China’s first stealth fighter for aircraft carriers is emerging, but a big problem still weighs it down

An FC-31 fighter jet.

China’s FC-31 stealth fighter was recently spotted on a mock aircraft carrier.
Little is known for sure about the FC-31, but that appearance is a sign China’s navy may adopt it.
Like China’s other advanced jets, the FC-31 has shortcomings that keep it from matching up with its US counterparts.

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China’s J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighter is the most vaunted aircraft in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF) inventory.

Its deployments near Taiwan and the Indian border in the past year were clear shows of strength, as was the appearance of 15 J-20s – 10% of the fleet, its largest public display yet – at the Chinese Communist Party’s centenary celebrations in Beijing last month.

While the J-20 is China’s only stealth fighter in service, it’s not the only one China has built.

The FC-31, the J-20’s lesser-known cousin, isn’t in service with the PLAAF, but a model was recently spotted on a mock aircraft carrier, indicating that China’s navy may adopt the fighter – most likely for use in the future air wings of its new carriers.

A stealthy jet with little interest
A J-31 stealth fighter at the China Airshow-2014 in Zhuhai, November 11, 2014.

Little is definitively known about the FC-31, which is also sometimes referred to as the J-31 or J-35, but it does have an interesting history.

Unlike the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, which builds the J-20, the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation developed the FC-31 privately and therefore didn’t get the same amount of government support. (Though the FC-31’s development was likely helped by China’s theft of American technology.)

In fact, the FC-31 wasn’t originally intended for the PLAAF, but for the international export market.

The jet first flew in 2012 but was not officially revealed to the public until the 2014 China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition.

Only three prototypes have been built, the last of which was noticeably different than its predecessors. It reportedly conducted a flight test in September 2020.

A J-31 at Airshow China 2014.

Despite appearances at trade shows, there haven’t been any foreign purchases of the FC-31. As a result, the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation switched its focus from the international market to trying to make the FC-31 the PLAAF’s newest stealth fighter.

The PLAAF hasn’t shown any interest in the FC-31, but there were reports that China’s navy (PLAN) is looking at the FC-31 as an addition to its carrier-based air wings.

The likelihood of adoption by the PLAN seemed to increase last month, when an aircraft model that looked like an FC-31 appeared aboard a land-based mock aircraft carrier near the city of Wuhan.

The mock carrier, built 10 years ago, has been used to test how other aircraft could function on a flattop.

The model aircraft was easily recognizable because of its …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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