Attrition: The Man Nobody Seems To Know


December 2, 2012: Right after China carried out its first jet (a locally built J-15) launch and landing on an aircraft carrier, the man most responsible for creating the J-15 died of a heart attack. The deceased was Luo Yang and he was the 51 year old head of the Shenyang Aircraft Company, a state owned firm that successfully copied the Russian Su-33 and turned it into the nearly identical, but Chinese built, J-15. This was actually a carrier version of the Russian Su-27. China also copied the Su-27 and buildt it as the J-11. Luo Yang was trained as an aircraft designer and early in his career reached a crossroads where he decided to dedicate his life to successfully copying Russian aircraft designs. Copying Russian military was not a sure thing in China. Copying Russian jet engines and nuclear submarine designs has failed and many other techs were not nearly as good as the original. But Luo Yang seemed to have a magic touch in making this tech theft succeed. He looked east and west and made it work. The J-15 was the pinnacle of his career.

Luo Yang was only 51 when he died. It’s unclear if he had an undetected heart condition, the stress of developing all those new aircraft, or something else got to him. In any event, he died satisfied, as the J-15 had already shown it could be launched and recovered on a carrier before he mentioned to aides that he was not feeling well. Luo Yang died as the carrier was returning to its base.

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