The aircraft designated as Shenyang FC-31 or more commonly known by its designation J-31 or the nickname Gyrfalcon is a medium-sized 5th generation jet fighter with twin engines which is under developmental stages by a Chinese company named “Shenyang Aircraft Corporation”. There are also many other names for this mystery-shrouded aircraft which are as follows.
- J-21 Snowy Owl
- Falcon hawk
As for the J-xx nomenclatures for the aircraft that are currently in development or have been developed are the ones that are being funded and then reserved for China’s People Liberation Army despite being developed by a company owned by the state.
At the moment there are only 2 prototypes of this aircraft have been built. As for the first flight of this 5th generation stealth jet fighter, it took it on October 31st, 2012 and will be available for active duty sometime in 2019. The thing that makes the Shenyang FC-31 unique among other 5th generation jet fighters is that China is planning to make this a widely exported aircraft in toe-to-toe with the USAF’s F-35 Lightning II. The unit cost of 70 million dollars for a single Shenyang FC-31 makes it a highly sought out stealth fighter jet in the world even if the aircraft is to be presented for sale.
All of this will be discussed in the future as to how the world of the Air force is going to change once Shenyang FC-31 makes its way for export. Today we would like to point out all the amazing facts of the Shenyang FC-31; Chinese 5th Generation Stealth Jet Fighter.
The 2 prototypes of the Shenyang FC-31 are each 17.3 meters in length with a wingspan of 37 feet and 9 inches. A single Shenyang FC-31 is powered by two Russian Engines named RD-93 which with their afterburner create a thrust of nearly 19000 ft/lbs. However, there are rumors that soon the aircraft’s manufacturers are going to install the Chinese built WS-13A engines that will increase the thrust power to nearly 22000 ft/lbs.
Utilizing the power of its two engines, the Shenyang FC-31 is able to propel at a speed of Mach 1.8 for a combat radius of nearly 1201 kilometres. The gross weight of the Shenyang FC-31 is about 38081 pounds while the maximum takeoff weight of the aircraft is about 28000 kilograms which require this aircraft to need distances of 400 and 600 meters for the takeoff and landing respectively.
Due to the Shenyang FC-31 still being in developmental stages, the true potential of this aircraft is yet to be seen by the world.
Like all the other 5th generation jet fighters of its line, the speciality of Shenyang FC-31 lies in the stealth capabilities that allow it to be more versatile than the conventional jet fighters.
Shenyang FC-31 is not only coated with stealth technology but also has an aerodynamic design that is stealth orientated. For allowing the diversion of the supersonic bumps, it has inlet bumps while for the intake it has forward-swept ramps.
Both of these design features allow the Shenyang FC-31 to eliminate its radar reflections to reduce any exposure to the enemy radar. Shenyang FC-31 has been marketed to have superior stealth technology against the Ku-band and the L-band radars along with having low observability against the other sensors.
The payload capacity for the Shenyang FC-31 is about 17737 pounds that allows it to carry 4 munitions weighing 4409 pounds each internally. As for its external hardpoints, it can carry 13228 pounds weight of munitions.
These hardpoints have been created near the centre of gravity of the aircraft due to the aft-tail layout of the Shenyang FC-31. This design feature allows for the Shenyang FC-31 to make easy manoeuvres even being under load.
The primary weapons carried by the Shenyang FC-31 are the short-range PL-9 missiles along with medium-ranged air-to-air SD-10A missiles.
The Shenyang FC-31 made its first appearance to the world back in 2012 at the Chinese Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition and there it was presented as an exported mole aircraft. After that, back in 2015’s Dubai Airshow, China revealed the news that it is looking for a partner to manufacture this aircraft with them. However, the aircraft is to be marketed to the Chinese Air Force. As for the Chinese military, they do not want to do anything with this aircraft.
Controversy on Cost
The thing that made Shenyang FC-31 a hot topic in the world of aviation is it being lauded as the official yet the cheapest alternative to the costly US F-35 Lightning II. Taking a first glance of the aircraft, it seems as if this aircraft is the copy of the American made twin-engine Lightning II. In addition to this, some avionics of the Shenyang FC-31 suggests that it is actually created from the stolen technology of the JSF.
The controversy was further fueled after the president of the AVIC Lin Zuoming said in an interview to the China Central Television saying, “The opponent model” had been taken heavily into consideration for designing the Shenyang FC-31. He further stated that when the Shenyang FC-31 makes it to the skies, it will be able to take out its opponent model.
As for the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, the company who actually designed and manufactured this aircraft has completely denied any such claims. Whether the claims made previously are true, they were done for the marketing purposes and it seems to be working as expected. After the Dubai Airshow rumours, Pakistan has started talking to China for purchasing nearly 30 to 40 of these aircraft in the future.
The only major obstacle that China suffers in mass production of the Shenyang FC-31 is that the current models are being fitted with Russian made engines. For when the time of the export comes, China needs to equip this aircraft with Chinese made WS-13A engines in order to eliminate any chance of Russia’s control over the mass production.
There are rumours that the Shenyang FC-31 is lacking in both electro-optical and sensor technology which is the necessity for any 5th Gen fighter. The belief is that any partner, who will assist in the development of Shenyang FC-31, will help with the completion of the above-sated features as well.
It is still far from being presented for speedy export and many of its capabilities are yet to be seen in full action. Still, the AVIC is extremely confident and hopeful for the future success of their state of the art 5th Gen stealth jet fighter.