Soon after development of the J-11B began, Shenyang began to develop a navalized version of the aircraft to operate from the recently purchased carrier Varyag. In 2001, China purchased an unfinished Su-33 prototype from the Ukraine, allowing Shenyang to work with the design to develop a carrier aircraft. Meanwhile, the Chinese government made repeated attempts to acquire Su-33s directly from Russia. Negotiations fell apart in 2006 when the J-11B was revealed, and thus Shenyang was forced to develop a domestic solution. The resulting aircraft was almost identical in appearance to the Su-33, but is considerably lighter and more capable thanks to extensive use of composites and newer onboard systems.
The J-15 first flew in 2009, powered by the same AL-31F turbofans that powered the Su-33. Carrier trials began in late 2012, and as of late 2013 the J-15 has began operational testing.