US defence and strategic affairs experts alleged that the design of the FC-31 “Gyrfalcon” or J-31, which was showcased for the first time abroad according to a Chinese military run portal, was stolen from the US-made F-35 in April 2009 when Chinese hackers entered the networks of American defence equipment maker Lockheed Martin.
The FC-31’s airframe is similar to that of the F-35. The FC-31 also has two internal weapons bays that can carry guided and unguided weapons, just like the F-35.
“The similarity includes the use of two tracking mirrors and a flat-facetted optical window, with bottom fuselage placement just aft the radar radome,” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly said.
The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) is trying to sell FC-31 as an alternative to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighter. Besides Chinese Air Force, Iran and Pakistan are understood to have shown some interest in this fighter jet.
AVIC officials present at the Dubai Airshow hailed the aircraft’s “outstanding situational awareness” and said that the FC-31 is designed for “the demands of future battlefield environments”.
Most aircraft experts believe, though, that China’s F-35 cannot compete with the American fifth-generation aircraft. But not much is known about the aircraft, which has derivatives of Russian engine at this stage.
This aircraft first flew at the Zhuhai Air Show in China in 2014 and could reach full operational capability in 2024.