BEIJING, (BM) – According to the Chinese publication Global Times, citing a report from the PRC aviation industry, the first flight of a new combat aircraft should take place in 2021, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
Its development is led by Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) – a state-owned company engaged in the production of civil and military aircraft.
There is almost no data on the new aircraft: according to analysts, we can talk about a deck for Chinese aircraft carriers. The car can be developed on the basis of Shenyang FC-31 – the prototype of the fifth-generation Chinese fighter, which made its first flight back in 2012. According to data from open sources, only two such aircraft have been built today.
They have been talking about the possible transformation of the FC-31 into a deck for a long time: earlier, however, it was nothing more than rumors. Recall that now the Chinese fleet operates Shenyang J-15 – a carrier-based fighter built on the basis of the Soviet Su-33 (sometimes the Chinese aircraft is called the “copy” of the Sukhoi).
We also note that China already has one fifth-generation fighter in service – Chengdu J-20. It was presented to the general public back in 2016.
More about FC-31 [J-31]
For countries wishing to buy an advanced invisible fighter, the FC-31 is presented as an inexpensive analogue of the American F-35. It is emphasized that when selling China does not impose political conditions, unlike the United States.
The manufacturer of the FC-31 (J-31), the second Chinese stealth fighter following the J-20, recently posted photos of a large-scale model of the aircraft adorned with the emblem of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which military observers suggested that military aircraft can be attached to the PLA, despite the fact that it was created for export.
China State Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) Shenyang Aircraft Design and Research Institute recently released photographs of the large-scale FC-31 model bearing the PLA logo, according to Weihutang, a military-related program for China.
The model resembled the original design of the FC-31, and not the last, modernized. She had rockets under the wings, an open weapons compartment and a PLA emblem on the tail.
This again sparked debate about the possible entry of a military aircraft into the PLA. In media reports, it slipped that the FC-31, produced for export, would eventually go to the PLA.
The future of the aircraft may become clear in the near future, as it is expected that the third, under development, Chinese aircraft carrier will use a new fighter.
For comparison, the US Air Force has a relatively small edition F-22, which complements the massive F-35. Just like the F-22, the Chinese J-20 fighter will not be exported, which cannot be said about the FC -31.
Its price will fluctuate around $ 70 million, and this makes the FC -31 not just good, but almost an uncontested offer on the stealth fighter market.
No other country is able to offer stealth fighters at such a price that gives the Chinese aviation industry a great chance to gain a foothold in the global military aviation market.
What will the potential buyer receive if FC -31 is offered for export? Firstly, unlike the F-35, the FC-31 (J-31) has not only a more attractive price, but also two engines.
It is not worth saying once again that a plane with two engines is much more reliable than a single-engine fighter. Moreover, the flight characteristics of the J-31 look much better. For example, the maximum speed of the J-31 is 2200 km / h, compared to 1930 km / h for the F-35.
Both aircraft are approximately the same in size and weight: the length of the J-31 is 16.9 m, the wingspan is 11.5 m, the maximum take-off weight is 25 tons, the load weight is 8 tons, the practical ceiling is 18,200 meters, the radius of action is 1200 kilometers.
The Chinese claim that the aircraft has good stealth, information awareness, ease of operation and the ability to strike at air, ground and sea targets, and the life of the fighter will be 30 years.
In theory, all this should be of interest to foreign customers. Another important point is noted – the Russian RD-93 engines are replaced with their own counterparts WS-13E.
Dogfight! Russia’s Su-57 Stealth Fighter vs. China’s J-20
As the Su-57 enters serial production in much larger quantities than previously expected, Moscow is making a concerted effort to pitch the fifth-generation fighter to major arms importers including Turkey, India, and China.
Over the past several years, Chinese defense media has been particularly keen on following the Su-57’s development; their–mostly positive commentary–has long been taken as one bellwether of Chinese import interest.
But the question is rarely asked in reverse: namely, what does Russia think of China’s own J-20 fighter?
Whereas Chinese defense commentary has been largely complimentary of the Su-57, their Russian counterparts have been much more tepid about the J-20. In a recent article on the “mutual benefit” of a China Su-57 import deal, prominent Russian defense outlet RG concluded that the Su-57 is neither better nor worse than the J-20 but fulfills an altogether different operational purpose.
The J-20 was designed as a stealth missile platform that can penetrate sophisticated air defenses in order to target critical infrastructure or military assets. The Su-57, on the other hand, excels as an air superiority platform that trades stealth and ground attack features for raw dog fighting potential. Thus, RG aptly characterizes the thrust of the Russian export argument: China’s air force should buy the Su-57 not as a replacement, but as a complement to the J-20.
Perhaps the most prevalent, if not contentious, aspect of Russian commentary on the J-20 is the recurring allegation that Chinese drew heavy inspiration from a Soviet fifth-generation fighter project that was tabled in 2000.
Dmitry Drozdenko, deputy editor of the Russian military publication “Arsenal of the Fatherland,” told Sputnik that the J-20 “is based” on the ill-fated MiG 1.44: “In my opinion, the machine is based on the Russian MiG 1.44. That plane was created to compete with the PAK FA at the preliminary design stage, and made its maiden flight in 2000. The Chinese plane is very similar. Although it hasn’t been announced officially, the J-20 uses our AL-31F engine, developed by Salut, which the Chinese bought for half a billion dollars.”
The article went on to cite a similarly-shaped canard configuration and tail section as examples of an allegedly uncanny resemblance between the two fighters.
TASS, Russia’s leading state news agency, echoed Sputnik in noting that a number of J-20’s currently run on the AL-31F engine and that the J-20 shares a distinctive “duck-like” aerodynamic design with the MiG-1.44, but stopped just short of claiming that the Chinese directly consulted the Russian fighter’s design in building the J-20.
Apropos of engine troubles, Russian defense commentators join their western counterparts in their skepticism about the status of the WS-15 engine that the J-20 was supposed to ship with.
Performance and reliability issues with the WS-15’s single-crystal turbine blades has led the Chinese to produce initial J-20 batches with older, inferior WS-10B’s as a stopgap measure. There was a brief spurt of speculation in 2018 that Chinese engineers had managed to fix the WS-15, but nothing has been confirmed as of the time of writing.
Although Moscow may have no intention of importing China’s flagship stealth fighter, their perception of it is relevant to their ongoing effort to sell China on the Su-57. Specifically, Rosoboronexport– Russia’s arms export agency–will have to make a compelling case that the Su-57 has something that the Chinese need, and that the J-20 lacks.
Likewise, their evaluation of the J-20 is strategically important within the context of the burgeoning Sino-Russian defense relationship in which neither side wants to be relegated to the role of junior partner.
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