China unveils super-secret stealth fighter designed to challenge F-35 Lightning
China is finally taking the wraps off its super-secret stealth fighter – the FC-31 – which is designed challenge the Mk 2 F-35 Lightnings used by British and US forces.
Pictures of the previously classified fifth-generation combat jet were published in official state newspaper Global Times.
They show an early version of the plane being tested on a “concrete carrier” mock-up of China’s new Type 003 aircraft carrier in Shanghai.
Observers have also spotted a prototype of China’s new KJ-600 airborne early warning & Control plane – the Chinese Navy’s equivalent of the US. Navy’s E-2D Hawkeye – being tested on the “concrete carrier”.
The specialised airstrip, built near Wuhan around 10 years ago, was created to test every aspect of carrier operations on a dry-land environment to streamline the development of China’s next generation of naval weaponry.
Nearby, engineers have also created a test-bed mockup of China’s Type-055 Renhai Class cruiser – again for safe and secure testing of cutting-edge weapons systems.
In 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered his military commanders to make sure that sure their forces were “always ready for a battle”, warning that risks and challenges are on the rise as the world is facing a period of major changes on a scale that hasn't been seen in over a century.
Since then, weapons development in China has sharply accelerated. Shenyang Aircraft Company, part of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, released a statement earlier this year announcing its determination to make breakthroughs in its fifth-generation fighter jet programme.
The new carrier-based variant of the FC-31 appears to be one of those breakthroughs.
It is expected to carry the PL-15 medium range air-to-air missile in a large internal weapons bay, with additional hard points for extra weaponry or fuel tanks at the cost of sacrificing stealth capability.
Specialist military news agency Naval News, said that the choice of the FC-31 design had won out over the rival J-20 for carrier operations because its so much smaller and lighter.
The new jet will “bring the Chinese navy’s growing carrier capabilities into the stealth era”, the report said.
Meanwhile the Chinese military has also released videos of troops training with DF-26 "carrier killer" missiles to improve their readiness for combat operations at night.
“We have been holding night exercises on a regular basis recently, which usually last past midnight,” Colonel Jiang Feng, deputy commander of the brigade, told China National Radio.
“We randomly change the launch position, randomly change the strike target. We continuously carry out fire strikes and relocations,” he added.
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