Chinese Navy J-15 carrier-based fighters complete nighttime buddy refuelling in flight

Recently, two J-15 carrier-based fighter jets attached to a ship-borne aviation unit under the PLA Navy (PLAN) have successfully completed the nighttime buddy refuelling training in air space, marking a new breakthrough in their all-weather long-range combat capability.

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Chinese Navy J 15 carrier based fighters complete nighttime buddy refueling in flight 925 001 Chinese PLA Navy J-15 carrier-based aircrafts practice nighttime air-to-air refuelling. (Picture source: Li Chun/Chinanews)

China's aircraft carrier-based J-15 fighter jets have now become capable of conducting nighttime buddy refuelling, one of the most challenging tactical moves by carrier-borne fighter jets, the PLA Navy revealed after recent successful exercises.

Nighttime buddy refuelling operations can significantly boost aircraft carriers' round-the-clock combat capabilities, as such operations extend their combat range and enable more firepower, military experts said Tuesday, noting that China's two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, use jump-rack decks rather than catapults, which has limited the maximum payload of aircraft at takeoff.

Chinese Navy J 15 carrier based fighters complete nighttime buddy refueling in flight 925 002 A ship-borne J-15 fighter jet prepares to land at the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning (Hull 16). A Chinese Navy flotilla including aircraft carrier Liaoning has conducted a series of exercises in the South China Sea since the grand naval parade last Thursday. (Picture source: ( by Zhang Lei))

Aerial refuelling, also known as centimetre-level flight, is universally recognized as one of the most challenging flight events, as it is extremely easy for the aircraft to scratch or even collude in the dim light against a dark background. This time's nighttime buddy refuelling training was conducted between two carrier-based J-15 fighters, which are only about 10 meters separated during the aerial refuelling process. This placed extremely high requirements on the pilots' operational skills, physiological and psychological conditions, and cooperation capabilities.

The Shenyang J-15 (NATO reporting name: Flanker-X2, also known as Flying Shark), is a 4th generation, twin-jet, all-weather, carrier-based fighter aircraft in development by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation and the 601 Institute for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy’s aircraft carriers. It is developed from J-11B as well as from studying of a prototype of Su-33.