China’s defense industry can now sustain multiple overlapping advanced programs. SAC alone is currently working on four major fighter aircraft – the J-31 and the J-16 as well as the J-16’s single seat parent the J-11B and the carrier-based J-15, also based on the J-11B.
Like most modern fighter aircraft, the J-31 will likely be a multi-role combat aircraft capable of employing modern precision munitions in both air-to-air and air-to-surface roles. Despite apparent rapid advancement, however, it will take time for the fighter to reach full operational status. As Xu Guangyu of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association explains, “there is still a huge gap between China and the U.S.’ fighter jet technologies because we are still testing both the J-20 and the J-31. It might take another couple of years before we can put them on the production line.”
by DAVID AXE