Amid US and Taiwan tensions, China to expedite development of FC-31 for PLA Navy

A Chinese FC-31 stealth fighter has its test flight ahead of the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province, Nov 10, 2014. File photo: Xinhua

Photos of the Shenyang J-31 twin-engine fifth-generation fighter jet, have been frequently released on Chinese social media since May, leading to considerable speculation that the aircraft could be set to enter service in the PLA sometime this year. Now painted in a silver-grey coating, its development is making smooth progress, experts said on Monday.

After China’s FC-31 stealth fighter jet appeared in the most recent pilot recruitment video for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, speculations increased that the aircraft could become China’s next-generation aircraft carrier-based fighter jet.

According to the website of the PLA Navy’s pilot recruitment program, pilot cadets will study five years before graduation. In these five years, the FC-31, which is still under development, could complete the necessary upgrades and join the PLA Navy.

China reportedly plans to develop a carrier-capable variant of its J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighter and/or a carrier-capable variant of its FC-31 fifth-generation stealth fighter to complement or succeed the J-15 on catapult-equipped Chinese carriers.

The FC-31 is a single-seat, twin-engine multi-role fighter jet catering to the demands of future battlefield environments. It is 17.3 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.5 meters, according to an info flyer by its maker Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) in 2018.

The Shenyang FC-31 provides extraordinary manoeuvrability, stealth features, and an internal weapons bay, besides superior avionics and sensors providing enhanced situational awareness, improved radar tracking and targeting capabilities and integrated electronic-warfare systems.

The FC-31 is being manufactured by Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, an affiliate of Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

The development of the FC-31 goes on, and modifications are likely to be made based on test flights, including the installation of new engines and other devices.

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