More F-16Cs for Iraq
Asecond J-31 prototype built at Chengdu Aircraft Corporation reportedly incorporates several changes over the first prototype, PT-1, which flew at the Zhuhai show in 2014, while a third J-31 prototype is also being built. Refinements have been made to the aerodynamics and radar cross section (RCS), making it “stealthier”, and there is a new avionics layout, described as the ‘Advanced Avionics Concept’. The weapons bay of the second prototype is larger than the first (which could house four legacy SD-10As), facilitating carriage of up to six SD-10A BVRAAMs with foldable fins. The J-31 will eventually have a Chinese engine (probably the WS-13A) but early aircraft will be powered by the Russian-origin RD-93 as presently in the JF-17 Thunder. The KLJ-7A AESA radar is being considered for the J-31 and is also an option for the Pakistan Air Force’s Block 3 JF-17s.
The J-31 is being developed exclusively as an air defence fighter for the export market, with the Pakistan Air Force speculatively the first off but AVIC is optimistic the PLAAF and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) too will also acquire these. In an interview, the J-31’s chief designer Sun Cong expressed the hope that the J-31 would follow the J-15as a carrier-borne fighter. However, officials from AVIC said that the aircraft was only intended for export as a competitor to the F-35. As for Pakistan, this country is reportedly considering acquiring 30-40 J-31s.
Afurther four F-16IQs have been delivered to the Iraqi Air Force, joining 9 (Fighter) Squadron. The single-seat F-16C Block 52s bring the total in country to 14 (eleven F-16Cs and three twin-seat F-16Ds). Meanwhile, the Iraqi Air Force is procuring an additional Lockheed C-130H Hercules through the Excess Defence Article (EDA) programme. Currently, the IqAF operates three C-130E Hercules, which are also former USAF aircraft, along with six new production C-130J-30 Super Hercules. Iraq had previously requested three additional surplus Hercules aircraft from the US DoD.