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Shenyang FC-31 - maybe J-31 revealed!

sferrin

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FighterJock said:
That is interesting news to me Blitzo, I did not know that the PLAAN were doing a competition for a new ship born fighter before, I wonder if they will go for a carrier variant of the FC-31 since it is smaller than the J-20, because there is not much room on board an aircraft carrier.
The US had the A-5, A-3D, and F-14 on it's carriers. (China plans 100k ton CATOBAR carriers in the future.)
 

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100,000 ton carriers for the PLAAN? That put's it in the same league as the current Nimitz class of the US Navy. The Royal Navy's new Queen Elizabeth class is only 65,000 tons for comparison. The J-20 would have no trouble operating from China's Future carriers after all. They might also want the J-31 as a strike fighter to compliment the J-20.
 
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FighterJock said:
100,000 ton carriers for the PLAAN? That put's it in the same league as the current Nimitz class of the US Navy. The Royal Navy's new Queen Elizabeth class is only 65,000 tons for comparison. The J-20 would have no trouble operating from China's Future carriers after all. They might also want the J-31 as a strike fighter to compliment the J-20.
Royal Navy / USN better be looking at super sonic carrier killer systems pronto, and then spreading them across the coast of Japan and other nations before it is too late.
 

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Ian33 said:
Royal Navy / USN better be looking at super sonic carrier killer systems pronto, and then spreading them across the coast of Japan and other nations before it is too late.
US and their allies already have the world's quietest submarines, and are already developing new AShMs like LRASM and Japan's developing XASM. Their anti-surface ship capabilities are already very potent, not to mention their large arsenal of ISR capabilities.


FighterJock said:
That is interesting news to me Blitzo, I did not know that the PLAAN were doing a competition for a new ship born fighter before, I wonder if they will go for a carrier variant of the FC-31 since it is smaller than the J-20, because there is not much room on board an aircraft carrier.
Yes, there is a competition for a 5th gen carrier fighter. A couple years back it was thought that the Navy decided to go with CAC, but apparently that was incorrect and the competition is still ongoing.

I think both J-20 and FC-31 have their strengths and weaknesses. Whatever the Navy goes for will also likely influence the Air Force's procurement plans as well to an extent, specifically if the Navy goes for a carrier variant of FC-31 then it is much more likely that the Air Force will also induct FC-31 in some form as well as a medium weight stealth fighter to complement J-20. But if the Navy doesn't go for FC-31 then the Air Force probably won't either. And vice versa of course.



FighterJock said:
100,000 ton carriers for the PLAAN? That put's it in the same league as the current Nimitz class of the US Navy. The Royal Navy's new Queen Elizabeth class is only 65,000 tons for comparison. The J-20 would have no trouble operating from China's Future carriers after all. They might also want the J-31 as a strike fighter to compliment the J-20.
The second domestically produced carrier (002) will be a CATOBAR carrier, and its full displacement has been said to be around 85,000 tons. The bigger size of the carrier and the greater aircraft spotting positions due to the benefits of a flat bow flight deck will likely significantly enhance the rate of flight operations that can be conducted on it relative to Liaoning.
Note, 002 is not the Liaoning pattern STOBAR carrier being produced at Dalian, that is the 001A.
 

sferrin

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https://thaimilitaryandasianregion.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/fc-31-2-0-prototype-landing-short-clip/
 

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New Video of FC-31 on youtube
https://youtu.be/7ZFDuhCYgiE

 
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Deino said:
A few more recent images ...
What a beautiful aircraft. They really have pulled out all the stops for this one! Thanks for the great pics.
 

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Deino said:
A few more recent images ...
Any word on missile combination's for the internal weapons bay Deino? All the photo's that I have seen just show the standard layout for the FC-31.
 

Deino

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FighterJock said:
Deino said:
A few more recent images ...
Any word on missile combination's for the internal weapons bay Deino? All the photo's that I have seen just show the standard layout for the FC-31.
To admit I don't know esp. since this current V2 is at best comparable with the J-20 '201X' prototypes. However it is clear that it has only the single belly weapon bay which sure can hold the PL-12, PL-15 (cropped wing PL-12 as seen on the J-20) and surely the PL-10.

Otherwise I think we need to wait.
 

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"Avic’s J-31 Fighter Is a Winner After All"
Nov 9, 2018 Bradley Perrett and Steve Trimble | Aviation Week & Space Technology

Source:
http://aviationweek.com/defense/avic-s-j-31-fighter-winner-after-all
 

sferrin

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Ian33 said:
Deino said:
A few more recent images ...
What a beautiful aircraft. They really have pulled out all the stops for this one! Thanks for the great pics.
If China decides to export a fully capably version I'd wager it would replace the Flanker as the go-to aircraft for those who can't buy the F-35.
 

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sferrin said:
If China decides to export a fully capably version I'd wager it would replace the Flanker as the go-to aircraft for those who can't buy the F-35.
FC-31 is hardly the right aircraft. For now it seems to be the most...mediocre and boring of 5th gens.
Many people for some reason see it as a "f-35 done right", even at lower tech level. But from what is known, it is more of an attempt to go the safe way, which ended up collecting the worst from both worlds.
 

totoro

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But very little is really known about FC-31 to begin with. Even this aviation week article sounds fishy to me. There's been no official news on that front so far. So I am thinking the article simply took a recent rumor (just one of many we had over the years) and ran with it as if it was 100% true. I mean, what sort of line is "The J-31 is being developed for domestic military service under government contract, an official source says."? They could have at least said when and where and what sort of source it was, if they didn't want to give out their exact name.

Don't get me wrong, I do think chances of FC-31 finding its way to PLANAF is rather big, over 50%. But at this point we still lack an official confirmation. I don't think these sourceless articles help. (It's even worse when the article cites Sina, notorious for simply making stuff up)

And as for various actual specifications? Only the most basic stuff like dimensions, MTOW (not really very useful without empty weight as well) and combat radius (not useful without conditions of the mission) have been declared. For the V1 and V2 demonstrators. So actual figures for a serial standard plane would be different anyway.

On the other hand, to call it most mediocre of all 5th gen planes... well, that's a statement that might be true but one also needs context. We have 3 5th gen planes in service. (under a broad 5th gen definition that anything with internal weapons bay is a 5th gen) And another one (Su-57) that will likely enter service within several years. Out of those 4 planes, 3 are large ones, made to be the best they can be by their respective makers. Of course a J-31 shouldn't be able to compete with them on 1on1 basis. J-31 is a smaller class plane and was made to be exportable, meaning corners were cut and final pricetag probably had a limit.

F-35 is in similar weight class, also designed to be somewhat affordable and also sacrificing some capabilities to achieve that. To compare the two one would need to know what J-31 is going to be like in 2025 or whenever it enters active service. We don't even know much today. We don't know what F-35 can do today precisely, let alone in 2025. If avionics will be comparable, who's to say J-31 won't be able to hold its own?

Certainly the biggest issue will be the engines, as right now it's flying on almost ex-soviet tech placeholder engines. With very little data on possible new chinese made engines. Withat those, I'm willing to bet J-31 project won't go anywere. Which automatically means that once we do get an official confirmation that J-31 is going to get fielded, the chinese engine project is done. Which still doesn't tell us much about its quality. It may probably be better than the RD33 derived engines that it uses now, but by how much?

Way too many unknowns right now...
 

Ainen

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Ok, let me elaborate. I will purposely speak in a buyers' way.
FC-31 initially is a purely export development. It takes conservative f-22-esque shape and squeeses it into the medium weight class fighter(dedicated by availible powerplant).
Compared to f-22, it looses almost everything: weapon storage( halved), possible radar size(no space!), kinematics and so on. Unlike f-35, it doesn't compensate with much improved strike: we still have one shallow bay, most suitable for a2a loadouts.
On the other hand, design nontheless has 2 engines, covered in a stealthy airframe. Combined, it brings infrastructure requirements, maintenance hurdles and costs, lowers sortie rates(i.e. how much your money will work).
Even mig-29 failed to be cheap and convenient enough to maintain with two engines, and fc-31 doesn't even try this down-to-earth, mudfighter approach.

Yet, having all 5th gen electronics and stealthy airframe, fly away price won't be cheap either.

End result: is it a good solution for a smallish single-type airforce of a developing country? No, unlikely: expensive, exhausting to operate, not universal enough. For a larger high/low airforce with a choice, it ain't high enough. For the PLAAF itself... it isn't separated well enough from its brighter brother, the j-20, yet brings new set of engines and electronics to the table.
It makes the best sense as a tailor-made proposal for Pakistan(especially with rd-33/93 series engines), but for now we haven't heard much from the official Pakistani side. And again: while desirable somewhere in the future, India has no clear scedule for a 5th gen for now.
On the other hand, replacing f-16s with FC-31s not only is a big political choice, it will hit PAF capability to drop bombs left and right, significantly. Not unsolvable, but undesireable.

Basically, i see existing FC-31 as "not enough of a plane for too much of a cost".
Eagerly awaiting for a much-speculated "J-XY"...
 

sferrin

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Ainen said:
sferrin said:
If China decides to export a fully capably version I'd wager it would replace the Flanker as the go-to aircraft for those who can't buy the F-35.
FC-31 is hardly the right aircraft. For now it seems to be the most...mediocre and boring of 5th gens.
Many people for some reason see it as a "f-35 done right", even at lower tech level. But from what is known, it is more of an attempt to go the safe way, which ended up collecting the worst from both worlds.
Yes, I'm sure "not boring" is the most important qualifier when shopping for an aircraft. ::)
 

totoro

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Ainen said:
FC-31 initially is a purely export development.
FC-31 is, of course. But the whole idea behind the project design may not be. We can't know how much SAC hoped to get PLAAF/PLANAF onboard after the first demonstrator, and how much it was geared towards their needs, as opposed to how much it was geared to export needs.

Compared to f-22, it looses almost everything: weapon storage( halved)
No, not halved. F-22 has side bays for two WVR AAMs. FC-31 does not. F-22 has belly bays. FC-31 has belly bays which are slightly bigger than ones in F-22. Total volume wise, I'd wager FC-31 is perhaps 70% of F-22's weapons bay volume, if not more. Certainly not 50%.

possible radar size(no space!)
While lagging behind the likes of F-22 and J-20 a little bit when it comes to nose size, it's still not a small nose. It can quite comfortably be compared to nose volume of F-35.

kinematics and so on.
we don't know *anything* about its kinematics. What little we could guess can be surmised from its powerplant. Current demonstrator has something like 163 to 170 kn of thrust for mtow of 28 tons. F-35 has 191-ish kn for 32 tons. Empty weight of demonstrator is not disclosed so we don't really know much. Stuff like drag, lift etc is not something one can deduce from the images. So at least that one metric is similar. But any sort of final plane is likely to have different figures. Different engines and likely different weights. Possibly approaching 30 tons MTOW.


Unlike f-35, it doesn't compensate with much improved strike: we still have one shallow bay, most suitable for a2a loadouts.
We don't know exact depth of fc-31 bays, but we do know it can pack pl-15 missiles, which require 40 cm. Plus some clearance. So the bays are at least a bit deeper than F-22. They may in fact be in between of F-22 and F-35, when it comes to volume.

On the other hand, design nontheless has 2 engines, covered in a stealthy airframe. Combined, it brings infrastructure requirements, maintenance hurdles and costs, lowers sortie rates(i.e. how much your money will work).
Even mig-29 failed to be cheap and convenient enough to maintain with two engines, and fc-31 doesn't even try this down-to-earth, mudfighter approach.
compared to other variables like stealth maintenance, electronics maintenance, having two engines instead of one is not such big of a deal. Myriad of exported twin engine planes around the world would corroborate that. F15s, Rafales, Eurofighters, MiG29s, Flankers... Basically, only countries that do buy single engine planes are ones that have fairly basic requirements for their air force.

So i do agree FC-31 is not a plane for developing country. I do agree its opportunities outside china are not plentiful. What few countries might be interested in plane of said class either have their own domestic projects or are so aligned with the West that it's out of the question they'd buy Chinese. Which sort of begs the question: Was the whole project geared towards Chinese use at least as much as it was for export? Sure, AVIC touted it for export, but that's the only thing they could have done. Why not try that route as well? And with each new iteration, the design may be getting closer to what PLAAF/PLANAF wants.

Number of new engines and electronics within an air force is not SUCH an issue for large air forces. US operates currently at least 7 different tactical combat planes with different engines and avionics. China operates at least 6. US will likely draw down to 5-6 different planes by 2030s. China will lower their models to 5 or so, including FC-31 variant.


On the other hand, replacing f-16s with FC-31s not only is a big political choice, it will hit PAF capability to drop bombs left and right, significantly. Not unsolvable, but undesireable.
US basically already wrote Pakistan off. China has been selling so many weapon systems to Pakistan that selling FC31 on top of that would not be any sort of "big political choice". Now, replacing F-16s with FC-31 may not happen. FC-31 may prove to be too expensive. Perhaps J-10 would fit better. IF FC-31 is chosen, i don't see it impacting the ability to drop bombs around so much. In addition to the bomb bay which is not so modest, there are the external stores. Compared to F-16, it doesn't lose anything by using them.
One metric which may very well suffer is range. That's just my subjective view, as my calculations of FC-31 volume don't allow for a lot of fuel. If so, that'd also impact the strike missions. Compared to F-16 as well.


Eagerly awaiting for a much-speculated "J-XY"...
Oh, i agree. FC-31 in its current V2 form is unlikely to be chosen by China. I do expect that the plane, if chosen by China, will get another round of redesign. (Not as radical as V2 was to V1, but still noticeable. Perhaps more like J-20 2001 to J-20 2011.) I just hope to Odin it will NOT be named J-35. Nor J-31, for that matter.
 

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Latest image ... ;) ... and a news so far unconfirmed but Stephen Trimble seems to be quite sure.

https://twitter.com/AviationWeek/status/1062050652765925376
 

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sferrin

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Deino said:
Latest image ... ;) ... and a news so far unconfirmed but Stephen Trimble seems to be quite sure.

https://twitter.com/AviationWeek/status/1062050652765925376
I find it difficult to believe China wouldn't want their own F-35 and this seems the obvious choice.
 

sferrin

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Almost like they're saying, "we'll want CFTs so let's just build them in from the start".
 

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Well, the previous iterations were very evidently too slim. Demonstrators don't need much fuel. And it works nicely if weight saving and lift/weight thrust/weight is heavily accentuated, but leaves little room for fuel. This redesign may represent some compromise.
I somehow don't see two different variants of airframe itself going into production, though. Export oriented one and one for PLA. Which brings a question: does this mockup represent something closer to final shape that we'll see within PLAAF/PLANAF?

then again... we had this old model showing a somewhat similar upper fusalage lines.
 

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Almost like they're saying, "we'll want CFTs so let's just build them in from the start".
Or they've maybe rearranged the way the engines are mounted to better accommodate an S-curve or a longer weapons bay.
 

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Almost like they're saying, "we'll want CFTs so let's just build them in from the start".
Or they've maybe rearranged the way the engines are mounted to better accommodate an S-curve or a longer weapons bay.

Nope ... IMO not, it is just the same misshaped model we already know.
 

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Potentially off topic, but everytime I see these pics, it makes me say to myself that's what Superhornet should have been. Meaning that they started to design a truly stealthy aircraft and then took the easy way out and just blew up the hornets so called blueprints 10% and called it a day.
 
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