. The only advantage they have over J-11Bs are more AShM capabilities. I thought about replacing J-15s with J-15Bs down the line, but all the J-15s are still new. It would make more sense for them to do an avionics upgrade on J-15s in a few years with whatever J-15Bs are using. At that time, they could also replace the engines with WS-10Hs.

The more interesting bit is figuring out what 003 and the even larger 004 could field. It would have to be a combination of J-15s, J-35s, KJ-600, Z-18s and Z-20. From
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, Nimitz class air wing consists of 36 F/A-18E/Fs, 12 F-18s, 4 E-2Cs, 4 EA-18Gs and some number of helicopters. In the future, this would probably look more like 24 F-35Cs and 24 F/A-18E/Fs. If we use Nimitz as a reference point for 003, we could see an air wing of 32 J-35s, 12 J-15Bs, 4 J-15BDs, 4 KJ-600, a small number of UCAVs and 12 helicopters. The larger 004 could see an air wing of 40 J-35s, 12 J-15Bs, 4 J15BDs, 5 KJ-600 and similar complement of UCAVs and helicopters.

I'm proposing a more 5th generation (and potentially more capable) air wing on 003/004 here than Nimitz/Ford class, because PLAN can do this without making the same conservative decision that USN made with super hornets. One could argue that when USN decided to replace F-14s/A-6s with F/A-18E/F/Gs, it was actually replacing existing air wing with a less capable one. At least one that had worse range and payload. When USN made the decision to order a whole lot of Super hornets (540 in service and another 78 to be delivered), it effectively made that aircraft the mainstay of the naval aviation for a couple of decades. Only 273 F-35Cs are expected to be ordered. When they are paying Boeing a lot of money this decade to upgrade those aircraft to Block III standard, they are likely to be around until 2040s. As such, PLAN is benefiting from a decision US made when the war on terror was still the focus of Washington establishment.

I would expect J-15 variants to be serving PLAN for a long time. Even in the age of stealth, there is still a huge role for large multi-role fighter jet that can carry a lot of large anti-ship missiles and powerful radar/EW suites. With its superior range/payload, they could potentially do that role better than super hornets.
 

Gloire_bb

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The more interesting bit is figuring out what 003 and the even larger 004 could field. It would have to be a combination of J-15s, J-35s, KJ-600, Z-18s and Z-20. From
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, Nimitz class air wing consists of 36 F/A-18E/Fs, 12 F-18s, 4 E-2Cs, 4 EA-18Gs and some number of helicopters. In the future, this would probably look more like 24 F-35Cs and 24 F/A-18E/Fs. If we use Nimitz as a reference point for 003, we could see an air wing of 32 J-35s, 12 J-15Bs, 4 J-15BDs, 4 KJ-600, a small number of UCAVs and 12 helicopters. The larger 004 could see an air wing of 40 J-35s, 12 J-15Bs, 4 J15BDs, 5 KJ-600 and similar complement of UCAVs and helicopters.
For mid-late 2020s, US standard wing will look as follows:

Fixed wing: 3x VFA ( 28 F-18E/F), 1x VFA or VMFA (16 F-35C), 1x VAQ (up to 7 E-18G), 1x VAW (5 E-2D)
UCAV(refuel): 5-9 MQ-25
Rotary wing: 3 CMV-22B, up to ~10 MH-60R/S

The point is, F-35C is actually a secondary bird here (and not because of its capabilities!). As of now, we don't really know what J-XY role in this composition is. Thus predicting its place and ratio is very difficult. We also know very little about J-15T.
Also, as a note, I personally don't see why PLAN won't at least try to operate J-XY from the 001s.

The problem is that the first generation J-15s are quite limited in terms of avionics and missile support. The only advantage they have over J-11Bs are more AShM capabilities. I thought about replacing J-15s with J-15Bs down the line, but all the J-15s are still new. It would make more sense for them to do an avionics upgrade on J-15s in a few years with whatever J-15Bs are using. At that time, they could also replace the engines with WS-10Hs.
Considering that early J-15s were built before any practical experience with fixed-wing types at sea, replacing them with new production batches (those taking into account actual service experience) at the earliest date possible may be the way to go.
Later on(late 2020s?) maybe even unifying the fleet around J-15T for cross-deck capability.

This won't prevent them from operating in training/coastal roles.
 

optionsss

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I see future PLAN use the stealthy 4th J-35 as scouts/ air superiority fighter, and leave the strike role to J-15, UCAV and even ship launched long range hypersonic weapons. The current stealth aircraft does not have enough room to carry the large antiship or long range cruise missiles internally and external weapons would comprise stealth. Eventually the role of J-15 will be replaced by different UCAV.

So in the 2025-2035 time frame, around 24*J-15, 24*J-35, 12*UCAV, 3*KJ-600, and 10 helicopter for the 003 type of carrier

For the 2035-2045 time frame, I think the traditional strike role of carrier based aircraft will be replaced by drones and hypersonic weapons. Obviously, this depends on technical advancement and their experience with 076. We might see the development of smaller (50000 ton) carriers with large missile cruisers (20000 to 30000 ton).
 

tphuang

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For mid-late 2020s, US standard wing will look as follows:

Fixed wing: 3x VFA ( 28 F-18E/F), 1x VFA or VMFA (16 F-35C), 1x VAQ (up to 7 E-18G), 1x VAW (5 E-2D)
UCAV(refuel): 5-9 MQ-25
Rotary wing: 3 CMV-22B, up to ~10 MH-60R/S

The point is, F-35C is actually a secondary bird here (and not because of its capabilities!). As of now, we don't really know what J-XY role in this composition is. Thus predicting its place and ratio is very difficult. We also know very little about J-15T.
Also, as a note, I personally don't see why PLAN won't at least try to operate J-XY from the 001s.


Considering that early J-15s were built before any practical experience with fixed-wing types at sea, replacing them with new production batches (those taking into account actual service experience) at the earliest date possible may be the way to go.
Later on(late 2020s?) maybe even unifying the fleet around J-15T for cross-deck capability.

This won't prevent them from operating in training/coastal roles.

Are you sure only such a small wing? With the ford class coming online, they should be able to do something like 36 F-18E/F and 20 F-35Cs.

PLAN definitely needs something like MQ-25 if it wants to sustain operations in the future. Not only that, but they need a lot of training/experience in fixing up the wear and tear on their aircraft in the middle of a long deployment. That's not easy to do. Especially for maintaining stealth aircraft in the future. Even Carl Vinson's F-35Cs showed a lot of rust after the recent trip through SCS. no idea how that would affect stealth quality of the aircraft.

I like to USN as the model that PLAN should follow, but their over commitment for super hornets is definitely not something PLAN should follow. The fact that only Australia and Kuwait ordered them shows how the rest of the world thinks of it. And in Australia case, I think it was probably more chasing the capabilities of Growler. Now, you have a scenario where PLAN could have qualitatively better air wing than USN for a decade or 2.

Just looking at this link
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Boeing signed a $4 billion contract with the Navy in May 2019 for 78 new-build Block III Super Hornets which should be delivered by spring 2024. Tebo says Boeing will also convert all of the service’s current Block II Super Hornets – more than 550 airplanes - to Block III configuration with deliveries scheduled between 2023 and the mid-2030s.
Yikes, super hornets are probably not going to retire in large numbers until well into 2040s. I guess that's the unfortunate reality for USN when the new warships are costing so much money.

Based on what USN is doing with super hornets, I definitely think PLAN needs to raise the standards on J-15B. WS-10H should hopefully have longer service life and thrust than the AL-31s. They will need it to become the de facto bomb trucks. Maybe there are certain things they can do to improve the reliability and maintenance of J-15 air frame through long expeditions. If they can do something to lower that humongous RCS, they should. I think installing the same generation of avionics/missile support found on J-16 would be a bare minimum.
 

Maikeru

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My understanding of the air wings of 001 and 002 is:

24xJ15
3xZ18 AEW
5xZ18 ASW
2xZ18 transport
2xZ9 SAR

36 aircraft total. 002 can carry a few more J15 than 001 it seems but not sure if this capacity is used or PLAN prefers to keep the same number but have more room to move planes around with.
 
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Volpler11

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View attachment 99371
This image I believe.

For J-15 production I really have no idea lol. I am even more confused.

Inspired by this post, I am reviving this thread to talk about PLAN airwing brigadization. It makes sense for the PLAN to transition to also transition to brigades after the airforce have already done so, yet there hasn't been much discussion about it.

The only brigades on scramble are the 14th naval aviation brigade of NTC operating JH-7A and the 4th naval aviation brigade of ETCoperating Su-30MK2 and J-10.


Doing some research:

This
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dated 2022-03-03 talks about a certain naval aviation brigade doing training out of a reef airport. The photo shows 81x8x which is the 22nd air regiment.

This
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also refers to 81x8x as a brigade.

This
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dated 2022-07-14 also talks about a certain STC naval aviation brigade.

This
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dated 2022-06-27 talks about a certain STC naval aviation brigade showing a photo of JH-7A with serial 83x9x which is 27th air regiment.

This
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dated 2021-12-26 talk about a certain ETC naval aviation brigade showing a photo of JH-7


This photo showing J-15 no 90 says naval aviation brigade commander. Previously J-15 are just refered to as certain unit.
1665720983448.png
 

Deino

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Inspired by this post, I am reviving this thread to talk about PLAN airwing brigadization. It makes sense for the PLAN to transition to also transition to brigades after the airforce have already done so, yet there hasn't been much discussion about it.

The only brigades on scramble are the 14th naval aviation brigade of NTC operating JH-7A and the 4th naval aviation brigade of ETCoperating Su-30MK2 and J-10.


Doing some research:

This
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dated 2022-03-03 talks about a certain naval aviation brigade doing training out of a reef airport. The photo shows 81x8x which is the 22nd air regiment.

This
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also refers to 81x8x as a brigade.

This
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dated 2022-07-14 also talks about a certain STC naval aviation brigade.

This
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dated 2022-06-27 talks about a certain STC naval aviation brigade showing a photo of JH-7A with serial 83x9x which is 27th air regiment.

This
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dated 2021-12-26 talk about a certain ETC naval aviation brigade showing a photo of JH-7


This photo showing J-15 no 90 says naval aviation brigade commander. Previously J-15 are just refered to as certain unit.
View attachment 99424


Thanks a lot, but my problem - besides the 4th Naval Air Brigade, which was formed from the former 10th and 12th ARs (for the 14th Brigade I'm still not sure!) - is, that I don't understand their composition or the way they were formed?!

I read several options ...

1. they are - like the PLAAF Air Brigades - simply formed from the former regiments and also keep their numbers.

--> This would fit to the 14th NAB formed from the former 14th NAR, however the 10th & 12th NARs merged to the 4th NAB would contradict.


2. they are in fact larger units and formed by the merger of two former regiments by retaining the former naval air division's number!

--> This would fit to the 4th NAB formed from the former 10th & 12th NARs merged to the 4th NAB, however it would contradict the 14th NAB.



As such, I'm still highly confused.
 

Volpler11

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Thanks a lot, but my problem - besides the 4th Naval Air Brigade, which was formed from the former 10th and 12th ARs (for the 14th Brigade I'm still not sure!) - is, that I don't understand their composition or the way they were formed?!

I read several options ...

1. they are - like the PLAAF Air Brigades - simply formed from the former regiments and also keep their numbers.

--> This would fit to the 14th NAB formed from the former 14th NAR, however the 10th & 12th NARs merged to the 4th NAB would contradict.


2. they are in fact larger units and formed by the merger of two former regiments by retaining the former naval air division's number!

--> This would fit to the 4th NAB formed from the former 10th & 12th NARs merged to the 4th NAB, however it would contradict the 14th NAB.



As such, I'm still highly confused.
Chinese wiki seems to have a system figured out.
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It does match the current observation with respect to the serial numbers.

This
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talks about an STC naval aviation brigade on 2021-03-03 and this
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on 2020-06-7 talks about an ETC naval aviation brigade with a photo of JH-7? give some hint of the timeline of when the reorganization occurred.

There is also this
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talking about a carrier brigade on 2021-08-09 and this
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on 2020-01-17 about a carrier aviation brigade commander suggests the carrier wings are brigades as well.
 

Deino

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Chinese wiki seems to have a system figured out.
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It does match the current observation with respect to the serial numbers.

This
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talks about an STC naval aviation brigade on 2021-03-03 and this
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on 2020-06-7 talks about an ETC naval aviation brigade with a photo of JH-7? give some hint of the timeline of when the reorganization occurred.

There is also this
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talking about a carrier brigade on 2021-08-09 and this
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on 2020-01-17 about a carrier aviation brigade commander suggests the carrier wings are brigades as well.
Thanks a lot … haven’t checked the Chinese wiki page since some time
 

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