Lots of media coverage and local crowds last week witnessed Chinas’ latest show of air power in Zhuhai, China.
The crowd was there to see something new, the star of the show: the Shenyang J-31 stealth fighter flown by elite pilots of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (designated FC-31 for sales outside China). The J in its name actually stands for Jian—annihilate, eliminate.
But you have to wonder….if this aircraft is so good, and so cutting edge…..why arn’t the Chinese keeping it for themselves, like the Americans did with their F-22 Raptor? Instead, it’s being touted as a cheap stealth fighter for foreign markets as the FC-31, and there are doubts being raised as to whether the PLAAF will field the aircraft at all.
China’s ability to design, build, test, and put into service the J-31 would be illustrious….if Chinese aerospace engineers, did in fact, design and build it….but they didn’t, at least not fully.
Questions remain as to the striking similarity in looks to the US F-35….and China still lacks the capability to build its own engines.
Those in the J-31 are built by Russia. And no matter how China attempts to make technological leaps, via hacking or other means, stealth engine design is something that they haven’t been able to conquer.
There are further reports that this aircraft is severely underpowered and has had difficulty maintaining level flight due to design defects in the airframe. Added to those worrying flying characteristics, are reports that it is suffering these issues without any weapons load being carried….and that’s even before talking targeting systems, radar, and electronic warfare capabilities.
I don’t think US F-22 Raptor pilots will be reaching for their ejector handles just yet.
(Daily Beast, Defence Tech)