Fighter jet technology is evolving faster than ever before. For China, this comes in the form of the Shenyang FC-31 Gyrfalcon. The Chinese fighter comes with a strong resemblance to American fighters and may soon make the jump from prototype to production line in the 2020s. Here are five things you need to know about the FC-31 Gyrfalcon:
1. Developed privately
The FC-31 came about as the Chengdu J-20’s competitor, China’s OTHER stealth fighter. After missing out on the contract, Shenyang decided to develop the aircraft privately, hoping to eventually demonstrate its usefulness in the future.
By 2010s, the existence of the F-31 started to leak out when a Shenyang-produced fighter circulated online in September 2011. The leak, which featured the “F-60”, confirmed that the company had been working on their own design to rival the J-20 which had also leaked the year prior.
2. Key differences from the J-20
From the pictures alone, keen observers were quick to point out some key differences between the two rivals:
The FC-31 had two wheels under its nose, which typically means that the aircraft was meant to operate from a carrier. It also looked to be more nimble than the J-20, suggesting a role as an air superiority fighter rather than a multi-role aircraft.
When comparing their sizes, it was found that the FC-31 was smaller than the J-20 and also lacked canards which were present in the J-20.
3. Used stolen information?
Furthermore, reports suggest that the aircraft draws upon design elements from the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 and the United States’ F-35 Lightning II. This came after a hack was first reported in 2007 and 2008 regarding the United States’ Joint Strike Fighter Program.
Several terabytes of its data were stolen, with many believing China was behind it, breeding a long-standing suspicion that any resulting Chinese fighter plane designs would draw from this information.
4. Planned export version
The FC-31 Gyrfalcon has generated significant interest in the international market, with its export potential being a crucial aspect of its development.
The aircraft is designed to meet the requirements of foreign customers who are seeking advanced fighter capabilities. Its export potential positions the FC-31 Gyrfalconas a strong contender in the international defense market.
In turn, this gives China’s allies an easier way to “level the playing field” by giving them access to a new generation of fighters.
5. Expected Design
After a few years of teasing, Shenyang finally unveiled some levels of detail regarding its new fighter.
As they described it, the FC-31 was to be a multi-role fighter with mission capabilities ranging from offensive and defensive air superiority actions to air defense oppression, to close air support and more.
Moreover, it was specified to have two internal weapons bays plus six external hardpoints and an internal cannon – totaling a payload capacity of 8,000 kg. The FC-31’s top speed was reported to be Mach 1.8, with a range of 1,242 miles with external fuel tanks.