China unveiled scale model of F-35 copycat FC-31

The FC-31, China’s second fighter jet following the J-20, recently revealed photos of a scale model of the aircraft painted with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) insignia, a move military observers said suggested the warplane might join PLA service, despite being a made-for-export model.

State-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) Shenyang Aircraft Design and Research Institute recently released photos of a scale model of the FC-31 painted with the August 1st Insignia of the PLA, reported Weihutang, a program on military affairs affiliated with China Central Television (CCTV), on Wednesday.

The model resembled the initial design of the FC-31 rather than the latest, upgraded one. It featured missiles under its wings, an open weapon bay under its belly, and a PLA insignia on a tail fin.

This has again sparked discussions over the warplane’s potential commissioning into the PLA, Weihutang reported, noting that other media reports said that the made-for-export FC-31 would eventually enter PLA service.

The future of the aircraft could become clear soon, as China’s in-development third aircraft carrier is expected to use a new fighter jet, a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Thursday.

China’s current ship-borne fighter jet, J-15, could face challenges in dealing with the F-35, which is one generation more advanced than the current Chinese jet and has become widely deployed in the Asia-Pacific region by the US and its allies, the expert said.

FC-31 is believed to be a candidate to become China’s next generation carrier-based fighter jet, the FC-31 is a product of cyber espionage and intellectual property theft from the F-35 programme. The J-20 and a totally new aircraft are the other candidates.

The FC-31 is a single-seat, twin-engine multi-role fighter jet catering to the demands of future battlefield environments. It’s 17.3 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.5 meters, according to an info flyer obtained by the Global Times at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province.

The FC-31 and J-20 need to be modified if one of them is to board a carrier, the expert said.

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