(Analysis) China: Newest Stealth Fighter Reveals Military and Industrial Ambitions

Summary

The first test flight on October 31 of China’s second stealth fighter aircraft, the J-31 “Falcon Eagle,” was a bid to demonstrate Beijing’s ambitious plans to develop a defense industry and military that can join the ranks of Western powers.  While the new fighter is another sign of China’s intention to ramp up its military in the Asia-Pacific region to challenge the United States, significant technological and manufacturing issues probably mean that the J-31 is at least a decade away from deployment and will significantly underperform U.S. stealth aircraft.

Photos of the J-31 prototype taking its maiden flight initially appeared on Chinese military message boards, defense forums and aviation web sites on November 1. A scale model of the plane was displayed at a Chinese air show two weeks later.  Although China has said little about the plane’s capabilities, it has portrayed the jet as “an alternative for non-traditional allies of the U.S.” to the fifth-generation F-35 fighter.

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