PLA 5th-Generation Fighters


Background
Chengdu J-20
Shenyang FC-31

BACKGROUND

China embarked on preliminary research on the 5th-generation stealth fighter aircraft in the late 1990s. Two development programmes were running in parallel at Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) and Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) respectively to compete for the PLA’s next-generation fighter programme known to Western intelligence as XXJ or J-XX.

In 1997, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) first reported that an advanced F-22-class twin-engine stealth fighter codenamed XXJ was being developed by the Shenyang-based 601 Institute and SAC. Later it was revealed that the Chengdu-based 611 Institute and CAC were also working an advanced fighter design based on the technical know-how gained from the J-10 development programme.

The delta-wing layout Chengdu J-20 was first revealed in December 2010 and the aircraft made its maiden flight in January 2011, followed by a second prototype in May 2012. The conventional layout Shenyang FC-31 made its first flight in October 2012 and was first revealed as a concept mock-up during the November 2012 Zhuhai Air Show. The aircraft made its debut flight during the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show.

While the Chengdu J-20 has reportedly been in service with the PLAAF for test and evaluation since December 2016, the development and flight testing of the FC-31 continues, with a second prototype first flying in December 2016.

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CHENGDU J-20

Type: Multirole fighter. Designer: AVIC Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute (611 Institute). Manufacturer: AVIC Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC). First flight: 11 January 2011. Introduction: December 2016. No. in service: N/A. Crew: 1. Length (m): N/A. Wingspan (m): N/A. Height (m): N/A. Empty weight (kg): N/A. Loaded weight (kg): N/A. Max take-off weight (kg): N/A. Internal fuel capacity (kg): N/A. Max level speed (Mach): N/A. Max climb rate (m/s): N/A. Service ceiling (m): N/A. Ferry range (km): N/A. Combat radius (km): N/A. Max g-load: N/A.

China’s first attempt to produce a 5th-generation stealth fighter that can match the U.S. Boeing F-22A Raptor, the J-20 made its maiden flight in January 2011 and has been undergoing operational test and evaluation with the PLAAF since December 2016. The J-20 bears strong radar cross section (RCS) reduction features and can carry a range of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons inside its four internal weapon bays. The aircraft is equipped with an indigenous active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, an electro-optical targeting system, and distributed situational awareness electro-optical sensors. These sub-systems, connected via an advanced datalink to an integrated suite of electronic systems, allowing the aircraft to possess situational awareness, command and control, and network-centric warfare capabilities on a par with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightening-II. The aircraft’s underpowered propulsion consists of two Russian Lyulka-Saturn AL-31F-M2 afterburning turbofan engines with fixed nozzle, which do not offer the super cruise and thrust vectoring control (TVC) capabilities.

  • Configuration: Single-seat, twin-engine
  • Aerodynamic layout: Tailless delta-wing, with a pair of foreplane canards, two V-shape all-moving tails, two tapered under-fuselage stabilising fins, and tail booms. Blended fuselage with internal weapon bays, serrated edges on undercarriage/weapon bay doors, and diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) for RCS reduction
  • Fixed weapon: 1x 23-mm internal cannon?
  • Hardpoints: 4x under-wing pylon stations to carry drop tanks or weapons
  • AAM:
    • PL-10 SRAAM, IIR-homing, 20 km range
    • PL-15 LRAAM, active radar-homing, >200 km range
  • Ground strike:
    • Precision guided bombs
  • Sensors:
    • AESA fire-control radar
    • Electro-optical targeting system
    • Electro-optical distributed situational awareness system
  • Avionics:
    • Data link
    • Electronic warfare and countermeasures (EW/ECM) suite with flare/chaff dispenser
  • Propulsion:
    • 2x Lyulka-Saturn AL-31F-M2 turbofan engine, each rated at 86.3 kN/19,400 lbf dry and 142 kN/31,900 lbf with afterburning
    • Fixed nozzles
    • Retractable in-flight refuelling probe

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SHENYANG FC-31

Type: Multirole fighter. Designer: AVIC Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute (601 Institute). Manufacturer: AVIC Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC). First flight: 31 October 2012. Introduction: Not in service. No. in service: N/A. Crew: 1. Length (m): N/A. Wingspan (m): N/A. Height (m): N/A. Empty weight (kg): N/A. Loaded weight (kg): N/A. Max take-off weight (kg): N/A. Internal fuel capacity (kg): N/A. Max level speed (Mach): N/A. Max climb rate (m/s): N/A. Service ceiling (m): N/A. Ferry range (km): N/A. Combat radius (km): N/A. Max g-load: N/A.

The FC-31 (also known as J-31) is the stealth fighter produced by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) for the PLA’s 5th-generation fighter programme. The first prototype of the aircraft made its maiden flight in 2012 but there had been no follow-up prototype produced for the next four years, possibly due to a lack of interest from the PLA or any foreign customers. The development continues with the second moderately modified prototype making flight in December 2016. The second prototype had its outer mould lines modified to further reduce its radar cross-section (RCS), and is fitted with an infrared search and tracking system. There have been speculations that the aircraft may be developed for carrier-based operations as well as a replacement for the Chengdu J-10A/B within the PLAAF/PLANAF.

  • Configuration: Single-seat, twin-engine
  • Aerodynamic layout: Conventional, with a pair of large wings, two large canted swept tailfins, and a pair of horizontal stabilisers. Blended fuselage with internal weapon bays, serrated edges on undercarriage/weapon bay doors, and diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) for RCS reduction
  • Fixed weapon: 1x 23-mm internal cannon?
  • Hardpoints: N/A
  • AAM:
    • PL-10 SRAAM, IIR-homing, 20 km range
    • PL-15 LRAAM, active radar-homing
  • Ground strike:
    • Precision guided bombs
  • Sensors:
    • AESA fire-control radar
  • Avionics:
    • Data link
    • Electronic warfare and countermeasures (EW/ECM) suite with flare/chaff dispenser
  • Propulsion:
    • 2x Klimov RD-93 turbofan engine, each rated at 79 kN/17,760 lb dry and 98 kN/22,031 lb with afterburning, or
    • 2x Guizhou WS-13 turbofan engine, each rated 90 kN/20,233 lb with afterburning
    • Fixed nozzles

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