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Shenyang FC-31 / J-31 (Jianjiji-31 Fighter aircraft 31)

The J-31 fighter jet is one of China’s most ambitious export fighters, a "relatively" low cost multi-role platform with an emphasis on strike capabilities and incorporating some degree of stealth. The J-31, also designated the FC-31 (Fighter China 31), might achieve an initial operational capability in the 2025 timeframe. China [as well as most potential export customers] lack the extensive electronic support [eg, RIVET JOINT, AWACS, etc] and aerial refueling capabilities that American stealth aicraft can rely upon. If it enters Chinese service, it would replace single-engine J-10s as a medium fighter, and possibly become a stealth fighter on China's aircraft carriers.

Chinese sources report that there is no such thing as the "J-31”. The word “Jianjiji” is developed by the state and used for equipment (such as J10 11 15 20) or the number of the fighter that may be equipped (for example, J9) troops. It is claimed that the correct name is “FC31”. As is well known, the FC name in China is a serial number for export, such as the famous Xiaolong fighter. Its number in China is “FC-1”. China has defined it as: a multi-purpose fighter jet developed for the needs of the international market, that is to say, for the time being, the Chinese Air Force does not consider it.

Initially, there had been substantial doubts about the viability of the J-31 program. The first prototype did not fly with advanced avionics like an infrared search and track (IRST) sensor and stealth features like swept vertical stabilizers, suggesting its role to be a proof of concept for testing SAC's stealth technology, and hopefully attract buyers. More tellingly, while SAC pitched the J-31 as an export fifth generation fighter at domestic and international air shows, neither the PLAAF nor foreign buyers showed firm interest in the project, leaving its viability uncertain.

According to 601 (Shenyang Aircraft Research Institute) academician Li Tian 's personal biography, "Love Blue Sky: Remembering Aviation Pneumatic Expert Li Tian" as described in "... At the end of October 2007, the Ministry of General Equipment officially announced that 611 (Chengdu Aircraft Research Institute) program won, and 611 mainly, 601 participated in the formation of the national team for the joint development of a new generation of fighter aircraft (J-20 fighter aircraft). ...... At that time, the leadership considered that it could not stop the research work on the new machine, consider the future development and enhance the core competitiveness, in order to exercise the team and train talents must be determined to master new technology. The company decided to self-finance the development of a new project (AMF "Eagle" fighter) ... Li Tian is fully responsible for technical work."

The J-20 was a high-end heavy-duty dual-shot stealth fighter, even if cheaper than the F-22. The planned number of equipment was more, but the number of equipment is unlikely to exceed a thousand, because the F-22 is currently equipped with only 180 aircraft, even if the total number of replcements is unlikely to exceed 500, withthe F-22 is used to replace the F-15 older models. China's heavy-duty twin fighterjs J-11B/D, J-16, SU-30 (future SU-35) are relatively new, there is no urgent replacement demand, coupled with the sixth-generation aircraft pre-research, drones and AI intelligent technology, The vast market of low-end fighter aircraft needed a low-cost, technically mature, easy-to-mass produce fighter aircraft.

The twin-engine, radar-evading fighter jet was unveiled in October 2012 when a prototype made its maiden flight, becoming China's second 5th-generation fighter jet, following the J-20. The FC-31 has a high survivability rate, a low radar signature, advanced electronic countermeasures, strong information gathering and handling capacity, outstanding situational awareness and beyond-visual-range combat capability. In addition to air combat, it can also carry out strikes against land and sea targets, according to its designers. The aircraft has a large weapons bay and can carry multiple external missiles.

The improved J-31 stealth fighter prototype began ramping up its test flights in April 2017, adding fuel to speculation that it will become the stealth fighter for Chinese aircraft carriers. The new J-31 prototype (the one in lighter gray paint) is expected to be larger, have a nose-mounted infrared search and tracking sensor, and stealthy features like clipped horizontal and vertical stabilizers.

The new J-31 prototype is three tons heavier and about 20 inches longer than the original technology demonstrator; it also had key improvements like an IRST sensor, stealthier wings, cleaner burning engines, and an improved radar. In addition to avionics and datalinks that enable sensor fusion, SAC officials state that the production J-31s could have supercruise capability, giving them a leg up over current F-35 fighters. Its WS-13 engines would be replaced by domestic WS-13E or WS-19 turbofan engines to give it that advantage in speed. The combination of the J-31's high speed performance, and suggested payload of 6 PL-12 or 4 PL-21 long range air to air missiles suggests that the J-31 has been optimized as an air superiority fighter, though it can be fitted with a wide array of Chinese precision guided munitions like the LS smart bombs.

The export version of the J-31 - named the FC-31 Gyrfalcon -- took to the air for the first time 23 December 2016, the China Daily reported. The so-called "fifth-generation" twin-engine jet is China's answer to the US F-35, the world's most technically advanced fighter. The new FC-31 has "better stealth capabilities, improved electronic equipment and a larger payload capacity" than the previous version which debuted in October 2012, the newspaper said, quoting aviation expert Wu Peixin. "Changes were made to the airframe, wings and vertical tails which make it leaner, lighter and more manoeuvrable," Wu told the paper.

Li Yuhai, deputy general manager of AVIC, said AVIC plans to use the FC-31 to "put an end to some nations' monopolies on the fifth-generation fighter jet" and this plane "is able to compete with any other aircraft of its kind". The only fifth-generation fighter jet currently available in the market is the US' F-35 Lightning II, but the US sells it only to allies.

Fu Qianshao, an aircraft expert with the PLA Air Force, said that the new FC-31 has state-of-the-art instruments such as its electro-optical targeting system and helmet-mounted display and sight system. He said AVIC wants to use the FC-31 to capture market share at home and abroad, but the company is making a big push to attract foreign buyers with its medium-sized stealth combat planes.

"I believe the aircraft will have bright prospects in the market. Based on my experience and knowledge, I presume its price will be around $70 million, about half that of the United States' Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II," he said. "Moreover, the fourth-generation Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale fighter jets are priced at about $100 million. All of these mean you can spend a lot less money to get an advanced, fifth-generation stealth combat plane."

It adopts the normal layout of single-seat, double-engine, cambered double vertical tail, full-motion flat tail, DSI and S curved inlet, built-in magazine, low infrared radiation characteristics. It can even be said that the stealth of the F-31 fighter is higher than that of the J-20 fighter alone in terms of aerodynamic shape; meanwhile, the FC-31 has powerful target detection and external information integration capabilities, excellent situational awareness and information sharing capabilities, and can Beyond line-of-sight multi-target attack, the overall combat effectiveness is quite excellent.

From the data of the FC-31 "Eagle Eagle" version 2.0 currently on display: the maximum take-off weight has reached 28 tons, the ammunition load can reach 8 tons (inner 2 tons + outer 6 tons), and the combat radius is 1250 kilometers! This data is obviously the data after a new domestic engine (probably turbofan 15) is replaced in the future. In particular, the overall performance of the FC-31 with vector thrust basically meets the requirements of the fifth generation. But the question was said before, even if the FC-31 solves the "heart" problem, does it solve the "brain" problem? This is the key issue that determines the life and death of FC-31 or become a carrier-based aircraft..

If the J-20 further evolved a carrier-based aircraft model with sea-to-ground attack capabilities, the FC-31 had only one way to go, becoming a multi-purpose fighter developed in the international market.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:08:55 ZULU