China will unveil its next-generation carrier-borne fighter jet before the end of 2021, AVIC (Aviation Industry Corp of China) said during this year’s Zhuhai air show.
«Once the new aircraft is ready for its debut flight, it will appear in front of all of you and also on the Internet. So take it easy and wait. You will be able to see it before the end of the year,» said Sun Cong, chairman of the Chinese Aeronautical Establishment and academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
According to China’s official state news, Mr. Sun Cong made the remarks at a press conference held Wednesday in Zhuhai during the 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, popularly known as the Zhuhai Air Show.
A model of a stealth fighter jet is seen in the official media of China Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC). The Aviation Industry Corporation of China's (AVIC) just announced that China's new carrier-borne stealth fighter will be unveiled this year. #Zhuhai2021 pic.twitter.com/JoywnFfqZd
— 彩云香江 (@louischeung_hk) September 30, 2021
Sun was the chief designer of China’s first carrier-borne fighter, the J-15, and second stealth fighter, the J-31/FC-31 (FC is the export designation). It was the first statement by anyone from AVIC about the possible timing of the new aircraft’s public appearance.
Observers speculated that the new embarked fighter would make its first test flight before the end of the year, noting that it must have been designed on the basis of the J-31/FC-31.
The FC-31 was publicly unveiled in October 2012, when a prototype made its maiden flight, becoming China’s second fifth-generation fighter after the J-20.
According to its designers, the Shenyang J-31/FC-31 has a high survivability rate, thanks to its low radar signature (when carrying only internal armament) and a powerful advanced electronic countermeasures complex. It also possesses high information gathering and handling capability, which grants the pilot excellent situational awareness and excels in its beyond visual range combat capability.
In addition to aerial combat, it can also perform strike missions against ground and maritime targets, using a diverse range of smart munitions.
— 彩云香江 (@louischeung_hk) September 28, 2021
The aircraft has a large weapons compartment under the fuselage with an estimated payload of 2,268 kg (5.000 pounds) and can carry several external missiles, in 3 hardpoints under each wing.
Powered by a pair of WS-13E engines (replacing the Klimov RD-93s previously used, the same one that powers the JF-17), according to AVIC, the J-31/FC-31 has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 28 metric tons, an operational ceiling of 15 kilometers (49.200 ft) and a maximum speed of Mach 1.8, or 2,205 kilometers per hour, with an estimated range of 2,000 km (1.242 m).
Originally, the fighter, developed by Shenyang on its own, did not attract the interest of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), which preferred to focus its efforts on the J-20, so the company decided to give its product an export profile.
Eventually, it was the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) that took notice of the model and began funding its development, to complement its J-15 carrier-borne heavy fighters currently operating on the CNS Liaoning and CNS Shandong aircraft carriers, but particularly for its future Type 003 nuclear-powered, catapult-launched aircraft carrier, currently under construction.