China’s People’s Liberation Army –Air Force (PLA-AF) is expected to be the launch customer of the FC-31 stealth fighter developed by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).
AVIC is currently negotiating with the PLA-AF to buy an unspecified number of the FC-31 stealth fighters, AVIC project manager Lin Peng said during a media briefing at the Dubai Air Show on Sunday.
“The FC-31 is a low-observable aircraft designed to meet the demands of future battlefield environments,” Lin Peng said during the briefing which had been called to inform about the stealth characteristics and performance features of the aircraft.
The aircraft has an advanced radar providing it with “outstanding situational awareness, high manoeuvrability, and multi-spectrum low-observability”, said Peng referring to its stealth characteristics. The FC-31 is designed to penetrate through enemy radar coverage and conduct pin point strikes.
The plane is equipped with twin engines made in China, and all its weapons and systems are made in China, he said.
The aircraft has been undergoing prototype testing for more than two years, Peng said adding that the AVIC is planning the first flight of the production aircraft in 2019, initial operational clearance in 2022 and final operational clearance in 2024.
While Western media and observers have said the briefing was an attempt to attract international customers to the FC-31, a Chinese source at the show, who did not wish to be identified told defenseworld.net, “the aircraft would be ready for service only 10 years from now. Nobody would buy an aircraft just by looking at a prototype.”
The source, who is not associated with AVIC said that the aircraft must first fly with the PLA-AF for foreign buyers to become confident in a Chinese aircraft with features similar to the highly regarded American F-35.
The announcement now is to generate and sustain interest till the time the aircraft is ready for foreign sales, which could be about 10-15 years from now, he said adding that more briefings can be expected at aviation events next year and beyond as and when development milestones are reached.