China’s fifth-generation stealth fighter jet FC-31 showcased its latest upgrades at the ongoing Paris Air Show, and analysts noted that the displayed model shows noteworthy changes in design that could significantly improve its capabilities, Global Times reported.
A scaled model of the FC-31 is being displayed by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) at the company’s stand at the 53rd Paris Air Show, which ran this past week.
Chinese military observers and media said the model on display appears to have undergone many changes compared to the aircraft’s past designs.
The area behind the cockpit and the areas where the two engines are housed are now bulkier, Weihutang, a military column affiliated with China Central Television, reported. The optimized aerodynamic design further reduces wind resistance, the report said.
Wang Ya’nan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times that these changes could mean the aircraft has been made more agile and is capable of carrying more fuel, which will give it a larger operational range.
It might also carry additional electronic devices for communication or satellite links, Wang said.
The upgraded FC-31 might even feature a pair of new engines, reported Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a Xi’an-based periodical on the national defense industry.
The nozzles of the engines on the FC-31 model displayed in Paris are very different in structure and shape than the ones previously used, the periodical said, noting that this means the warplane will become more competitive on the international market, giving it a better chance of joining the People’s Liberation Army if it gets new and more powerful engines.
For countries looking to buy an advanced stealth fighter jet, the FC-31 is similar to the US F-35 but much cheaper, and China does not attach political conditions to arms sales as the US does, Wang said.
Contrary to China’s efficient FC-31 program, the US F-35 program has been a veritable disaster from day one. According to The Daily Beast, the Pentagon’s $400-billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, one of the biggest and most expensive weapons programs in history, has come under fire for more than a decade over delays, rising costs, design problems and technical glitches.
In effect, the report claimed that “America is stuck with a stealth fighter that can’t fight,” alleging serious “category 1” flaws. In military parlance, a category 1 flaw in a plane can prevent a pilot from accomplishing their mission, the report said.
Some versions of the F-35 can’t accelerate to supersonic speed without melting their own tails or shedding the expensive coating that helps to give the planes their radar-evading qualities, the report said — a shocking development.
Also, if one of the U.S. military’s new F-35s has to climb at a steep angle in order to dodge an enemy attack, design flaws mean the plane might suddenly tumble out of control and crash, the report said.
Analysts say restrictions on the stealth fighter to limit supersonic speed to less than a minute, could make it impossible for aviators to keep up with, or avoid, Russian and Chinese fighters flying faster than the speed of sound without any restrictions.
Furthermore, in a dogfight with a Russian or Chinese jet that can exceed a 20-degree angle of attack, an American flying and F-35 could be at a serious disadvantage, the report said.