In the 1990s, China was looking to upgrade its military. Seeing what the United States Military had done in Operation Desert Storm was a huge motivator for the growing nation. They had a problem, though. After the 1989 Tienanmen Square massacre, the plans to modernize with technology from the West were shelved. As you might imagine, having massacres aired on CNN brought about a number of sanctions and embargoes.
China still wanted modern tech. The collapse of the Soviet Union was the answer to their "situation." The fall of the Berlin Wall symbolized both the Soviet Union's demise and a sudden availability of dirt-cheap military technology. At the time, this was exactly what a dictatorship like China needed, given their position on the world's crap-list for shooting peaceful demonstrators.
A Su-30MKK, the Russian plane that became the basis for the J-16 Flanker. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)
One of the big-ticket items China acquired was a license for the Su-27/Su-30/Su-33 family of Flankers. While China initially deployed planes built in Russia, they quickly started making their own versions. The Chinese variant of the Su-30MKK is the J-16 Flanker.
Like the Su-30, the J-16 is a two-seat, multi-role fighter. It has a top speed of 1,522 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,864 miles, and can carry a wide variety of ordnance, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, rocket pods, and bombs. The J-16 also has a single 30mm cannon. Currently, an electronic-warfare version of this plane is also in the works.
An armed Chinese fighter jet flies near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft over the South China Sea about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace. (U.S. Navy Photo)
There aren't many J-16s in service — roughly two dozen according to a 2014 Want China Times article — but this Chinese copy of Russia's answer to the F-15E Strike Eagle looks to be a capable opponent to the United States. Learn more about this plane in the video below: