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J-31 Carrier-based Deployment

Since 2012, at least two Shenyang FC-31 prototypes have undergone flight tests under the supervision of the PLA Air Force and Navy. For the latter, a specialized deck modification can be created. However, later these plans were abandoned. In August 2019, it was reported that the J-20 will become the basis for the rearmament of naval aviation. The Navy command studied the new technology and decided that this aircraft surpasses the newer Shenyang FC-31 in all basic characteristics. Thus, in the plans for the further development of fleet aviation, the leading role is given to the larger and more advanced J-20. According to some reports, in the future, on its basis they can create a new carrier-based carrier-based fighter. By as of early 2020 Chinese media continued to suggest that no decision had been made.

The Liaoning would have about 40 fixed-wing aircraft on board. Possibly the complementarity lies in the J-20 being destined for land-based operations, while the J-31 is slated to go down to the sea in ships. Carrier based aircraft are normally twin-engined for safety reasons, and the Chinese might have decided that the greater structural strength needed for carrier operations would be wasted on a land-based J-20.

The shorter J-31 would also make for easier handling on an aircraft carrier, where space is at a premium. The Chinese might also have decided that little was to be gained from trying to apply a common airframe to both the land and carrier missions. The F-4 Phantom succeeded in this effort, but the American F-35 was bedeviled by the requirements of being all things to all services.

The Chinese Military Review website published computer-generated images of the J-31 fifth generation fighter jet in action, with a variety of air to air missiles. On at least two images the aircraft is depicted with an extended tailhook that sea-based aircraft use to stop after landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The two-wheeled front rack chassis of the J-31 prototype also suggests the aircraft was designed for naval use, facilitating the attachment of the holdback device installed on the nosegear to the catapult, like sea-based versions of Dassaults Rafale in France, Lockheed Martins F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and the Russian Su-33. There is no indications that the J-31 prototype is capable of short take off and vertical landing, a capability of the F-35B STOVL variant.

Sun Cong is chief designer of the J-15 carrier-borne fighter jet and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Sun is also the chief designer of the J-31. He hopes the J-31 can pair up with J-20 in the future in tasks of both high and low altitudes, to maintain continuing striking capability.

In March 2013, the chief architect of the J-31 fighter Sun Cong confirmed that the improved version of the J-31 is expected to become China's next generation of carrier-based aircraft. Analysts believe that the J-31 fighter can act as a carrier-borne aircraft. One of the important factors affecting this question is the configuration of the landing gear. The front landing gear of the J-31 is designed with double wheels (the J-20, which is twice the weight, only has single front wheel), while the back landing gear adopts a dogleg structure - both these features provide strong supporting capacity and excellent shock resistance.

Considering that a carrier-borne aircraft requires the ability to withstand a greater impact when landing on an aircraft carrier than when landing on land, the J-31 seems designed to meet the requirements of a carrier-borne landing. In addition, it has been reported that if the J-31 is deployed on the aircraft carrier, it may combine in light-weight battle formations with the early-service J-15.

To its advantage, the J-31 does not have the difficult challenge faced by the American F-35 of producing a design that allows both traditional flight and a STVOL variant like the F-35B.

The PLAN has only recently come around to the FC-31, which until late last year wasnt seen as much more than an experimental craft. The Diplomat reported in November 2018 that the FC-31 was back on the menu amid mounting pressure, on the one hand, to fill the hangars of Beijings new carriers, and on the other, to compete internationally with Washingtons F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which maker Lockheed Martin has begun selling to over a dozen partners and the B and C versions of which can operate from carrier flight decks. The Diplomat noted that part of the appeal of the FC-31 might come from marketing it to foreign buyers in a market presently monopolized by the pricey and unreliable F-35. However, the JF-17, which China developed jointly with Pakistan, seems to be filling that role as a reliable fourth-generation export. The JF-17 only costs between $25 and $32 million per plane, as compared to the F-35, which can set buyers back over $100 million per jet.

The only fixed-wing aircraft used on Chinas two carriers is the J-15, which Shenyang produced as a modified version of the T-10K-3, a prototype of what became Russias Sukhoi Su-33 that Beijing scooped up from Ukraine. However, the J-15 is hardly the ideal aircraft for Chinas carriers. The Liaoning and Type 001a both use a ski ramp on the bow of the ship to lift aircraft into the sky - something that ensures a safer takeoff but stipulates a more limited takeoff weight. Chinese media has derided the plane as a flopping fish for its limited usefulness, so with the J-15 already struggling under a heavy body weight and weak engines, that only limits its capabilities even further. The J-15 is a big plane: its a clumsy 24 meters long, roughly the same size as the largest plane to ever fly from a US carrier, the A-5 Vigilante bomber. Thats two meters longer than the J-20, a proven plane that entered service with the PLA in 2017. According to military insiders who spoke to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) anonymously, the jury is still out on which fifth-generation aircraft should be adopted for Chinas burgeoning naval aviation sector. "The navy has yet to decide which one they prefer, as both the J-20 and the FC-31 have their advantages and weaknesses," a source told the SCMP 23 July 2019. Another told the paper that Chengdu Aerospace Corporations engineers were working on presenting a shorter version of the J-20 more suitable for carrier operations. "If the J-15 can be a ship-borne aircraft, why can't the smaller J-20?" Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong told the SCMP. Still, the FC-31 is only 17 meters long, and while its engines arent as powerful as the J-20s upgraded WS-15 supercruising turbofan engines.

On December 19, 2019, China Aviation Industry Weibo posted a picture, which revealed the "Future Carrier Fighter" for the first time. This is the first time that China's aviation industry has revealed the existence of future carrier-based fighter aircraft projects. However, the aviation industry has not given detailed information on domestically-made future carrier-based fighter aircraft, but only roughly depicts the fuzzy outline of the aircraft. From the pictures given by AVIC, the shape of the "future shipborne fighter" is similar to that of the FC-31 fighter.

Regarding the selection of China's future carrier-based aircraft, there has been heated discussion on the Internet. At present, if the existing mature stealth fighter is used for modification, both the -20 and FC-31 have their own advantages and disadvantages. There is no doubt that the F-20 is much stronger in overall combat capabilities, but as a carrier-based aircraft, its biggest disadvantage is that the size of the fuselage is relatively large, it is difficult to take off and land, and it will occupy a lot of decks and hangars Area, the number of deployments does not go up.

Compared with the J-20, the FC-31 is a medium-sized stealth fighter. Many of its technical indicators do not pursue high standards, but their capabilities are not weak. If further improvements are made in the future, the overall capabilities will reach the US F-35C standard. There is no problem. At the same time, Chinese aircraft carriers cannot keep up with the American "Nimitz" and "Ford" aircraft carriers in terms of displacement, so the number of aircraft carriers may be more critical to some extent. Therefore, it is reasonable to choose a medium-sized aircraft. Besides, we already have a third-generation heavy-duty carrier-based aircraft J-15, so if we develop a medium-sized fourth-generation stealth carrier-based fighter, it should be said that it is more thoughtful.

If the FC-31 is used as a platform to modify a carrier-based aircraft, many improvements are still needed. FC-31 is a land-based aircraft. Its wing area, wingspan, and wing load are all standard for land-based aircraft. Then after entering the ship, you must meet the special needs of the carrier-based aircraft. First, the shape is slightly improved, mainly the wing is modified, the wing has a larger wingspan, the sweep angle may be reduced, and the wing area must be increased. This reduces its wing load and induced drag during low-speed flight, and improves the lift coefficient for low-speed flight. The other is to install more efficient lifting systems.

For example, the flap needs to be changed from a simple drop-down flap to a backward-type slotted flap, and its increase efficiency will increase a lot. Then, after the wingspan and wing area are expanded, the area it occupies on the deck will also increase. Therefore, you must work hard on the fold of the wing and fold the wing. The saved area can be used to place more carrier-based aircraft In terms of technology, through the development of the J-15, we can say that we are familiar with it. In addition, the landing gear must also be strengthened, taking off and landing on the aircraft carrier deck, the load is very large, and the landing force is very large. Therefore, the landing gear must be designed to be robust enough to withstand sufficient impact forces. The landing gear is strengthened, the corresponding fuselage and wing structure must be strengthened accordingly, and the tail hook is also necessary. The increase in the strength of this series of structures will inevitably lead to the increase in aircraft weight.

After so many changes to the fuselage platform, the structural weight of the FC-31 increased by roughly 1.5 tons to about 2 tons. Then the weight of the aircraft will inevitably affect the aerodynamic performance and load capacity. Therefore, the power also needs to be enhanced, and an engine with a higher thrust may be selected. The carrier-based engine also has several very important requirements. The first is that the thrust-to-weight ratio must be large enough, the power is strong, and the engine must have good acceleration to ensure that it has the ability to accelerate go-around in a short distance. At present, the FC-31 is equipped with the Russian RD93 engine, which is basically sufficient for the land-based version. For carrier-based aircraft, the power is weak.

Some believed that Shen Fei's FC-31 fighter "Yingying" is not suitable for boarding the ship, mainly because of the insufficient performance caused by the engine, which makes it difficult to combat the F-35C carrier-based aircraft already in service. The RD93 engine now has a thrust of about 8,500 kilonewtons, so it may require 9,000 or even 10,000 kilonewtons in the future. Then the two engines add up to the F-35C. If it reaches 10,000, the total thrust of its two engines will exceed the F-35, so that it can fully compete with its overall performance. For such a powerful engine, it is not impossible for FC-31 to replace the engine with a maximum take-off weight of 30 tons, and the combat radius and maneuverability will also be comparable to F-35.

There is no way to know where the technical level of various internal equipment of the fighter is poor, but the manufacturing process of the outer surface of the aircraft can also be seen. The outer surface of the fighter -20 is smooth and simple, and the rivets are not prominent. Stealth can help a lot. However, in the official video of the FC-31 fighter, the side of its air intake is somewhat "rugged". It can be seen that the current FC-31 fighter problems are not just the engine.

An unverified photo surfaced on social media in June 2021 that, for the first time, showed an FC-31-like model positioned on the full-size mock aircraft carrier located in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province. It was being used to evaluate aircraft for potential use at sea. Mock-ups of other aircraft, including J-15 carrier-based fighter jets and a Z-18 ship-borne helicopter, were also seen in the photo. These two aircraft are already being used on China's current aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong.

Putting a full-size aircraft model on the mock aircraft carrier test platform indicates that the aircraft could be an option for carrier usage, since this procedure could be used to test the aircraft's size, operational scope and compatibility on a real-size carrier flight deck, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on 09 June 2021. This means that the FC-31, once it is upgraded to suit the needs of carrier operations, could be a top option for China's next-generation carrier-based fighter jet, Fu predicted. As a medium-sized stealth aircraft, the FC-31 is unlikely to replace the heavy but non-stealth J-15, as the two will complement each other for the foreseeable future, similar to the relationship between the US' F-35C and F/A-18, Fu said. China's carrier-based fighter jet combination will be able to compete with the world's most advanced planes, said Fu.

On 29 October 2021\9, the carrier-based Sea Falcon Eagle flew for the first time. The folding mechanism of the wing and the lever of the catapult were clearly visible. As the worlds second carrier-based stealth fighter, the falcon that turned into a butterfly was received by military websites at home and abroad. However, related reports about the Falcon fighters boarding the ship have long been like a large number of crucian carp crossing the river.

Generally speaking, the carrier-based fighter jets of the aircraft carrier should be finalized before the aircraft carrier is put into service. It can be seen that the first flight of the fifth generation of the sea before the launch of the No. 3 ship is a certainty, and before the first flight, the Sea Falcon Eagle has already boarded the cement. The aircraft carrier announced the so-called job resume and a series of semi-official reports about the Falcon Eagle boarding. Sun Cong, the chief instructor of the Falcon Eagle at the Zhuhai Air Show, even said that there will be good news within the year. There are no surprises.

Considering that the Falcon fighter is a conventional fighter, when the Falcon fighter is on the ship, it must find a way to reduce the wingspan and the foldable wing sinking and flying also has technical accumulation, so before the first flight of the Falcon Eagle carrier-based fighter, a model based on the Falcon 2.0, using an integrated canopy, strengthening the fuselage structure and the strength of the landing gear, adding ejection levers to the front wheels, and the engine. It is equipped with tail hooks and foldable wings.

Since carrier-based fighters need to take off from the aircraft carrier, increasing the wing area and improving the low-speed take-off and landing capability is a common choice for all countries. F-35C wing total The area is 35% larger than that of F-35A. Compared with SU-27/J-11, SU-33/J-15 has a pair of canard wings. The difference between YF-17 and F/A-18 is a lot greater. So the ship-based version of the Falcon Eagle has an increased wing area than the land-based version of the Falcon, and the slightly fattening of the fuselage is in line with speculation.

Unexpectedly, the horizontal tail wing design that is not foldable. Even the model of the carrier-based Falcon fighter exhibited at the Shenfei Aviation Expo Park uses a foldable horizontal tail. However, the horizontal tail of the Falcon Eagle carrier aircraft that actually flew for the first time did not show any black band-like stains, which means that the horizontal tail of the Sea Falcon is indeed not foldable. So what is the difference between this design that will increase the folding width of the fighter jet compared to the double folding design?

For carrier-based fighters that require folding wings, the influence of the folding position of the wings on the external suspension capability of the fighter cannot be ignored. The J-15 with a double folding design has only two heavy load suspension points when folding the wings. The remaining three pairs of hanging points are folded, and the three pairs of hanging points folded to the top must first unfold the wings when mounting the missile, and then fold it back after mounting. The mounting process is extremely cumbersome.

If the tail wing is modified to a non-foldable design, there will be 4 or even 6 hanging points on the wing of the J-15 that are not affected by the folding of the wing. But for the J-15, which is a heavy fighter, how about the folded position of the wing close to the root of the wing? There is a hanging point under the intake port of the J-15. There are two hanging points in the middle of the two engines. There are 6 unaffected hanging points, even if they are not used, they are folded to the top. Hanging points are largely enough.

But for medium-sized fighters, the influence of the wing folding position on the mounting capacity cannot be ignored. The F/A-18 whose wing folding position is close to the wing centerline is not affected by the folding and the hanging point is the central axis, and the air intake There are one on each side of the tunnel, and two on each wing, totaling 7 hanging points. The number of hanging points for F/A-18E/F that are not affected by folding is as high as 9.




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Page last modified: 04-11-2021 18:39:47 ZULU