China Says J-31 Fighter Will Compete With F-35 for Sales


A PLA Navy official has confirmed to state-run media outlets that China will export the Shenyang J-31 twin-engine fifth generation fighter jet.

According to the Taiwan-based Want China Times, Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong told the People’s Daily this week that the J-31 was never built with China’s military in mind, and it was highly unlikely that the PLA would ever operate J-31s off of its aircraft carriers. Instead, the J-31 was designed for export to China’s strategic partners and allies, particularly those that couldn’t purchase the F-35.

The J-31, often referred to as the Falcon Hawk, Falcon Eagle, F-60 or J-21, is one of China’s two prototype fifth-generation aircraft, the other being the J-20. It is built by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, and images of the aircraft first began appearing on the internet around this time last year.

Photos of the J-31 allegedly conducting its first test run surfaced last November, followed by a one-quarter scale model of the stealth fighter being showcased the same month at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, China’s largest airshow. It was identified only as the Advanced Fighter Concept at the show, although reports in China’s state-run media said that prototype was a J-31. More recently, last month, the Global Times posted a picture of a J-31 doing a test run on its online edition.

Previous reports in China’s state-run media have been mixed as to whether the J-31 would serve as the PLA’s future carrier-based fighter, or whether it was intended for foreign customers. Sun Cong, the chief designer of both China’s current carrier-based aircraft, the J-15, as well as the J-31, told the People’s Daily earlier this year that future versions of the J-31 might become China next-generation carrier-borne fighter jet. However, representatives from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, a state-owned aerospace company that displayed the prototype at the airshow last November, billed it at the time as intended for export.

An article in the People’s Daily at the end of last month did little to clarify matters. The article referred to the J-31 as a fourth-generation stealth fighter, while also saying that is comparable to the U.S.’ F-35 fighter jets. The report first said that it would be exported abroad as a competitor to the F-35, before discussing the possibility that it will be China’s next carrier-borne fighter.

“Experts predict that the J-31 will make rapid inroads in the international market in the future, and will undoubtedly steal the limelight from the F-35,” the People’s Daily report said, noting also that competition to sell the fighter jets to international customers was “becoming a new variable in the Sino-US strategic game.”

The report added that, “The J-31, with its main target as the export market, represents a serious threat to U.S. arms manufacturers.” Later in the same article, however, People’s Daily noted that the plane’s landing gear was built to sustain the impact of landing on a carrier better than the current J-15s, and therefore might be used as China’s future carrier-based jet.

One possibility is that China is building both a domestic and export version of the aircraft. Some foreign news outlets have indeed said that China may sell a version of the aircraft abroad under the name F-60, while maintaining a fleet of domestic J-31s for the PLA.

With so little known about the J-31, it’s hard to gauge how credible China’s claims are that the J-31 is a low-cost alternative to the F-35. In a report in Defense News last August, shortly after the first few images of the plane surfaced, Project 2049 Institute’s Robert Cliff dismissed the notion that the J-31 would pose a serious threat to the F-35 in terms of overseas sales.

““India won’t buy it. Russia won’t buy it,” Cliff noted, adding: “That pretty much leaves countries like Pakistan, Brazil, some Middle East countries, none of whom [the U.S. is] likely to sell the F-35 to anytime this decade or next.”

He also said that he did not believe Saudi Arabia was interested in the plane.

Pakistan is perhaps the most likely foreign purchaser of the fighter. Pakistan and China previously jointly developed the JF-17 Thunder advanced fighter, although only Islamabad has ended up purchasing the jet thus far. This week Pakistani officials called on China to increase cooperation in the area of defense production. Beijing has long helped Islamabad acquire the necessary knowledge and expertise to develop a more advanced domestic defense industry.

Chong Lee
January 3, 2014 at 16:59

You have to put this into perspective, that by the time the Chinese have this plane for mass production it will be so out dated nobody is going to care.

In 10 to 20 years Americans will have planes on production line that will make the F35 and F22 seem outdated and antiquated.

Russians/Chinese philosophy has always been overwhelm with numbers, make yours cheap but if you got 10 to 1 advantage you can win.

Problem with that kind of thinking is that its no longer valid, against the United states.

Advance tech your looking at 10 to 1 on American side and their equipment is usually 10 times better. Lets say the Chinese stealth fighter is even half as good as they say it is and cost 1/3 the cost. American will still have 10 to 1 on war equipment.

If gulf war has proven anything, its that number of ground troops with inferior gear is next to useless.

Saddam Hussain had over 650,000 men and Thousands of Tanks

American had about 697,000 men and about 150,000 ally troops,

Americans lost around 300 men and about 7 Tanks.


Chinese are just getting their military motorized forget getting mechanized, that’s still decades away.

January 21, 2014 at 17:48

Outdated thinking and comparing apple and oranges using Iraq as an example.

“Chinese are just getting their military motorized forget getting mechanized, that’s still decades away.”

Shows you know nothing about Chinese equipments on all levels.

October 31, 2013 at 21:40

They said the same thing about Japanese technology.  20 years later General Motors goes bankrupt, and only a fool would buy an American made car.

October 24, 2013 at 09:01

1 – Not all planes are as overweight as the F-35

2 – Assuming your "stealth mesh" is refering to radio absorbing composites, Chinese technicians routinely walk on surfaces of J20 in plain cloth, while F22, B2 and F117 technicians have to wear gas masks and full body suit and soft shoes, who do you think has outdated stealth coating and who has stealth mesh?

3 – Are you sure you know what you are talking about?

4- You need to get out more, China have 

5- PL-21, PL-12D, if you live in denial, try convincing a few people at the air force.

October 4, 2013 at 22:50

Remember JF 17? 600 sales, F16 equivalent, 3 years on not a single sale other than 40 for Pakistan lacking in Night fighting ability, maneuverability, apeed and EW systems. A slightly moded early Mig 21 rebuild.

Chinese think

1> An airframe designed for a 220KN engine (F135) CAN BE REPLACED BY 2 RD 93K WITH A TOTAL OF 176KN THRUST!

2> Stealth mesh on F22 and F35 can be replaced by a stealth coating RAM of 1990s level ( F117, Russian , EX – Soviet).

3> A plane designed to be cheater with E/W and Advanced DFCS can be given lengthened wings instead.

4> A plane can survive even if it  doesn't have an Advanced AMRAAM 120 D+ for BVRAAM, core idea of a 5th gen fighter.

5> That people would buy this than a SU 35BM, F18SH BLK III,  F16 BLK 60, MIG 35, F15SE(K), EF2000 AND RAFALE that will eat this plane for lunch and is much cheaper as knowing chinese they will ask for kickbacks and DELAY MONEY for R&D to make the a bare minimum modicum of the plane being workable.

6> The fact they reject this plane themselves will make people run like kids to a Taylor Swift contest to this prottype witha bastardized origin.

October 2, 2013 at 00:28

ok, but what about countries such as Bangladesh or African countries? there will be a market for sure

Steeljaw Scribe
October 1, 2013 at 21:36

J-31 = China's F-5 (as in Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter).  "If you build it, they may not necessarily come…"

w/r, SJS

September 30, 2013 at 16:14


Didn't you know China supplied lots of military replacement parts to USA?

September 29, 2013 at 16:52

Rest your case? You still have lots to prove your case.

When Turkey is lookong for a US $ 4 billion anti-missile defence, the sellers include Lockheed Martin (maker of F-35) and Raytheon Co. peddling their Patriot, Russian's Rosoboroexport the S-400, Italian-French's Eurosam and China's HQ-9.

Guess who wins the bid? Learnt more before open your big mouth!!!!>


Little Helmsman
September 29, 2013 at 05:50

Without China’s access to western technology and Russian military hardware China would not have any kind of military industry! These made in China planes are just for display and parades!

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief