Thursday, May 19, 2022

China’s 2nd Stealth Fighter Jet After J-20 Looks To ‘Checkmate’ US F-35, Russian Su-75 With New Marketing Strategy

China’s FC-31 stealth fighter jet is still in its nascent stage, but the country is striving to make this warplane a success. In an effort to find prospective buyers, the FC-31’s maker has set up a separate office to promote the aircraft in the international market, state-owned Global Times (GT) claims. 

The FC-31 is said to be a single-seat, twin-engine, medium-sized multi-role fighter jet featuring stealth, situational awareness, high maneuverability, highly integrated logistics. It is believed that the aircraft will be reasonably priced to attract foreign customers. 

The GT report states that the fighter jet is directly competing with the US F-35 and Russia’s newest Su-75 Checkmate while underlining the fighter jet’s positive aspects such as sophisticated technology, reasonable pricing, the lack of political restrictions, and complete service.

Shenyang FC-31 - Wikipedia
Shenyang FC-31 – Wikipedia

Zhan Qiang, Deputy General Manager of the Shenyang Aircraft Company (SAC), a subsidiary of China’s state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC), apparently made significant headway in exploring the international armaments market, with the FC-31 as a key product to be supplied. 

The report praised Zhan for organizing the SAC’s research resources, changing the company’s conventional planning-oriented marketing approach, and actively exploring the arms market for high-end aviation equipment, among other things. Air displays were used well by Zhan to demonstrate the FC-31’s technological advantages, the publication said.

Zhan has reportedly gathered resources from the manufacturing company, research institute, and China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation to open an office. The goal of the office is to endorse FC-31 exports through a development strategy known as “self-oriented active promoting”, which aims to foster specific users.

Although the FC-31 is not currently in service with the PLAAF, it appears that the manufacturer is working hard to even offer it to the Chinese military. The latest effort is part of a plan, according to the company, to allow the FC-31 to serve two markets: domestic and international.

Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, was quoted by Global Times as saying that the international market for stealth fighter jets is far from saturated, and the FC-31 will be very competitive.

Wei emphasized that the F-35 stealth fighter jet is primarily aimed at US allies and partners and that many countries desire to buy one but lack the necessary funding or are subject to a myriad of US export restrictions. “Russia has revealed its new Su-75 stealth fighter, but it has yet to make its maiden flight,” he added. 

Wei highlighted the purported benefits of acquiring the China stealth jet over the American ones, stressing that Beijing could even have greater cooperation with a client by creating assembly lines in the customer’s country.

“China’s FC-31 is technically mature, can be fully domestically produced and enjoys advantages including high technology, acceptable pricing, the lack of political restrictions and complete service, as China can also provide a full set of airborne equipment and weapons,” Wei was quoted as saying.

Catering To Domestic Market

The Shenyang Aircraft Corporation has developed the FC-31 independently, unlike the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, which develops the J-20, and hence did not have the same level of government funding.

The plane took its maiden flight in 2012, but it wasn’t officially unveiled to the public until the 2014 China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition. Despite displays at exhibitions, the FC-31 is yet to be sold to any foreign customer. 

Therefore, it seems Shenyang Aircraft Corporation shifted its attention from the international market. Even though the PLA Air Force has not shown any interest in the FC-31, speculation is rife that China’s PLA Navy (PLAN) might consider adding this to its carrier-based air wings.

It’s pertinent to note that an FC-31 lookalike model surfaced aboard a land-based mock aircraft carrier in Wuhan last year, indicating PLAN could be a potential customer.  

FC-31
A TV grab of an FC-31 fighter.

Apart from the F-35, this is claimed to be the world’s second stealth carrier-based fighter plane. However, Kris Osborn, writing for The National Interest, stated, “The Chinese J-31 jet somewhat lacks when it comes to F-35B-like vertical take-off-and-landing, and any ability to parallel, replicate, or in any way ‘match’ the computing, sensing, and weapons capabilities of an F-35 jet.”

Despite the fact that the aircraft has not been a commercial success, the manufacturer continues to upgrade and promote it on a regular basis. An FC-31 mock-up, along with models of PL-15E beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, was put on display at the Airshow China 2021 in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province.

The same missile is used by China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet. The PL-15E has a maximum range of 145 kilometers guided with a combination of inertial, satellite navigation, datalink and active radar. 

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