China’s latest FC-31 Gyrfalcon stealth fighter prototype may have been on a test flight

China’s latest FC-31 Gyrfalcon stealth fighter prototype may have been on a test flight

  • Photo circulating online suggests it has undergone modifications including to the canopy over its cockpit and wind resistance improvements
  • But it appears to have retained engine based on a 1970s Soviet design that is seen as a limitation to its function and capabilities

A Chinese aviation company has apparently been test flying its new stealth fighter jet that aims to match America’s F-35s, and which could be a candidate for its next generation of ship-borne warplanes.

The latest prototype of the fifth-generation FC-31 Gyrfalcon may have undergone a number of modifications, according to a witness photograph circulating on social media network Weibo that appears to show the aircraft on a recent flight but could not be verified.

The stealth fighter is pictured using its fuel-guzzling afterburners as it gains altitude, with the logo of state-owned developer the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) clearly visible on the jet’s tail.

Different from earlier versions, it appears the latest prototype no longer has an airspeed measurement device located in the nose of the jet, suggesting it could have been replaced with fitted avionics such as an active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar.

The transparent canopy over the cockpit also appears to have changed to a design more like the one used in China’s other stealth fighter, the J-20.

There may have also been modifications to improve the jet’s wind resistance, according to the photo.