After the unveiling of J 31 or FC 31's new model and a new flying prototype of J 31. There were significant improvements being analysed about it. These improvements would catapult J 31 in the export market and would fulfill the Chinese dream of ending the monopoly of US in sale of fifth generation fighter aircrafts. Unlike old juice in a new bottle the Shenyang J 31 has the capability to outrun any regional adversaries like F 15 of Japan or Su 30 MKI of India. It is therefore very important to analyse the capabilities of this new aircraft and to see how it shifts the power balance equations.
Program history :-
Reportedly officially designated Project 310, the original prototype ‘31001’ is a technology demonstrator built and reportedly financed as a private venture by the AVIC and Shenyang. The aircraft was officially named FC-31 ‘Falcon Eagle’ during the Zhuhai airshow in 2014.
Pakistan is reportedly very interested in this twin-engined ‘fourth-generation multi-purpose medium fighter’.(this is exactly what was written "fourth" ).
In addition, there are still strong rumors concerning secret PLA participation or at least an interest in considering the J-31 as a future land-based and carrierborne medium-weight fighter to complement the larger J-20. In theory, it could even replace some of the remaining J-7/8 series fighters while complementing the modernized fourth-generation J-10 and J-11 fighters.
Improvements in physical attributes :-
J 31's airframe has completely been made as one single structure. It is known in China as the additive manufacturing technique which reduced number parts and components to be manufactured by 50% and thus its manufacturing can be done faster. The J31 cannot be disassembled. It features extensive revisions, apparently including a revised, F-22-style forward fuselage including single-piece cockpit canopy, and re-profiled tailfins. The J-31 has a flatter fuselage than the F-35; which suggests a more pronounced air superiority focus for the J31, since a flatter fuselage results in a smaller weapons bay but improves fuel efficiency and speed.
Improvements in Electronic Warfare Capabilities :-
Notice the picture we uploaded featuring the black dot on the backside of J 31 atop the dorsal spine. At the exact same location on PAK-FA a device called DIRCM is located. On the chin an EOTS can be noted which is similar to that of F 35. The function of EOTS ( electro optical targeting system) is to provide necessary information to the aircraft's missiles and guided bombs about the target's heat signature. It helps in targeting and works in cue with radar. A close observation of J 31's belly shows rhombus shaped markings which could possibly be similar to F 35's DAS and function as ultraviolet missile approach warning system. It could give a multi spectral image to the pilot. It provides image of surrounding environment in many different spectrums be it IR spectrum or any other. The EOTS of J 31 is very very similar to that of F 35 and this gives support to the claim that the Chinese hacked data of F 35. The EOTS having faceted VLO profiling in front on two sides and one beneath shows it won't just be used for targeting purpose but for Infrared search and track also. The EOTS of F 35 has it's glass made of Lucco-Sapphire, the next strongest material after diamond. It is unclear wheather Chinese have done that or not.
It was seen placed on the front starboard side of the J-31 canopy, A-Star’s EORD-31 serves as an IRST, similar to the OLS-27 series used by the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter. However, instead of a spherical dome cover, the EORD-31 is flat and faceted. Chinese press reports claimed the system may be able to detect a Lockheed Martin F-22A at 110 km and a Boeing B-2 at 150 km. If speculated to do the same thing that Su 27's OLS does the EORD 31 would just be receiver that picks up heat signatures of Stealth fighters. The F 22 incorporates active cooling of leading edges to suppress its heat build up when viewed from front. The EORD may have faring that reduces it's own radar return still does not seem to be any big development from OLS,but it isn't easy to detect F 22 at BVR ranges.
Improvements in stealth characteristics :-
A new engine was represented by redesigned, stealthy nozzles. This is said to be a ‘new’ Chinese 10-11-tonne thrust unit that will ultimately replace the Russian RD-93. Exactly what this engine is, remains unknown. In the pictures of 3D art appeared on a Chinese website and many other images it was noted that the edges of the engine nozzles have sawtooth shape. Which is quite similar to sawtooth shapes of F 35. This shape is very important as it reduces radar cross section and significantly improves the anti-IR detection of the aircraft. Such sawtooth shaped edges were also seen on doors of internal weapon bays and doors that hide landing gear.
The updated design includes radar cross-section improvements such as clipped wing edges, revised vertical stabilizers, a re-profiled forward section with a single-piece canopy. The wings can also be seen quite reprofiled and look more like that of F 22 Raptor. The wingtip edge's smooth blend of leading edge and trailing edge reduces the heat build up on edges and also reduces aerodynamic drag. One more stealth aspect is usage of bubble canopy single piece cockpit.
Possible Weapon Package :-
FC-31 features a single internal weapon bay inside its belly housing up to 6 AAMs including PL-10, PL-12 and PL-21. The aircraft is also thought to have a secondary surface attack capability where it can carry 50kg class SDBs internally such as LS-6/FT-7 satellite guided bomb and GB50 LGB, or the larger YJ-83K AshM and YJ-91 ARM externally under 6 hardpoints. An internal gun is thought to be installed as well but its exact location is still unknown.
For Air to ground strike capability the J 31 simply has got many missiles to chose from. Many people think that even the upgraded model of J 31 has shallow weapon bays and cant carry cruise missiles. But the new TL 7 export version KD 88 missile has a diamter of just 0.7 m and 180 km range. It also has air launched antiship version which has recently been installed on JH 7 fighter bomber. It can be possibly a package.
This poster taken from errymath blogspot shows side weapon bays but they were not seen on the model displayed at Zhuhai Air Show and not even on the prototypes.
Another Chinese poster showing J 31 as a carrier borne fighter. The Chief designer of J 31 was reported indicating possibility of this aircraft. The carrier borne version will be named J 18 ( export version F 60).
Strategic Implications :-
J 31 thus is becoming a serious concern for neighbors of China. Pakistan is reportedly interested in J 31's export variant the FC 31. The FC 31 would be ready by 2018 for induction as per SAC. So if Pakistan becomes it's first customer then It can be safely assumed that FC 31 would arrive in Pakistan by 2019 or 2020. On the other hand Indian fifth generation programs like HAL FGFA and HAL AMCA won't have any flying prototype before 2023. And the Sukhoi PAK-FA would have been plagued with technical glitches that even Russian Air Force is ordering it in limited numbers. Russians would like to keep the first batch for themselves and Indians won't be getting PAK-FA before 2020 because without izdeliye 30 engine and Radio Optical Phased Array Radar ( ROPhAR), procuring PAK-FA is meaningless. Although these are just possibilities but it will be a big embarrassment if Pakistan acquires a fifth generation fighter before India. Considering additive manufacturing technique J 31 can be manufactured really fast.
The cockpit of J 31 as diplayed at an exibition during Zhuhai Air Show.
Info Source : Combat Aircraft Magazine ,alternativenews.tk
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