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

The J-31 fighter jet is one of Chinas most ambitious export fighter, 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.

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."

some Chinse sources claim 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.

J-31 / FC-31 Background

The Chinese military leaked the first photos of long-rumored new stealth fighter, the second model revealed in China. The J-31 attracted wide public attention in June when some online pictures showed the cutting-edge fighter fully wrapped but with its futuristic shape still discernible. The J-31 fighter, named Falcon Eagle in Chinese, took its first flight at 10:32 am Beijing local time, Wednesday 31 October 2012, along with two J-11BS fighter jets from the runway of Shenyang Aircraft Corp, the producer and researcher of the fighter in Liaoning Province.

Shenyang Aircraft Industry Group (SAC), one of the leading aircraft design and manufacturing corporations of Chinas aviation industry, revealed the prototype of what might eventually become Chinese analog to the American F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The new aircraft, said to be designated the J-31 or to have the codename F-60, has external characteristics that suggest to some that it could be used on future Chinese aircraft carriers. The J-31 prototype jet has the side number 31001, which is the origin of the J-31 nomenclature, since the first two J-20 prototypes had 2001 and 2002 side numbers, respectively.

Photos of a model labeled F-60 were posted online as early as September 2011. These images show only scaled-down models, not the real thing, with one notable difference being the single wheel in the model versus the paired nose-wheels in the real deal. This radio-controlled F-60 model had been built with the Shenyang University of Aeronautics and Astronautics [SUAA]. In June 2012 a photograph of a full scale airframe being transported on a truck trailer, obscured by netting, appeared online.

Though no specifications of the prototype were initially unveilled, one major difference is obvious: unlike its American relative, Chinas J-31 has two engines, as does the previously revealed J-20. The pictures of the Chinese technology demonstrator suggest that the engines the aircraft was initially equipped with do not have thrust vectoring nozzles. Possibly the prototype is at an early a stage of testing, and might be fitted with a more sophisticated and powerful propulsion package at a later date. The twin vertical tail and wide-spaced ram air inlets are reminiscent of these features on the Lockheed Martins F-22 Raptor.

Unlike the Russians and Indians, whose joint project to develop a fifth generation aircraft produced a single design, the Chinese military followed the American example and placed its bets on two horses: Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, which is already testing the J-20 fifth generation heavy combat aircraft, and Shenyang Aircraft Industry Group with its F-31/F-60 aircraft. It is unclear which America practice the Chinese have emulated. Possibly this is like the Advanced Tactical Fighter and Joint Strike Fighter programs, in which competing designs were flight tested before one was selected for production. Or possibly the J-31 and J-20 are not to be regarded as competitors, but as complementary pair such as the F-22 and F-35, because to some it appeared the aircraft may have different specializations.

The problem with the competitive fly-off explanation was that the first flight of the J-20 came in January 2010, nearly two years before the first flight of the J-31. This belies a competitive fly-off, absent a rather spectacular schedule delay in the J-31, or an extremely sedate development schedule in which such a two year discrepancy is insignficant in the long view. The complementary role explanation fails due to the apparent similarity in size. Unlike the large twin-engine air-superiority F-22 and smaller single engine air-to-ground F-35, both the graceful J-20 and the slightly shorter but visibly chunkier J-31 are twin-engined, presumably with the same WS10 Taihang engines. If the total weight of the shorter J-31 was signficiantly less than that of the J-20 [a fact not in evidence], either the J-31 would seem rather over-powered, or the J-20 somewhat under-powered.

Since the end of 2017, there had been a lot of news, and the FC-31, which has been plagued by problems for many years, was expected to turn positive in 2018 and officially gain recognition from the Chinese military. From the shape and structure of the cockpit, this aircraft seen in August 2018 appeared to be the improved FC-31 Eagle Hawk, also known as the 2.0 version, which further enhances the FC-31's maneuverability, stealth performance and mounting capacity. In addition, the FC-31's "target engine", the turbofan-19 [WS-19], had been frequently heard recently. It is said to be an advanced medium-thrust engine and uses vector technology. The progress was also said to be very good.

Although the FC-31 eagle has been numbered "FC" and frequently appeared at home and abroad airshows, it is probably a consensus for anyone who likes or hates it: if the PLA Air Force is not equipped with the Eagle Hawk, it can't be sold overseas. Therefore, any saliva about the eagle will eventually become: Should the Chinese sea and the air force get the eagle?

The rumored FC-31 eagle will develop into a "one machine four type": naval roadbed type, naval ship type, air force type, export type. However, according to the news, the so-called one machine and four types may be just some hearsay. At the beginning of the development of the eagle eagle, there were indeed four models of such a plan, but the current state of the art eagle is obviously difficult to see four. Models. The picture shows a modified eagle.

Although one machine and four types are difficult, one thing is almost certain: the FC-31 eagle has basically been identified as the first stealth fixed-wing fighter of the Chinese Naval Air Force, and even the first stealth fixed-wing carrier-based fighter. When the FC-31 eagle first verification machine appeared, it was nicknamed "Little Black" by the netizens. Can this little black become a flying white swan?

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