China J31 stealth fighter (a knockoff of the US F35), has to overcome engine and sensor issues

The J-31 fighter jet had poor performance in air demonstrations at the 2014 Airshow China in Zhuhai. This has prompted officials from the state-run Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) to emphasise the future development path for the aircraft. The builder AVIC is attempting to convey the perception that the actual “FC-31” production-standard aircraft will incorporate improvements to address the shortcomings seen in the airframe’s performance to date. One item most commonly mentioned is a new engine that would replace the Klimov/Sarkisov RD-93 engine that is installed in the J-31. The RD-93, a version of the Mikoyan MiG-29’s RD-33, differs from the original by having an accessory pack that includes the engine’s gearbox rotated from the top to the bottom of the engine installation.

The J31 is believed to have been built from stolen detailed designs of the US F35 stealth fighter. China is trying to sell J31 planes to Pakistan and Iran.

Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) is making an aggressive push to sell the J-31 stealth fighter to international customers at the Dubai airshow. AVIC intends to fly a production version of its “Gyrfalcon” by 2019. The aircraft could become operational as early as 2022. Full operational capability would follow roughly three years later.

China is working on jet engine technology. But Beijing has not yet mastered propulsion technology that would allow its products to compete on the international marketplace independent of Russian largesse. The Russians supply the engines for most of China’s offering like the FC-1 Xiaolong—which is also known as the JF-17 Thunder. The JF-17 is powered by a single 19,000lbs thrust-class Klimov RD-93 afterburning turbofan that was derived from the MiG-29’s RD-33 engine.

However, the Chinese are known to be working on an indigenous replacement for the RD-93 on the JF-17 called the Guizhou WS-13. The indigenous motor—should it prove to be viable—has slightly more thrust than the Russian engine. A prototype JF-17 has flown with the new engine according to Chinese officials who spoke at the Paris air show.

If the Chinese are truly close to perfecting a production ready WS-13—as some in the Pentagon claim—then that engine could be developed into a propulsion system for the J-31. Chinese officials speaking to reporters at the Dubai airshow indicated that the production FC-31 would be powered by a Chinese-made “advanced medium thrust engine” producing roughly 20,000lbs of thrust.

The J-31 would come with a lot of Chinese-developed weapons including the PL-9 dogfighting missile, SD-10A (PL-12) medium-range air-to-air missile and Beijing’s version of the small diameter bomb. The jet will have a total payload of 17,600lb, 4,400lbs of which would be carried internally in its weapons bays. The J-31 will have a combat radius of 448 nautical miles with internal weapons and a maximum takeoff weight of 55,000lbs.

SOURCES – Janes, National Interest, Daily Star UK