The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

The 10-minute maiden test flight of China’s new­est stealth fighter jet, the J-31, sparked in­tense de­bate among the world’s weapons and in­tel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ties. That’s be­cause lit­tle is known about the air­craft, which China boasts is the only other fifth­gen­er­a­tion stealth light com­bat air­craft in the world af­ter the U.S. Air Force F-35.

On Oct. 31, the Shenyang J-31, also known as the Fal­con Ea­gle, took off af­ter some high-speed run­way taxi­ing. It was ac­com­pa­nied by two of China’s J-11 fighter jets.

Video clips re­leased by Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties in­di­cate that the J-31 is a twin-engine, mid­sized fighter jet with a stealth de­sign sim­i­lar to that of the F-35. It, too, has for­ward-swept en­ginein­take cowls and is sig­nif­i­cantly smaller than China’s first stealth com­bat air­craft, the much-touted Chengdu J-20.

The re­leased videos also show dense smoke trail­ing from the air­craft, a sign of in­com­plete burn­ing of fuel.

In­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion has fo­cused on two ma­jor is­sues sur­round­ing the J-31. First, China ap­pears to have en­coun­tered ma­jor tech­ni­cal prob­lems in de­vel­op­ing its own jet en­gines for com­bat air­craft. Many an­a­lysts think the J-31 is pow­ered by a Rus­sian­designed engine known as the Klimov RD-93.

A sec­ond is­sue is the mis­sion of the J-31, with China fac­ing in­ter­na­tional em­bar­rass­ment over its in­abil­ity to de­ploy car­rier-based planes aboard its much-glo­ri­fied air­craft car­rier, the Liaon­ing, which was com­mis­sioned in late Septem­ber.

De­sign fea­tures of the J-31 sug­gest that the air­craft is be­ing con­sid­ered for use on the Liaon­ing. It is sig­nif­i­cantly lighter than the J-20. It also has a twin-engine power plant, twin for­ward wheels and rear wheels that are in “the kneel­ing po­si­tion,” as an­a­lysts de­scribe the fea­ture used on most car­rier-based air­craft.

The tim­ing of the J-31’s un­veil­ing has a po­lit­i­cal di­men­sion, many an­a­lysts say, be­cause the air­craft was flown for the first time days be­fore the ma­jor 18th Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party Congress, which opened Nov. 7.

It is a nor­mal prac­tice for the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army to show­case ma­jor ac­com­plish­ments as con­tri­bu­tions to the

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