09/30/2013 Defence IQ Press
The Chinese J-31 fighter, a 5th generation prototype jet also known as the Falcon Hawk, Falcon Eagle, F-60 or J-21, is being developed for the export market, according to Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong speaking in the People’s Daily.
It is “highly unlikely” the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will acquire and operate the aircraft itself – rather it will be offered as a direct competitor to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, presumably as a cheaper alternative.
Although the People’s Daily described the J-31 as “a serious threat to U.S. arms manufacturers,” meaning Lockheed Martin and its F-35 in particular, it’s doubtful the two will encounter much overlap. Pakistan is the most likely buyer for the J-31 at this moment, which won’t be seen as much of a blow by Lockheed’s business development team. Potential deals in Brazil and the Middle East may be spark more disquiet.
Little is known about the J-31 and China’s other 5th gen fighter, the J-20, beyond the few pictures and test flight videos scattered around internet forums. As a result it’s difficult to know exactly what threat the fighter would pose to the F-35 in the global marketplace – although based on past form, the F-35 looks like it can make a meal of attracting buyers all by itself.