New Chinese carrier-based fighter to be unveiled later this year

Aircraft should be based on the FC-31 prototype, originally intended for exports and which has stealth characteristics

The new generation of carrier-based fighter from China should be unveiled later in 2021, said Sun Cong, chief designer of the J-15 and FC-31 aircraft.

In an interview with the state-owned Global Times newspaper, Sun stated that “This year, people should be able to see good news on the next-generation aircraft carrier-based fighter jet.”

Although it has not revealed any details of the aircraft, the strongest rumors indicate a navalized variant of the FC-31 stealth fighter. Illustrations showing the supersonic jet aboard Chinese aircraft carriers surfaced during the Zhuhai Airshow this week.

One of the top executives at AVIC, the maker of the FC-31, Zhou Guoqiang said the fighter is a key element in the ’20’ aircraft family and that it includes another fighter, the J-20, the Y-20 transport aircraft and the Z-20 utility helicopter.

Carrier-based FC-31 rendering

The FC-31 is a fighter aircraft developed by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, a subsidiary of AVIC. The project emerged at the end of the last decade as a private export program.

The first prototype flew in 2012, but Shenyang spent several years reviewing the design. The second test aircraft appeared in 2016 with several changes to the more powerful horizontal stabilizers, canopy and engines, among other items.

Despite the improvement, the FC-31 did not interest the PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force). But the Chinese government saw in the project an opportunity to produce a domestic fighter based on aircraft carrier and capable of taking off by catapult.

The need stems from the new Chinese Navy aircraft carrier (PLAN), the Type 003, which will have a configuration similar to US Gerald Ford class ships, including an electromagnetic aircraft launch system.

In this scenario, a naval variant of the FC-31 does indeed seem to make a lot of sense.

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