The launch of China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier 001A has created national sensation in recent days, but experts have noted that the carrier-based aircraft currently in use in China are backward and the country needs a new aircraft to match the new carrier, such as a version of J-31 stealth fighter.
A military expert who requested anonymity was quoted by the Science and TechnologyDaily on Friday as saying that the current carrier-based J-15 fighter jet is a third-generation machine and lags far behind the F-35C jet to be used by the US.
“If our aircraft carrier can get a modified version of the fourth-generation J-31 fighter jet, it will largely enhance the fighting capability of the aircraft carrier,” the expert said.
However, another military expert Zhang Wenchang told the same newspaper that several improvements must be made if the J-31 is to be modified into a carrier-based aircraft, such as additional devices to help the J-31 adapt to the aircraft carrier’s landing and takeoff environment, enlarging the plane’s wings and tail as well as strengthening the structure of the plane body and the landing gear.
“Opinion is divided as to what type of fighter jet is fit to be modified into a carrier-based plane. Some people think that J-20 is more suitable for the mission, as its technologies are more mature than J-31, but the manufacturer of J-31 has more experience in modification of carrier-based jets,” Zhang noted.
Built by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC), the twin-engine J-31 is roughly the same size as the American F-35, with a range of 775 miles, a maximum takeoff weight of 28 tons, and a Mach 1.8 top speed. If it enters Chinese service, it would replace single-engine J-10s as a medium fighter.
The combination of the J-31’s high speed performance, and suggested payload of 6 PL-12 or 4 PL-21 long range air to air missiles suggests that the J-31 has been optimized as an air superiority fighter, though it can be fitted with a wide array of Chinese precision guided munitions like the LS smart bombs.