|FC-31 #31001 technology demonstrator at the 2014 China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition|
|Role||Stealth multirole fighter|
|Manufacturer||Shenyang Aircraft Corporation|
|Designer||Shenyang Aircraft Corporation|
|First flight||31 October 2012 (technology demonstrator)
23 December 2016 (prototype)
|Number built||2 prototypes|
The Shenyang J-31 (or "FC-31 fifth Generation Multi-Purpose Medium Fighter") also known as the "Gyrfalcon" (鹘鹰), or "Falcon Hawk" by some military enthusiasts, is a twin-engine, mid-size fifth-generation jet fighter currently under development by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. The fighter has also been referred to as the "F-60" or "J-21 Snowy Owl" (雪鸮) in some media reports. Its official name is Shenyang FC-31; J-xx nomenclatures in the Chinese military are reserved to programs launched and financed by the army, while this plane was developed by a private company.
A photo of a model labeled F-60 was posted on the Internet in September 2011. In June 2012, photos and camera video clips started to emerge on internet about a heavily overwrapped possible F-60 prototype being road-transferred on a highway, earning the nickname "the zongzi plane" (粽子机) among Chinese netizens, though some suspect it of merely being a L-15 trainer aircraft. Pictures of a possibly fully assembled aircraft parking on an airfield emerged on September 15–16, 2012. The F-60 is reported to be the export version, where the J-31 would be the domestic Chinese version of the same fighter. Chinese aviation expert Xu Yongling has called the J-31 an export-oriented low-end latest generation warplane.
The prototype conducted a high-speed taxiing test and briefly became airborne. On 31 October 2012, prototype No. 31001 conducted the model's maiden flight. It was accompanied by two J-11 fighters in a ten-minute test flight with its landing gear lowered.
With the maiden test flight of the prototype No.31001 on October 31, 2012, China became the second nation after the 1991 Advanced Tactical Fighter fly off, to have two stealth fighter designs in field-testing at the same time. The aircraft has continued a limited test program, with footage emerging of further flights which took place in February 2013.
A 1/4 scale model of the J-31 was shown at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition 2012, hinting at a desire to offer the aircraft for export, as an alternative for those countries that cannot purchase the F-35.
The J-31 airframe was publicly unveiled on November 12, 2014 at Zhuhai Airshow. In TV broadcast of the unveiling, AVIC chairman Lin Zuoming claimed that funding for the aircraft came entirely from the company, with no input from military.
As typical in flight displays of fighter jets, afterburners were engaged throughout the maneuvers. Nevertheless, Western media claimed it to be evidence of aerodynamic inefficiencies, concluding that the aircraft "bleeds a lot of energy and the pilot had a hard time keeping the nose up." Flights were done when the jet was "clean," so results would be worse when fitted with a combat loadout. However, a large-scale model of the FC-31 on display did show some detail changes of configuration compared to the flying prototype.
At the 2015 Dubai Airshow, AVIC released more details regarding the aircraft's capabilities. The company revealed it is still looking for a partner in the aircraft project, and is actively marketing the aircraft to People's Liberation Army Air Force. AVIC's plan is to have a production model first flight by 2019.
Due to mixed reports from China, it is unknown as to whether the J-31 will be inducted as a naval fighter, or only intended for foreign customers. In one interview with China's state media, the J-31's chief designer Sun Cong expressed his hope that the aircraft would follow his J-15 onto China's aircraft carriers. However, officials from AVIC only said that the aircraft was intended for export as a competitor to the F-35.
Pakistan is reportedly interested in acquiring 30 to 40 of these aircraft. While the J-31 has been touted as a rival to the American F-35 in the export market, it remains to be seen how successful this will be. With the exception of Pakistan, China does not share the same kind of strategic relationships that the U.S. does—countries that are both willing and can afford to purchase the aircraft.
An improved prototype, with modifications to the vertical stabilizers, wings, and airframe, an electro-optical targeting system, a larger payload, improvements in stealth, and upgraded electronics, made its maiden flight in December 2016.
The J-31 is smaller than the Chengdu J-20. The use of twin-wheel nose landing gear led to speculations that the J-31 may intended to be a carrier based fighter. Bill Sweetman has cited several improvements to the F-35C design files the Chinese may have acquired in the J-31. Like the F-35, the J-31 has two internal weapons bays that can each carry two medium range missiles, along with two heavy hardpoints and one light hardpoint on each wing, but while it seems to have added an additional light hardpoint to each wing over the capacity of the F-35, it seems to lack the capacity of the F-35 to mount a centerline gunnery or jamming pod.
Official from AVIC claimed that additive manufacturing was extensively used on the aircraft, resulting in 50% reduction in components compared to similar aircraft. However, the resulting airframe cannot be disassembled, and the static test frame had to be transported in whole as consequence.
According to Vladimir Barkovsky of Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (formerly known as the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau), the engines on the prototype aircraft are RD-93s. However, China already has an engine similar to the RD-93, the Guizhou WS-13 currently installed on the JF-17 which has the same thrust and size of the Russian RD-93. China is working on an improved variant named WS-13E with 100KN of thrust for use on the J-31. Lin Zuoming, chairman of China's AVIC, has said that he hopes to put domestic engines on the fighter. As the Chinese build up confidence in newer, more reliable and powerful domestic engines, they may be able to power the J-31 sooner than the larger J-20 and in greater numbers.
The J-31 can carry 8000 kg (17637 lb) of payload, with four munitions totaling 2000 kg (4409 lb) internally, and 6000 kg (13228 lb) carried on six external hardpoints; primary armaments include the PL-10 short-range missile and SD-10A medium-range air-to-air missile. It has a combat radius of 648 nmi (746 mi; 1,200 km) and a maximum take-off weight of 25,000 kg (55,000 lb).
The J-31 is speculated to use stealth coatings instead of "baked in" fiber-mat stealth. AVIC claimed the aircraft to be stealthy against L-band and Ku-band radars, and would be low-observable against a number of multi-spectrum sensors.
The appearance of the J-31 raised concern about a potential arms race in Asia, as some of China's neighbors pursuing the development of their own fifth generation aircraft I.e. India with their HAL AMCA and HAL FGFA, Japan with Mitsubishi X-2 and South Korea with KAI KF-X or consider purchasing the F-35 and PAK FA.
U.S. military and industry officials believe that once the J-31 enters service, it will automatically be a match for existing fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F/A-18 Super Hornet. They suggest that the capability of the J-31 against the newest fighters, such as the American F-22 and F-35, would depend on factors such as numbers of platforms, quality of pilots, and capabilities of radars and other sensors.
USAF Lieutenant General Charles Davis has said that while the Chinese fifth generation fighter may have used stolen information from the F-35 program, it was unlikely to measure up to the American aircraft.
Stephen Biddle of the Council for Foreign Relations has speculated that the aircraft design was intended for domestic use, but found to be under performing and hence relegated to the export market.
Vladimir Barkovsky of Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (formerly known as the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau) has stated that, despite some design flaws, the J-31 "looks like a good machine." Although it contains features already in use on the U.S. fifth generation fighter designs, it is "not a copy but a well done indigenous design."
Because the aircraft is in development, these specifications — based on available imagery — are approximate and preliminary.
Data from Aviation Week unless otherwise attributed
- Crew: one (pilot)
- Length: 17.3 m (56 ft 9 in) 
- Wingspan: 11.5 m (37 ft 9 in)
- Height: 4.8 m (15 ft 9 in)
- Wing area: 40 m2 (430 sq ft) 
- Max takeoff weight: 28,000 kg (61,729 lb) 
- Powerplant: 2 × RD-93 afterburning turbofans, 85 kN (19,000 lbf) thrust each
- Powerplant: 2 × WS-13 afterburning turbofans (projected upgrade)
- Maximum speed: 2,200 km/h (1,367 mph; 1,188 kn)
- Maximum speed: Mach 1.8
- Combat range: 1,250 km (777 mi; 675 nmi) on internal fuel, or 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) with external tanks
- Hardpoints: 6 x external & 6 x internal bay with a capacity of Up to 8,000 kilograms (18,000 lb), including 2,000 kilograms (4,400 lb) internally,
- Distributed aperture system (DAS) optical early-warning system
- Electro-optical targeting system (EOTS)
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Chengdu J-20
- Flygsystem 2020
- HAL AMCA
- KAI KF-X
- Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II
- Mikoyan LMFS
- Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin
- TAI TFX
- Related lists
- "China unveils new fifth-generation stealth fighter".
- John Pike. "J-31 (Jianjiji-31 Fighter aircraft 31)". Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- New Chinese fighter conducts maiden flight - Flightglobal.com, October 31, 2012
- Fisher, Richard D., Jr; Dominguez, Gabriel (28 December 2016). "China's second FC-31 fighter prototype makes maiden flight". janes.com. IHS. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
- Tamir Eshel (2012-09-16). "A New Stealth Fighter Unveiled in China". Defense Update.
- "Chinese F-60/J-21/J31 Fifth Generation Stealth Fighter Jet Unveiled". Chinese Military Review. 2012-09-16.
- Minnick, Wendell (10 November 2014). "China Plans To Export J-31 Stealth Fighter". Defense News. Gannett. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
- "Intensive Flight-Tests for China's J-31 Fighter; May Challenge US for Market Share". Defense News. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- China’s Newest Stealth Fighter Takes Flight - Wired.com, October 31, 2012
- "J-21 Snowy Owl (Jianjiji-21 Fighter aircraft 21) / F-21".
- Kenhmann, Henri. "La fin du programme Shenyang FC-31 ?". East Pendulum (in French). Retrieved 28 December 2016.
- "F-60, UCAV stealth models revealed?". Flight Global. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
- New Chinese fighter revealed? Maybe or maybe not. Most probably just a very well known L-15 advanced jet trainer., The Aviationist. 22 June 2012
- Waldron, Greg. "PICTURES: New fighter aircraft emerges in China.". "Flight International". Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- 18 September 2012, Two models of Chinese 5th-Gen fighter in works (PHOTOS), RT
- Minnick, Wendell. "Glimpse of China’s New Fighter Fuels Rumors." Defense News, 5 August 2012.
- "J-31 Stealth Fighter to Appear At Zhuhai Air Show". defense-aerospace.com. China Military Online. 23 October 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
- "New Stealth Fighter Jet to Make China Military Leader in the Region, Says Expert." IBT, 3 November 2012.
- "Chinese Stealth Fighter Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon maiden flight » MiGFlug.com Blog". Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- FFCZ. "中国第二款隐形战机成功首飞 - 热点追踪 - 超级大本营军事网站-最严肃的军事网站 - CJDBY.net". Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- "Amateur video showing China’s second stealth plane’s test flight emerges" "The Aviationist", 21 August 2013.
- Xu, Tianran. "Stealth fighter, attack helicopters to be featured at Airshow China 2012". Global Times. Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
- "Latest China military hardware displayed at airshow." AFP, 13 November 2012.
- Savadove, Bill (November 12, 2014). "China shows off new stealth fighter". Yahoo News.
- Chan, Minnie (November 11, 2014). "VIPs flock to Zhuhai airshow as J-31 stealth fighter takes to the skies". South China Morning Post.
- 《对话》20141207： J31珠海航展特辑 － 角力天空的中国力量 [Special editorial of J-31 at Zhuhai Airshow]. CCTV2. December 7, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
- China’s FC-31 Fighter Disappoints in First Display - Ainonline.com, 17 November 2014
- AVIC Begins FC-31 Export Drive - Aviationweek.com, 8 November 2015
- Customer sought for AVIC’s new stealth fighter - Flightglobal.com, 8 November 2015
- Keck, Zachary (27 September 2013). "China Says J-31 Fighter Will Compete With F-35 for Sales". thediplomat.com. The Diplomat. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
- Reed Business Information Limited. "China fighter designer compares J-15 to F/A-18 Hornet". Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- "J-31 may become China's next generation carrier-borne fighter jet - Global Times". Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- Waldron, Greg. "AIRSHOW CHINA: AVIC proposes stealth fighter for export". Flight International. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
- "AIRSHOW-China pushes exports, flags ambitions at arms fair." Reuters, 16 November 2012.
- Rajagopalan, Megha; Laurence, Jeremy (9 December 2014). "China's stealth fighter could "take down" foreign rival - industry exec". in.reuters.com. Reuters. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
- Yap, Chuin-Wei (12 December 2014). "China Stealth Jet Maker Walks Back Boast It Could 'Take Out' F-35". Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- "Airshow China 2014: Pakistan in talks to buy '30-40 FC-31s'". www.janes.com. 14 November 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
- China's Selling the J-31, But Who's Buying? - Thediplomat.com, 14 November 2014
- Fisher, Richard D Jr (16 July 2015). "Beijing tech show highlights advances in Chinese fighter sensors". www.janes.com. IHS. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
- Thompson, Mark. "Beijing Doubling-Down on Stealth Fighters." Time Magazine, 17 July 2012.
- Gertz, Bill. "Beijing’s Raptor Knockoff." Washington Free Beacon July 17, 2012
- "Questions Abound as China Unveils Another Stealth Jet". WIRED. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- Sweetman, Bill. "China's New Stealth Fighter. Not a repeat from December 2010." Aviation Week, 16 September 2012.
- "Two models of Chinese 5th-Gen fighter in works (PHOTOS)." RT, 18 September 2012.
- Karnozov, Vladimir. "Russian Officials Reveal J-31 and Describe Engine Sales to China." AIN, 23 November 2012.
- "Sky-high target for engines-Science-Tech-chinadaily.com.cn". Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- Fisher, Richard. "Deterring China’s Fighter Buildup." International Assessment and Strategy Center, 19 November 2012.
- F_161. "Intensive flight-tests for China's J-31 fighter; may challenge US for market share - People's Daily Online". Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- "Chinese Aircraft Industry's New J-31 Stealth Fighter: Implications for India". Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- Ajai Shukla (10 November 2012). "New Chinese stealth fighter heightens dilemma for Indian Navy". Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- "Lockheed sees increased Singapore interest in F-35 fighter". Reuters. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- "IOPFOR; New Chinese stealth design and the strategic implications."
- U.S. Pilots Say New Chinese Stealth Fighter Could Become Equal of F-22, F-35 - News.USNI.org, 5 November 2014
- Shalal-Esa, Andrea (24 April 2013). "Pentagon sees risks, progress on Lockheed's F-35 jet". Reuters. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- Chiaramonte, Perry (1 October 2013). "Chinese junk? Latest fighter plane from People's Army ticketed for export". www.foxnews.com. FOX News Network, LLC. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Perrett, Bradley; Hewson, Robert; Johnson, Reuben; Sweetman, Bill (19 November 2012). "Avic Promotes J-31 As An Export Fighter". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
- Fisher, Richard D., Jr (9 November 2016). "New details emerge on Shenyang FC-31 fifth-generation export fighter". IHS Janes 360. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
- Pocock, Chris (2 November 2012). "First Flight for China's Second Stealth Fighter". Aviation International News. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
- Waldron, Greg (8 November 2015). "Customer sought for AVIC's new stealth fighter". Flight Global. Retrieved 11 November 2015.