China’s improved naval variant of Shenyang J-31 "stealth" fighter is likely to become the main air superiority fighter aboard the country's aircraft carriers.
The second J-31 has a number of improvements over the first one. "The second J-31 saw changes to the airframe, wings and vertical rudders," Chinese aerospace experts said.
Funded by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC), the J-31 or FC-31 was first unveiled on Nov. 12, 2014 at the Zhuhai Air Show. Two prototypes have been built since then, China Topix reported Monday.
The fighter is expected to join the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in 2019, following Beijing's approval to fund for its serial production.
“SAC is known to have developed a third J-31 prototype and this one might be the naval variant.” The experts said. There is also speculation that SAC has already received funding for the carrier version of the J-31.
The naval J-31 is probably much larger than the PLA Air Force variant in order to increase range, payload and structural strength to meet the intense demands of carrier flight operations.
The J-31 resembles F-35 and the Western countries believes that it is theft by Chinese spies of top secret F-35 plans in covert operations spanning over a decade.
The J-31 is powered by two Russian-made Klimov RD-93 turbofan jet engines. During its first test flight in 2012, the first J-31 managed to stay airborne for only 11 minutes.