China presented it’s first indigenously developed fifth-generation, twin engine fighter jet at this year’s Dubai Air Show. This was for the first time the FC-31 “Gyrfalcon” (a.k.a J-31) was exhibited overseas.
The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) is trying to pitch the FC-31 to compete with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as a cost efficient solution.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has shown interest in the aircraft and negotiations are underway with AVIC to pave the way for the purchase. Pakistan and Iran seem to be other potential buyers.
As per representatives of AVIC, the plan has outstanding situational awareness and is designed to meet the demands of future battlefield environments.
The aircraft design is very similar to US-made F-35. For example: the FC-31 also has two internal weapons bays to carry guided and unguided weapons. The aircraft allegedly can carry 3,600 kilograms of payload out of which 910 kilograms is internal capacity and 2,700 kilograms can be used under its wings. The FC-31 has also got the electro-optical targeting system, dubbed as EOTS-89, resembles that of the F-35. The use of two tracking mirrors, a flat-faceted optical window and with bottom fuselage placement just aft the radar radome are other similar things.
Most of Industry experts believe that China’s stealth aircraft is no way close to the F-35 due to poor engines and limited Chinese experience with the latest technology.
The prototype comes along with the Russian Klimov 8.29-ton thrust RD-33 turbofan. Rumor has it that China is working on developing an improved version of the WS-13 Taishan turbofan in parallel to replace current engines.
The plane had its first maiden flight in October 2012. The production is slated for 2019 and AVIC plans an initial operational capability by 2022. The stealth fighter jet is supposed to reach full operational capability in 2024.