Eyeing Exports, China Shows Off New Fighter Variant

The FC-31/J-31 flew November 10 and 11, 2014, at the Zhuhai Air Show during a domestic fighter flight performance. The latest FC-31 variant flew over China on Dec. 23, 2016. (Photo China Daily)The FC-31/J-31 flew November 10 and 11, 2014, at the Zhuhai Air Show during a domestic fighter flight performance. The latest FC-31 variant flew over China on Dec. 23, 2016. (Photo China Daily)

China aims to capture the attention of the global export market with its new stealth fighter variant.

The latest FC-31 Gyrfalcon, upgraded from its original J-31 version, flew publicly for the first time over the northeastern city of Shenyang on Friday, state-run media China Daily first reported. The J-31 airframe was first openly unveiled in 2014 at the Zhuhai Airshow.

The radar-evading aircraft, which bears similar resemblance to U.S. F-35 and F-22 fighters, is smaller than China’s Chengdu J-20.

RELATED: China Shows Off J-20 Stealth Jet for First Time

The Chinese military in November debuted two stealth J-20 jets, which are expected to have both short- and long-range air-to-air missiles and can hit speeds of 1,300+ miles per hour.

The FC-31, made by Shenyang Aircraft Corp., originally was poised as a fourth-generation multi-purpose medium fighter, according to Airforce-technology.com. With additional specifications, such as multi-spectrum stealth and advanced sensors and communication systems, the jet was reassessed to classify as a fifth-gen fighter.

The jet is said to have a maximum speed of 1,360 mph and has two internal weapons bays and three payload hard-points on each of its wings to carry medium-range air-to-air and short-range missiles.

However, one of the twin-engine jet’s biggest selling points may be its price.

According to the International Business Times, the aircraft could round out to cost $70 million each, half the going price for a Lockheed Martin-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

RELATED: Turning Up Heat on F-35, Trump Hints at F/A-18E/F Buy

The Times also said the Chinese Daily cited aviation expert Wu Peixin saying that the new version of plane has been equipped with “better stealth capabilities, improved electronic equipment and a larger payload capacity” in comparison to the earliest prototypes.

“Changes were made to the airframe, wings and vertical tails which make it leaner, lighter and more maneuverable,” Peixin said.

With the latest features and competitive selling price, “You can spend a lot less money to get an advanced, fifth-generation stealth combat plane,” aviation and Chinese market expert Fu Qianshao told the Times.

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Oriana Pawlyk
Oriana Pawlyk is a reporter for Military.com. She can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.