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J-15 Naval Flanker
For FSX/P3D (Reviewed) and FS2004, developed by Bear Studios
Reviewed by Joe Lawford
 April 2013

The Shenyang J-15 aka the "Flying Shark" in China, is a carrier-based variant of the successful Su-27 "Flanker" air defence fighter and multi-role platform developed for the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy's (PLAN) aircraft carriers.

The design is based on the Russian Sukhoi Su-33, in 2001 an unfinished prototype was acquired from the Ukraine. The acquired Su-33 prototype was naturally dissected by Chinese engineers to garner as much technology from the vehicle as possible. This ultimately set the basic groundwork for the indigenous J-15 program headed by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation.

The first J-15 prototype is believed to have performed its maiden flight on August 31, 2009, powered by Russian-supplied AL-31 turbofan engines, later it is believed to have been fitted with upgraded engines with more thrust. Other improvements were also made to make it better suited to carrier-based fighter's requirement by way of folding wings, an arrestor cable tail hook and reinforced undercarriage

The J-15 is reported to use different avionics and systems than the Su-33 and uses Chinese-developed technologies. It also features various upgrades such as Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, composite and radar absorbent materials, Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS), improved infra-red search and tracking (IRST) and other new electronics.

A twin seat variant J-15S made its maiden flight on November 4, 2012 - Source: Wikipedia

PL-8 AAM missile launch

Product description

This aircraft has many advertised features so I will be looking to see if this product delivers. Here is a listing of the features from Just Flight's website.

"The Shenyang J-15 carrier-based folding-wing fighter is based on the Sukhoi Su-33 and is fitted with Chinese-produced radars and weapons.

This model from the Bear Studios development team comes in four with different payload configurations and features accurate custom avionics in the highly detailed VC, including ten-mode autopilot, multi-role radar, weapons and stores with the correct aircraft weight adjustments, animated weapon delivery sequences and numerous animations."


    . Four models with different payload configurations;
    . 77-page manual (Mine has 82);
    . Compatible with default and add-on aircraft carriers;
    . Advanced graphics and gauge backlighting;
    . Highly accurate custom avionic displays (MFD, HUD, DTU, CNI);
    . Functional tail hook, carrier landing system and folding wings;
    . Detailed external modelling and aircraft systems based on published data: engine, hydraulics, avionics, radar, flight control and navigation;
    . Functional animated air refuelling probe and switch panel for receiving fuel;
    . Fully animated canopy and ejection sequences;
    . Cockpit sound system for warnings and advisories (FSX only);
    . Exterior landing and taxi lights; dimmable navigation and beacon lights;
    . Animated pilot;
    . Weapons and stores individually modelled with correct aircraft weight adjustments - when released, the SMS (Storage Management System);
        will automatically make dynamic changes;
    . Custom keystroke mapped to gaming devices for HOTAS set-ups;

The individual feature list is very, very impressive and could take up the rest of this page so I suggest you take a look at the product page over at Just Flight.

    . Included CV-16 Ai Aircraft Carrier (AiCarriers 2 model).

The PLA Navy CV-16 Liaoning (formerly Russian Admiral Kuznetsov) aircraft carrier model is included for use in FSX and Prepar3D. In order to use all of the functionality of the aircraft carrier you will need to have installed the Flight Simulator X Acceleration Pack.

This carrier model features standard FSX Acceleration stock animations such as blast shield, wheel hold bar, auto-rotating weapons and radars, as well as highly detailed deck vehicles. It has functional arrestor cables, Improved Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System (IFOLS) signal lights and virtual catapult rails.

Ready to go

On final

The carrier model makes use of highly detailed daylight and night textures, and lighting for night operations. It is fully compatible with the popular AI Carriers tool and can be used in FSX missions.

Delivery & Installation

The product is only available in download format and for a short while exclusively from Just Flight. The download weighs in at around 132 Mb so not that big for a modern day download. Once unwrapped, 350MB of hard drive space is required for FSX and P3D and 750MB for FS2004, the size difference for the FS2004, I wonder, is a typo?

Installation is as easy as it gets and fully automated and the manual is available straight after installation and thereafter from the Windows Start menu or your FSX/Bear Studios folder.


There is quite a hefty manual included, my pdf file reported 82 pages, 5 more than claimed but that's OK with me, I am no Chinese military aircraft buff so need all the help I can get. I printed the manual for reference and my poor old printer had steam coming out of it by the end!

The author is obviously not a native English speaker, so the proof reader in me was was both amused and annoyed at grammatical and other errors. Most of the time it was easy to read but I found myself repeatedly going over sections, for example weapons delivery, where the setup needs to be carried out in a particular way and the explanations were difficult to follow.

The cockpit has a choice of both Chinese and English instruments. The pictures in the manual were of the Chinese switches, so were meaningless to what I would imagine to be the majority of users. Recognition, particularly of the warning lights were, again, difficult to understand.

Example of the manual layout

Conveniently, the manual is written in sections regarding communication, navigation and weaponry. The table of contents unfortunately gives the wrong pages numbers, which for the printed version doesn't matter as the page numbers are not printed anyway.

I took a couple of hours just cross-referencing the document to the cockpit and trying things out and I would recommend you do the same to get your full money's worth. A tip from me, if you are like me, not familiar with the terminology, copy out the acronyms with their meanings and where they can be found in the cockpit, this will save you a lot of time in the long run.

There are check lists included at the end of the manual and a 2 page section on how to set up the included CV16 carrier for use with AiCarriers 2 and with FSX Acceleration's own carriers.


The Flanker has many features that require mapping, or re-mapping of your joystick controls. The instruction are very clear and involve mapping the tail hook, water rudder, wing fold and Concorde nose visor etc.

The instructions also give other tips on carrier specific keyboard short-cuts like how to connect to the catapult and launch the aircraft. Not being a previous carrier pilot, these were very useful tips.

Model Variations

There are two model variants, the J-15 and the J-15S dual-seater. The J15 has two engine types, the original Russian Lyulka-Saturn AL31FK turbofans producing 27,600 lbf each or the Chinese made Taihang WS10A turbofan producing 29,101 lbf of thrust each.

The J-15S is equipped only with the more powerful WS10A engines, so when we get to the sim we have 13 variations.


   .  J-15 with AL31FK in 5 different PLA Navy liveries;
   .  J-15 with  WS10A with 4 different load-outs: CAP (Combat Air Patrol), Anti-Ship, SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences) and Strike
   . J-15S with  WS10A (Chinese Turbofan) with 4 different load-outs: CAP, Anti-Ship, SEAD and Strike payloads.

External Model

No one can deny the beautiful lines that this aircraft possesses, pure Sukhoi Su-33 design including the aggressive stance. Most of the exterior panels, leading edges, missiles and nose cone etc. are finely drawn. Other small details like antennae and tubes stand up to close inspection too.   
Twin-seater ready for pilots

To be honest, I thought the exterior looked rather dull and flat, I know military aircraft are mostly painted in a matt finish but the body detailing and panel lines are painted on, so have no depth. When I looked to the texture folders I found 16 bit 2048x2048 DXT3 bmp files, no dds, bump mapping or specular files.  I have found this to be the case all too often when an aircraft is a multi-sim design, I would imagine the FS2004 files are identical.

The same is true of the undercarriage, the pneumatic suspension parts could have done with some shine or something more to make it look silver rather than a dull grey. The tyres are nowhere near circular, more 18 sided so a more attention to then could have been taken.

The missiles look good with enough detail to be believable and are positioned just right on their respective spars. Here are views of the different load outs.

CAP - 4 x PL8, 6 x PL12

Anti Ship -2 x YJ81, 2 x KAB, 2 x PL12, 4 x PL8

SEAD - 2 x X31, 2 x KAB, 2 x PL12, 4 x PL 8

Strike - 2 x X29, 2 x KAB, 2 x PL12, 4 x PL8

When you step back from the aircraft to get a full view a lot of the problems above seem to disappear, I am probably being hyper-critical with my magnifying glass but I have seen better and a lot worse I must say.


The animations have to be some of the best and most exciting I have seen in FSX. We are all used to control surfaces moving including leading edge and canard wings. Even canopies, tail hooks and animated suspension are not rare.

Where this model stands out is with the superbly detail rocket launching and bomb releases, there are five different animations all with smoke trails and flames, I couldn't quite believe it when I heard the whoosh and the missile shoot off into the distance, very impressive indeed and very smooth movements too.

Here is a short clip of missiles and guns firing.

The Flanker has a fuel probe, which can be operated from the fuel panel inside, wing tip vapour effects, afterburner and engine flame effects too. If life gets too much or you are spiralling Earth bound with no control then you can jettison the canopy and both pilots ejecting is modelled to a high standard.

The Manual advises you can deploy a chute via a cockpit button or a continual press of F2, this is a fairly common procedure and used in many simulations. However, this one does not work. I wonder if the Naval Flanker does have a chute? I am sure there are a lot of shared items used from its earlier J11 Flanker model.

Internal Model

Well, I am not going to go on about the flatness of the textures, I reckon you picked up on that from my descriptions of the exterior. There is an attempt to to make some of proud edges look warn. The specification boasts "High resolution textures with sharp gauge text" This is quite true and the steam gauges are very clear as are the MFD's, which you will be mainly using. The MFD's have both brightness controls to get them just to your liking.

The switches are blocky, some of them have hover-text some of them don't. The instrument control knobs generally react to the mouse scroll wheel as well as left and right clicking, the toggle switches react to the mouse wheel and left clicking only, well most of them do, their operation was a bit inconsistent.

Pit front

Pit left

Pit right

Pit in action!

As I mentioned earlier, the legends on all the switches and warning lights are Chinese, great for realism but useless in practical terms. To swap to English a simple copy and paste of the relevant files are needed and clearly documented.

Chinese cockpit

English cockpit

The layout is fairly conventional with controls and indicators situated in specific related area like fuel control, lighting, electrical and engine etc.

The HUD is thankfully clear and very smooth flowing and informative, besides the usual basic flight info, it can display targeting details and can be used as a radar scope.

Internal lighting is very good, you can choose a red or white flood, the MFD's have contrast and brightness controls too. The exterior lighting can only be activated using these internal switches, keyboard shortcuts and external panels like the Saitek Switch Panel do not appear to work.

Cockpit lighting

Lovely pink glow

In the two-seater version you get a great view in the back seat and an extra MFD, you have virtually all the instrument and switches that you have in the front except for the  Communications, Navigation and Identification (CNI) panel in the front. Also, a few landing indicators are repositioned.                  


The J-15 is just bristling with state of the art electronics.

Positioned below the HUD is the Up Front Control Panel (UFC). The integrated control panel is a keypad system for entering communications, navigation, and autopilot data as well as identification functions.

The autopilot is a custom 10 mode system with the following modes:

    .  Barometric Altitude Hold (BALT);
    .  Radar Altitude Hold (RALT);
    .  Flight Path Angle Hold (FPAH);
    .  Heading Select (HSEL);
    .  Custom in-flight waypoint reprogramming via built-in GPS system;
    .  Coupled Waypoint (CPL WPT);
    .  Coupled Sequence (CPL SEQ);
    .  Coupled TACAN (ground-based TACAN navigation);
    .  Coupled Beacon (Ground-based beacon navigation);
    .  GCI-coupled Vector for air-to-air interception (GCI CMD);

I have tried a few of these modes out and the system responds quite rapidly to inputs and doesn't appear to deviate from the desired height and course input. You can follow a flight plan using GPS and full approach using ILS.

Up Front Control Panel

Multi Function Displays
-  These displays are your main source of information. Each of the main flight instruments have a backup steam gauge tucked away around your knees but all the information can be gathered from the MFD's too in more detail.  The MFD's Horizontal Situation Display (HSD) can be used in conjunction with the UFC to display the various Nav modes. They can also be used to display aircraft position, digital terrain data, NDB, TACAN and GPS data.

The MFD's are controlled by buttons around display bezel.  The are referred to as U1-5, D1-5, L1-5 and R1-5  the out side and a couple of rotary inputs for quick input of course information.

Other than the navigation mode displays, you have Support and Tactical displays. The Support display features readouts of communications, fuel management, flight plans, HUD, electrical and engine integrated control adviser pages.. and more. You access the desired page though a sequence of button presses. After a while you get familiar with where the main pages you need reside.

Support - Info

Support - HSD

Tactical - Weapon selection and arming

Tactical - IRST main page

The manual gives you a walk through of the air to ground and air to air radar modes along with how to select and arm the correct weapon for delivery. This was the most difficult part to remember. Although the manual deals with these individually, it is hard to follow as some of the results of my actions were different from what I expected. 

The Tactical screens offer the radar and targeting modes, initially, this was the source of much frustration for me as no matter how many times I read the manual, I could not select a weapon. As with many things, a lack of knowledge about jet fighters and weapon procedures were the main problem. With a little help I managed to get the systems armed, targeted and fired!

Looking out for bogies!

Target acquired

Locked on

Missile away!

There is a shortcut "cheat" mode which automatically sets up the arming, and it works fine and allows you to select different missiles and track targets and fire. You get an audible warning of a target lock, like music to my ears!

What missile you use depends a lot on what load out you are using. The J-15 has a multi-function radar and an IRST pod. The radar has a maximum searching range of 100 NM with a 45000 ft above or below aircraft scan. The targeting screen can get very cluttered with all the different designators and takes a lot of practice to read and understand, I found reducing the scan range really helped.

Tug Control

Finally, another extra feature the Flanker J-15 gives you is a virtual tug.  This can be used on a carrier or on land, you control the direction with  your stick and rudders so you have four ways of movement, you still have the traditional push-back but this is far better on a carrier. There was no visual representation of the tug from an external view.

Carrier Ops

The Naval Flanker will land on any of the FSX Ai carriers, you have to know where they are and what day and time they sail from port. If I remember rightly I tracked one down to be near KNGU on a Friday at 14:35 local. By flying straight out of the active runway (Should be 28) you should find the carrier to your right just about to leave port. There is a static carrier too but that doesn't have the landing system lights catapults and wires.

Wings fold to make storage more efficient

Just about to catapult from default FSXA carrier

If you enjoy carrier ops then I guess you already have Lamont Clark's AiCarriers2 available as freeware from, the Naval Flanker also comes with an Ai carrier CV-16 Liaoning, a PLAN carrier re-commissioned in 2012. This was originally the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov. With AiCarriers 2 you can position the carrier anywhere by using slew to take the Flanker to your desired position and hitting Shift-J, then voila, a Chinese carrier in you favourite piece of scenery, and yes, you can place it on 27R at Heathrow but that is plane daft!

There after, all the FSX carrier function applies, you must have FSX Acceleration installed in order to get all the carrier features.

Hang on to your hat!

The carrier ops really do offer an exciting diversion, catapulting off the ski jump is just superb I kept having to do it.  Landing is best practiced without the carrier moving at first and when you get good you can get her full steam ahead.


Internal sounds are generally masked by the believable jet whine from the engines, there are some verbal warnings like "High G" thankfully in English, I heard that one quite often, just before the screen dimmed! You will also get the occasional bleep if the aircraft needs to alert you to something. May favourite, as mentioned above, is the locked on bleeps from the targeting system.

Externally, the whoosh you hear as a fired missile heads for its target is very good.

Flight Characteristics

This is a difficult one to judge, she is very nimble and perhaps too fast at low altitudes. Generally, she flew must faster then the specifications hinted at, she climbs straight up like a rocket and turns like she is on rails (With the AoA and G limiter off). It was easy to get those red and black screens to appear as you pulled extreme G. The aircraft has a gauge that displays your present G and the maximum G is stored in the computer so you can display and reset it later.

Fast fly by

Trying to keep just above stall

Push out into an almost vertical climb - Amazing!

Everything out including fuel probe and air brake

Flying a real jet fighter for most of us would be way out of our league so we can only imagine it would be like. Getting used to the characteristics is just something we have to get on with. I am still getting the feel of the Flanker envelope, so no Cobras for me just yet!
Flight Dynamics

I really felt like I was at the controls of a fast and nimble jet.  The cockpit feels very cramped from the front pit but far less so from the rear and the higher position was a real help when landing.

Having a force-feedback stick or a Saitek X-65 would help that realism as the sim experience is quite sanitised. Using a triple screen set up did make the experience more exciting though, especially when taking off from the carrier. 

I think Bear Studios have made a fantastic job of making this aircraft believable and that's all I want from the product.

Sim Performance

I couldn't fault it, as smooth as you like, you may get a stutter if you are running extreme settings with 100% traffic but that shouldn't be necessary to get the best out of this product.  You do need to set the traffic to at least 30% to get a decent amount of targets.

This is a beautiful looking fighting machine, however, the lack luster external textures do let it down a little. The flight characteristics are just about what you would expect albeit on the lively side.

The targeting "missions" are great, as are the carrier operations, you get pulled into the sim with all the extra features and animations and I think it is excellent value for money and well worth trying.

The manual leads to much frustration for the user as it is written by the Devs, so there are many shortcuts in explanations, any lack of understanding is probably not wholly your fault.  Had Just Flight developed it themselves I know it would have been spot on. 

I'm outta here!


    • External Model:
    • Internal Model:
    • Sounds:
    • Flight Characteristics:
    • Flight Dynamics:
    • Documentation
    • Value for money:
9 stars
Mutley's Hangar score of 8.5/10

Joe Lawford
Review machine Spec:
Core i7 Extreme 965 @ 3.6 Ghz | 12Gb Corsair DDR3 Ram |GTX690 Graphics |Windows 7 64bit