J-31 Could Bring One Punch To China’s Air Power : Chinese Experts

China’s mysterious fifth-generation J-31 stealth fighter jet, set to
make its debut later this month, could form a lethal tandem with the
country’s existing J-15 carrier-based fighter aircraft, says a Chinese
military expert.

The J-31, also known as “Gyrfalcon,” 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 jet,
set to make its debut at the China International Aviation &
Aerospace Exhibition
on Nov. 16, has already been seen performing test
flights and stunts after arriving at the city of Zhuhai in south China’s
Guangdong province ahead of the event.

There is speculation that the J-31 could become China’s next
carrier-based aircraft
. With its compact size, it is said that the J-31
could boost China’s development of mid-sized aircraft carriers and
improve the overall combat ability of the People’s Liberation Army’s
aircraft carrier battle groups to the extent that the PLA Navy will not
be at a disadvantage even against the US Navy.

J-31 Fighter Jet
J-31 Fighter Jet

Military experts told the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily,
however, that the J-31’s slim design comes from the compression of its
fuel tank and artillery compartment, and that China’s inferior fighter
technology means the J-31’s specifications and firewpower might compare
unfavorably to America’s F-35C all-weather stealth multirole fighter.
China should therefore remain cautious when touting the capabilities of
the J-31, People’s Daily said.

Cao Weidong, a researcher at the PLA Naval Military Academic Research
Institute, believes the J-31 does indeed carry significant
possibilities, but must undergo major transformation and verification in
order to become an effective carrier-based aircraft. 

At the moment, the J-15 is the main fighter on China’s sole aircraft
carrier, the Liaoning. If the J-31 is also introduced to carrier
service, the two could work together to provide a strong one-two punch,
Cao said. Even though the J-31 has a shorter range, its advanced phased
array radar and avionics as well as its stealth features means it can be
launched first to “kick down the door” before the J-15 is sent to
continue the assault, he added.

Meanwhile, the official newswire Xinhua said in a commentary that the
debut of the J-31 has three points of significance. First, it is the
first time China will be showing off a fifth-generation fighter, and the
world is waiting to see just how far the country’s military technology
has advanced. If there are unresolved problems with the plane it will be
a huge embarrassment for China on the international stage.

Second, the J-31 debut is also a sales platform because it is a plane
that could very well enter the export market in the future. Though
China has exported military technology in the past, it has tended to be
one or two generations behind and this is the first time it will be
bringing out a product that is on the cutting edge.

Third, if the J-31 can be sold on the global market then it will open
up a new road for China’s arms industry. The J-31 did not start off as
as PLA project and was developed by independent aviation research and
investment. If it can receive the endorsement of the PLA it could bring
in a lot more private investment and competition to lift the industry to
the next level.