China has commissioned the J-11BH fighter jet, which is a fully modernized version of the J-11B with the same advanced sensors as the fifth generation fighters.
Such radars are difficult to jam, combined with new cockpit displays, navigation systems and data links, these upgrades have effectively revolutionized the J-11B’s capabilities.
The J-11B is a relatively new fighter, and the PLA Air Force may retire fighters based on the same Flanker family airframe designs as the J-11A, Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2. Although air units have deployed the J-11BG fighters, a modernized version of the J-11B in recent years, the launch of the J-11BH version for the navy is a huge step forward for the Chinese military.
More than 200 J-11B fighters are believed to be in service with China’s fleets, which form the backbone of China’s naval fleet. Nearly 40% of the J-11 belongs to the Chinese navy, this aircraft is capable of carrying sensors and a very large missile payload.
When it entered service around 2008, the J-11B was the most capable fighter. Its high combat performance has reduced China’s interest in purchasing competitive heavy fighters from Russia. China is planning a successor to the J-11B, the J-11D, which uses a more powerful composite airframe, AESA radar, and is equipped with an advanced avionics system. This makes the J-11 very likely to be the most advanced non-stealth heavy fighter in the world.
Although production of the new aircraft began in 2018, plans for a successor to the J-11D are said to have been canceled or delayed despite reaching the prototype stage. Instead, China seems to have decided to focus on modernizing the J-11B fleet with avionics and sensors equivalent to the J-11D, without investing in a new airframe.
China said that the J-11B squadron will also be phased out of the original AL-31 engines from Russia, instead using the domestic version of the WS-10 engine as part of the modernization effort. The first images of the J-11BH show the improved J-11 fighter jet carrying the PL-10 short-range air-to-air missile like the J-20, considered the most capable missile to hit targets at very limited angles.
J-11BH can also be armed with long-range missiles such as the PL-15, with an estimated range of 200-300km and using AESA radar for guidance, so it is also considered one of the most capable missiles of its kind.
The J-11BH is also speculated to be able to use the much larger ranged PL-XX missile. Some experts believe that the PL-XX has a range of more than 500km, the longest in the world, used to neutralize support aircraft such as refueling aircraft or early warning aircraft.
The J11-BH can use the long-range PL-15 and the PL-XX will be based on the integration of modern AESA radar that provides a detection range against large enemy aircraft estimated at 400km.