Military Review

The hazy future of the Shenyang FC-31 fighter

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One of the first photographs of the experienced FC-31. Photo Thedrive.com


At the beginning of the last decade, it became known that the Chinese aircraft manufacturers Shenyang Aircraft Corporation are developing a promising project of the fifth generation fighter FC-31. A lot of time has passed since then, and the project has progressed far enough, but its real prospects remain in question. The new fighter still has not found its customer and has not reached the series.

Stages of the project


For the first time, the existence of a new project from "Shenyang" became known in 2011. Then photos of an aircraft model with the designation F-60 got into free access. In the fall of 2012, a similar plane was spotted at one of the Chinese airfields. In the last days of October, he made the first flight. There were no official comments at that time.

Just a couple of weeks later, during the Airshow China 2012 exhibition, SAC Corporation showed a mock-up of the aircraft, similar to the previously seen prototype. The details were again not provided. For the first time, the new project was told only at the 2014 airshow. The aircraft was officially presented as the FC-31 and called it an initiative development "Shenyang".

The hazy future of the Shenyang FC-31 fighter
The prototype is unpainted in flight. Photo Chinatimes.com

The following year, the development organization presented materials on the FC-31 at the IDEX overseas exhibition. At that time, she was looking for potential customers, both within China and among foreign armies. The main characteristics and capabilities of the machine were announced. In addition, plans for the future were revealed. Serial production of new equipment in the interests of customers was supposed to start already in 2019.

According to foreign press reports, at the end of 2016, flight tests of a prototype aircraft in an improved configuration began. The prototype received several new devices for various purposes, which should have a positive effect on its combat capabilities.

At the end of 2018, foreign media reported that the FC-31 project, after several years of waiting, received support from the PLA. The air and naval forces are interested in this fighter, which promises him a great future. By this time, the interest on the part of foreign armies was repeatedly reported, but it has not yet been fixed in real agreements.


Model of the aircraft at one of the foreign exhibitions, 2015. Photo by Popular Mechanics

Since the middle of last year, specialized publications circulate news on the creation of another version of the FC-31 fighter. This time, not only the instrumentation was refined, but also the airframe, power plant and general aircraft systems. While retaining some external and constructive similarities with the previous versions, the new one has noticeable differences. According to some estimates, this is not about revising an old project, but about creating a completely new aircraft.

Recently, information appeared in Chinese and foreign sources about the possible creation of a deck version of the FC-31. In addition, there were images of an aircraft carrier with similar aircraft on the deck - so far only in the artist's view. The details of such a project remain unknown, but it is already clear how the technical appearance of the base fighter will have to be changed.

Current successes


From 2012 to the present, SAC has built at least two to three FC-31 prototype aircraft and is continuing their comprehensive testing. With their help, the development of structures, various technologies and configurations of onboard equipment is carried out. The most interesting in this respect is the last aircraft, built according to a significantly modified design.


First public flights at Airshow China 2014. Photo Wikimedia Commons

As reported several years ago, the FC-31 project interested the Chinese command and received some support. This means that in the foreseeable future, such equipment may enter service. Moreover, potential customers are two types of troops at once, in theory interested in obtaining a single aircraft.

The export prospects of the project are still in question. Prototypes, mock-ups and various materials on the project attracted the attention of foreign military personnel, but real contracts have not yet appeared - despite the presence of several aircraft options for different requirements.

Thus, despite its considerable age, the FC-31 project still cannot advance beyond testing and an advertising campaign. Serial production was planned to start in 2019, but this did not happen. Attempts are being made to improve this aircraft, the real prospects of which are still unclear. In such circumstances, the Shenyang Corporation will have to continue working and hope to receive orders.

Competitive advantages


The FC-31 project receives support from the PLA, which allows its creators to hope to receive orders of a certain volume for the supply of equipment to its own Air Force or Navy. However, such support cannot affect the international market. When looking for foreign customers, aircraft manufacturers will have to rely only on the strengths of their aircraft.


One of the prototypes in flight. Photo Airwar.ru

The new Shenyang FC-31 is positioned as a 5th generation light multirole fighter with all the necessary qualities. It is distinguished by stealth and high flight performance, capable of carrying a wide range of weapons, etc. A developed complex of onboard radio-electronic equipment of open architecture is proposed.

The project initially included stealth technology, which made it possible to reduce the visibility in all ranges. According to some reports, in early versions of the project, this was achieved due to the special shapes of the airframe and composite skin with minimal radio signal reflection. Following a recent update, these panels are complemented by a radar absorbing coating.

In all versions, the FC-31 is equipped with an AFAR radar. There is an optical location station. An airborne defense complex with optical means of detecting threats is envisaged. The fighter is adapted to work in network-centric control systems, which makes it possible to obtain maximum combat characteristics.

The composition of the electronics can be determined in accordance with the wishes of the customer. The use of Chinese and foreign components is possible. The standard equipment of the aircraft can be supplemented with suspended containers for various purposes.


Approach. Photo Airwar.ru

As befits a 5th generation fighter, the FC-31 has internal weapons bays. The total combat load reaches 8 tons, of which up to 2 tons inside the fuselage. The possibility of carrying and using a wide range of aviation weapons of Chinese design. Probably there is a possibility of integrating foreign samples.

After a recent modernization, the aircraft has grown heavier: the maximum take-off weight has grown from 25 to 28 tons. At the same time, it is equipped with two new WS-19 engines with a thrust of 12 thousand kgf, while earlier WS-13 products of 9 thousand kgf were used. Due to this, the increase in mass is compensated, as well as a flight speed of up to 1,8 M and a practical range of more than 1200 km are provided.

Thus, according to the "tabular" characteristics, the newest aircraft from SAC fully meets the requirements for the latest generation fighters. According to its characteristics, it is not inferior to a number of foreign samples. The advantage may be lower cost and the ability to change the configuration, taking into account the wishes of the customer.


Deck version FC-31. Graphics Mil.news.sina.com.cn

Business results can also be influenced by politics. At the moment, the USA is the market leader of the latest generation fighters, but they intend to sell their F-35s only to "trustworthy countries." This position pushes other states wishing to upgrade their combat aircraft to purchase Chinese equipment.

Foggy future


The Shenyang FC-31 project was created on an initiative basis - and faced problems typical for such developments. The lack of orders and support from the army led to the delay in work in the early stages. In the future, support appeared and provided an opportunity for more active development of the project, but its future still remains vague.

It can be assumed that the latest modernization of the FC-31 was carried out at the request of the PLA, and according to its results, the aircraft will be put into service. Joining the Chinese Air Force would be a good recommendation, and foreign orders would follow.

However, such success is not yet guaranteed, and the market situation will change. Over the next few years, new fighters of the latest generation from different countries may appear on the international market. This will increase competition and present new requirements for the Chinese FC-31. Whether he will be able to cope with the current and expected difficulties is a big question. At the moment, there are no reasons for expressed optimism.
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  1. Emil Azeri
    Emil Azeri 9 March 2021 05: 31
    +2


    What is it? A twin-engined copy of the F35? Continuation of J31? What is it?
    And why does China need such a variety of aircraft carriers, like 2-3 types of carriers should be enough, why 10 different models of fighters?
    Although you can learn something from them in the development of aviation, great fellows ..
    1. Lech from Android.
      Lech from Android. 9 March 2021 06: 14
      +9
      A twin-engined copy of the F35?

      I also thought when I saw the photo ... well, the Chinese ... well, the artists ... it's in their blood ... so you think that they stole the secret of gunpowder from someone 2000 years ago and passed it off as their invention.
    2. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh 9 March 2021 17: 52
      +4
      This is indeed a twin-engined copy of the F-35.
      It took time for China to set up mass production
      heavy fighter J-20.
      Now they took up the promotion of the drummer.
      1. Romario_Argo
        Romario_Argo 12 March 2021 12: 20
        0
        This is really a twin-engine copy of the F-35.

        China did something that the USA could not
        only engines in China are not tenacious, if even with a stretch no more than 2000 hours
        1. voyaka uh
          voyaka uh 12 March 2021 22: 22
          +3
          China does not have a powerful engine to pull the plane alone.
          Therefore, the F-16 and F-35 are single-engine, and for everyone who wants
          copy, you have to install two engines.
          (the popular and efficient MiG-21 also managed with one engine)
          1. Object.F7
            Object.F7 13 March 2021 00: 18
            0
            This coin has two sides. In the single-engine version, the cost and ease of maintenance are reduced, but in aviation, both civil and military, it is also important to have multiple redundancy of all systems, when if one fails, the aircraft will not lose the ability to fly, and here the twin-engine layout clearly wins, if one engine fails, you can return to base, and a single engine will eat the ground and a rescue operation will be needed to return the pilot. Therefore, in Russia, they want to shift strike tasks in the future to a single-engine slave drone. As for the Chinese project, the internal compartments are very modest, the flight range is quite sad. And the lack of advanced engines is to blame. Copying or purchasing "Product 30" would solve all the problems, but this engine, even in Russia, has not yet gone into production, and it is not known when this will happen, so the fate of the 31st will hang in uncertainty for a long time. Why does the fleet need an aircraft with such a modest combat radius, despite the fact that it will not be able to take off with full tanks, it needs a catapult, but where to get it ... A whole series of unsolved problems
            1. voyaka uh
              voyaka uh 13 March 2021 02: 21
              +1
              In practice, according to statistics, in 90% of cases of refusal (or defeat) of one
              of two engines - pilot / and ejected.
              1. Object.F7
                Object.F7 13 March 2021 05: 12
                0
                If according to the charter it is possible to eject, then why not, but there is a special breed of flyers who will fight for the car to the end. And if the ocean is below with sharks, or bearded with Kalashnikovs. If the fire extinguishing system has coped with it, why lose a repairable car. In small aircraft on single-engine aircraft, they try not to fly over large water, mountains, forests.
    3. Zaurbek
      Zaurbek 10 March 2021 07: 23
      0
      For example, in the RF - Su34, Su30SM, Su35, Su24, MiG-31 (These are all in heavy weight), MiG 29 (35)
  2. Nazar
    Nazar 9 March 2021 06: 13
    +1
    5th generation, "stealth"? And what then is the weaponry on the external sling, how is this combined with "stealth"? (One of the prototypes in flight. Photo by Airwar.ru)
    Its fate is still similar to the fate of our MIG-35 - and it does not go for export and they do not want to take their own yet. fellow , besides, the "Chinese" is also declared as a "light" fighter, but with two engines, it seems that neither they nor we have yet figured out how to use such machines.
    1. Quadro
      Quadro 9 March 2021 09: 25
      +2
      Have you even read the article? It has internal compartments, you probably confuse it with the Korean prototype.
      1. Nazar
        Nazar 9 March 2021 12: 34
        +1
        Quadro - You are wrong. The article contains a photo of this aircraft in the air and in the photo - a weapon (or its imitation) on an external sling, I gave the caption under the photo in my comments so that it was clear what I am writing about - I will personally repeat for you: (One of the prototypes in flight Photo Airwar.ru) and this is not a Korean prototype - Chinese - it is impossible to copy the photo, it is in the article right after the subheading "competitive advantages" hi
        1. Quadro
          Quadro 9 March 2021 16: 24
          -1
          Quote: Nazar
          Quadro - You are wrong. The article contains a photo of this aircraft in the air and in the photo - a weapon (or its imitation) on an external sling, I gave the caption under the photo in my comments so that it was clear what I am writing about - I will personally repeat for you: (One of the prototypes in flight Photo Airwar.ru) and this is not a Korean prototype - Chinese - it is impossible to copy the photo, it is in the article right after the subheading "competitive advantages" hi

          It can be just a test of the possibility of installation on an external sling, nothing more.
          1. Nazar
            Nazar 10 March 2021 14: 10
            0
            Quadro - quite possibly ours did it too
    2. Object.F7
      Object.F7 13 March 2021 00: 33
      +1
      Do not come up with it, fate has never been similar to the moment-35. 35m, they plan to replace the entire Soviet-built 29x park. Plus Egypt ordered 50 units. High probability of winning the Indian tender for a hundred cars. In addition, they want to spoil 35 and the Indians may well replace their deck 29s with them. And here the Chinese now have a tangle of unsolvable problems, there are not even hints of a series
  3. Doccor18
    Doccor18 9 March 2021 06: 22
    +8
    J20 is too big and clumsy for carrier-based aircraft. Variations of the Soviet Su-33 will soon become obsolete, and the fleet's aircraft carrier program is in full swing ... The PLA Navy needs a main carrier-based fighter. It seems that J31 is being worked out for this, calmly and busily.
  4. Errr
    Errr 9 March 2021 07: 48
    +10
    From the article:
    After the recent modernization, the aircraft became heavier: the maximum take-off weight increased from 25 to 28 tons. At the same time, it is equipped with two new WS-19 engines with a thrust of 12 thousand kgf each., whereas previously WS-13 products were used at 9 thousand kgf.
    What secret source do you draw from, Kirill? smile
    I think so, if this happened in reality, i.e. bring the Chinese Kulibins of the WS-19 turbojet engine to a really usable state, here on VO, and not only, this would start ... They would forget about Ukraine right away and they would finally score on America. laughing
    You should not so categorically wishful thinking.
    1. NEOZ
      NEOZ 9 March 2021 14: 23
      0
      Quote: Herrr
      whereas earlier WS-13 products were used for 9 thousand kgf.

      maybe it was RD33 ???
  5. EvilLion
    EvilLion 9 March 2021 09: 08
    +4
    12 Chinese tons of power is, of course, powerful. Well, let's say, let them give it out, don't care that the resource of hours is 50. Then you need to make a bomb bay no less than that of the F-35, which is just 2 tons with something. Since the engines are clearly larger and heavier than a single F-35 engine, the aircraft as a whole should also be noticeably larger. Maybe even up to the Su-27 by empty weight, but then 12 tons of non-Chinese ones start to look unimportant. Either the bomb bay is much smaller than that of the F-35. The weight is weight, but the fusées must somehow be placed purely geometrically.

    Unsurprisingly, the Chinese Air Force is not overly excited about a downgraded version of the F-35.
    1. Zaurbek
      Zaurbek 9 March 2021 14: 31
      0
      For stealth missions, China has a J-20, for land and naval affairs - J-10 and J-11 ..... An aircraft carrier with a springboard (for full use) is just under construction. and here there is an analogue of Su33 with which you will have to compete
  6. CastroRuiz
    CastroRuiz 9 March 2021 12: 59
    0
    Khotel bi uslishat podrobnee o dvizhke WJ 19.
    On rabotosposoben i kakoy ego resurs?
    Bolshie somnenia.
  7. Rusticolus
    Rusticolus 9 March 2021 14: 04
    +5
    It seems to me that the Chinese were slightly optimistic about their capabilities, or rather not even slightly. It is doubtful that it is even possible to fit into the dimensions of a light fighter with a twin-engine scheme and inferior stealth. And even with their problems with engines, in the short term - no chance. It's one thing to assemble an empty prototype with unclear reliability and resource, and quite another to get something at least a little digestible for mass production. But as a technology demonstrator and test bed, this attempt may well be of some use.
  8. Zaurbek
    Zaurbek 9 March 2021 14: 29
    +9
    The main "Jamb" is third-party customers. Wealthy countries loyal to the United States buy Western planes. Rich Asian countries - in opposition to China, poorer countries - why bother with expensive stealth? there is FT-17, J-10 ..... with AFAR and other pribluda. And the aircraft carriers, in general, are not at all ... but at the expense of the J-10 with one turbojet engine will outplay it.
  9. 501Legion
    501Legion 9 March 2021 15: 28
    +2
    an airplane that does not have its own face. maybe he is good at something, but outwardly it is a copy of a penguin
  10. Mark kalendarov
    Mark kalendarov 9 March 2021 22: 18
    0
    "Over the next few years, new fighters of the latest generation from different countries may appear on the international market."
    And except for the United States, Russia, China and South Korea, no one else is known to me ... (or is that not all?)
    And which of the three could sell the plane to China?
  11. pafegosoff
    pafegosoff 10 March 2021 20: 33
    0
    They are introducing something too long into the series.
  12. Outsider
    Outsider 11 March 2021 17: 01
    0
    Quote: EvilLion
    12 Chinese tons of power is, of course, powerful. Well, let's say, let them give it out, don't care that the resource of hours is 50. Then you need to make a bomb bay no less than that of the F-35, which is just 2 tons with something. Since the engines are clearly larger and heavier than a single F-35 engine, the aircraft as a whole should also be noticeably larger. Maybe even up to the Su-27 by empty weight, but then 12 tons of non-Chinese ones start to look unimportant. Either the bomb bay is much smaller than that of the F-35. The weight is weight, but the fusées must somehow be placed purely geometrically.

    Unsurprisingly, the Chinese Air Force is not overly excited about a downgraded version of the F-35.

  13. Konatantin 1992
    Konatantin 1992 April 8 2021 10: 16
    0
    Do clickbait stat names bother me alone? The hazy future of the Shenyang FC-31 fighter .... ay SU-57 direct solar perspectives? I demand an article with this title !!!!
    1. D16
      D16 14 May 2021 14: 08
      0
      The difference is that the Aerospace Forces are waiting for the Su-57 to be armed with 70+ ordered aircraft, and the fields are finishing both the aircraft and production. And the F-31 has 2-3 prototypes with different engines and equipment, and no one wants to order a series.
  14. AC130 Ganship
    AC130 Ganship 13 May 2021 00: 02
    -1
    China has been producing 2 types of 5th generation fighters for 2-3 years already.
    1. D16
      D16 14 May 2021 14: 13
      0
      China has been producing 2 types of 5th generation fighters for 2-3 years already.

      Have you read the article? There, the Russians are told in white that the F-31 is not mass-produced by anyone and there are no people who want to run on the rake.