China's Improved J-31 Stealth Fighter Jet Ramps up Test Flights, Could Replace J-10
The prototype of China's improved J-31 stealth fighter has been ramping up test flights last month, stirring speculation that it will become the stealth fighter for Chinese aircraft carriers.
Rumors earlier surfaced of the viability of the J-31 program as the first prototype failed to fly with advanced avionics such as an infrared search and tack (IRST) sensor and stealth features including vertical stabilizers. Furthermore, although its manufacturer, the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC), introduced the J-31 as an export fifth generation fighter during domestic and international air shows, neither the PLAAF nor overseas buyers showed interest in the project.
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The J-31's viability remained uncertain until the improved prototype was released last December, in which the fighter jet is three tons heaver and 20 inches longer. Developments flaunted included an improved IRST sensor, stealthier wings, cleaner burning engines, and an enhanced radar.
SAC officials further said that the production J-31s could flaunt supercruise capabilities and domestic WS-13E or WS-17 turbofan engines to give a significant speed advantage. The combination of J-31's high-speed performance and its suggested 6 PL-12 or 4 PL-21 long range air-to-air missiles payload suggests that the jet could be optimized as an air superiority fighter, the Popular Science reported.
Meanwhile, if the rumors are true, then the twin-engine J-31 will replace the single-engine J-10 as a medium fighter. The J-31, which is about the size of the American F-35, has a top range of 775 miles, a maximum takeoff weight of 28 tons, and a top speed of Mach 1.8.