A year after unveiling the FC-31 stealth fighter, Chinese officials say a production version of the fifth-generation aircraft — the country’s answer to the American-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — will fly by 2019, according to multiple news reports.
Li Yuhai, deputy general manager at China’s Aviation Industry Corp., known as Avic, and Lin Peng, the FC-31’s chief designer, were on hand at the Dubai Airshow this week to talk about the program.
Tony Osborne, a reporter for Aviation Week & Space Technology, reported:
“With a first flight planned for 2019, an initial operating capability would occur in 2022 or 2023, and the aircraft would be fully operational two years later.”
What’s more, the FC-31 is apparently no longer simply intended for export, as the officials said talks were underway to supply the aircraft to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, the article states.
The state-run China Radio International reported that Peng said fighter can be tailored to suit specific requirements from customers:
“The users can designate domestic or International suppliers to provide communications equipment, sensors and guided weapons.”
The aircraft, also known as the Shenyang J-31, was unveiled at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show. It was the event’s star attraction, marking the first time Chinese authorities allowed a plane that was still in development to be displayed to the public.
A model of the aircraft was displayed abroad for the first time this week at the Dubai Airshow in the United Arab Emirates (see photo above).
The plane is made by Shenyang Aircraft Corp., a subsidiary of Avic, and resembles the U.S. military’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp., though with two engines rather than one. The pair of Russian-made Klimov RD-93 engines are a variant of the propulsion systems found on the Mikoyan MiG-29.
Pakistan is considering buying between 30 and 40 of the Chinese aircraft to replace American-made F-16s for close air support, air interdiction and other missions.