China tar­gets ex­port sales with its lat­est ad­vanced fighter jet

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­

An im­proved ver­sion of China’s FC-31 Gyr­fal­con stealth fighter jet has con­ducted its maiden flight in Shenyang, cap­i­tal of Liaon­ing prov­ince, ac­cord­ing to avi­a­tion in­dus­try sources.

Pre­vi­ously known as the J-31, the twin en­gine, radar evad­ing air­craft is still un­der devel­op­ment by Shenyang Air­craft Corp, part of the Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Corp of China.

The first test flight of the FC-31’s sec­ond pro­to­type took place on Fri­day morn­ing at Shenyang Air­craft Corp, four years af­ter the first pro­to­type took to the skies, sources said.

Avi­a­tion en­thu­si­asts posted pic­tures on Chi­nese web­sites, show­ing what they said was the sec­ond pro­to­type in flight.

A pub­lic­ity of­fi­cer at AVIC who de­clined to be named con­firmed the flight test but said he was not au­tho­rized to dis­close de­tails.

The FC-31 was un­veiled in Oc­to­ber 2012, when the first pro­to­type made its maiden flight, be­com­ing the coun­try’s sec­ond fifth-gen­er­a­tion fighter jet fol­low­ing the J-20, which con­ducted its first flight in Jan­uary 2011. De­liv­er­ies of the J-20 to the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Air Force have started. Fifth-gen­er­a­tion fight­ers are the most ad­vanced avail­able.

The new FC-31 seems to have bet­ter stealth ca­pa­bil­i­ties, im­proved elec­tronic equip­ment and a larger pay­load ca­pac­ity, said Wu Peixin, an avi­a­tion in­dus­try ob­server in Beijing.

“Com­pared with the first FC-31, there are a lot of im­prove­ments on the sec­ond pro­to­type. Changes were made to the air­frame, wings and ver­ti­cal tails, which make it leaner, lighter and more ma­neu­ver­able,” he said.

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 fourth­gen­er­a­tion 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.”

Li Yuhai, deputy gen­eral

Com­pared with the first FC-31, there are a lot of im­prove­ments on the sec­ond pro­to­type.” Wu Peixin, avi­a­tion in­dus­try ob­server

man­ager of AVIC, has pre­vi­ously 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.

AVIC dis­played a large-scale model of the FC-31 at the 14th Dubai Air­show in the United Arab Emi­rates in Novem­ber 2015.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions sup­plied by AVIC show the FC-31 has a max­i­mum take­off weight of 28 met­ric tons, a flight ra­dius of 1,250 kilo­me­ters and a top speed of Mach 1.8, or 1.8 times the speed of sound. It can carry 8 tons of weapons. The plane can hold six mis­siles in its internal weapons bay and an­other six un­der its wings, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany.

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