Zhuhai Airshow Will Unveil J-31

TAIPEI — A Chinese airshow official has confirmed that China will unveil its stealthy J-31 fighter aircraft at China’s biggest commercial and defense airshow next week in Zhuhai, in the southern province of Guangdong near Hong Kong.

Known officially as the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, the event will be held from Nov. 11-14. About 700 aviation companies and 120 aircraft will participate.

Built by Shenyang Aircraft, this will be the first public demonstration of the twin-engine J-31. The fighter is similar in configuration to the single-engine Lockheed F-35 stealth fighter. Chinese-language military blogs posted photographs of the J-31 practicing demonstration flights at Zhuhai last week.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) will be exhibiting the JH-7A and J-10 fighters, Z-8KA helicopter, and the upgraded H-6M medium-range bomber capable of carrying cruise missiles. The Hongdu L-15 Falcon fighter trainer is not yet listed nor is there a press conference. Hongdu has made a special effort at other air shows in the Middle East and Asia to promote the aircraft.

There is also no listing for the Pakistan-built JF-17 fighter, which was at the 2012 airshow. However, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) will exhibit the FC-1 fighter, which is a Chinese variant of the JF-17. The fighter is a joint program by Chengdu Aircraft and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.

The Russian-built Su-35 super-maneuverable fighter will be on display for the first time. China and Russia have been in negotiations for a deal on the fighter since 2006 and a signing may be possible in late November.

“As far as I understand now, there will be a contract for 24 aircraft plus some spare engines,” said Vassily Kashin, an expert on Russia’s arms trade with China at Moscow’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. “The negotiations on engine technology transfers are progressing separately, that is a different cooperation area.”

Built by the United Aircraft Corp, the aircraft is powered by the same engine fitted on the stealthy Russian T-50, the Saturn AL-117S, which is an upgraded variant of the AL-31FN. China already imports the AL-31FN from Russia for the single-engine Chengdu J-10 fighter.

Russia agreed to a deal to build Su-27 fighters in China in the 1990s, but China began producing an Su-27 copycat, dubbed the J-11 fighter, by Shenyang Aircraft. There are fears in Moscow that China will do the same with the Su-35, as well as the AL-117 engine for its J-20 stealth fighter.

Richard Bitzinger, a defense industry specialist at Singapore’s Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said Russia will “sell the engines that go into Chinese aircraft, but not the production technology.” He said it is unlikely Russia would transfer the technology to build these types of engines in China.

At the last minute, the South Korean Air Force canceled participation in the airshow. The Black Eagles aerobatic demonstration team flies nine supersonic T-50 Golden Eagle jet trainers built by Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The South Korean Defense Ministry confirmed the decision on Thursday and understands US government fears that sensitive technology would be vulnerable to Chinese snooping.

This would have also made it the first time a US defense treaty ally in the region had participated in the Zhuhai airshow with military equipment. Asked to comment, Eric Schnaible, Lockheed Martin’s T-50 spokesman, said, “it would be inappropriate for us to do so.”

KAI signed a $420 million deal with the Philippines for 12 TA-50 light attack jets/lead-in fighter trainers in March. The upgraded variant of the TA-50 can carry air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground missiles. The Philippines and China are in dispute over islands in the South China Sea and there have been fears the standoffs could ignite military conflict.

Chinese UAV companies will also be profiling their platforms and equipment. AVIC will exhibit the Tianyi-1 (Sky Wing), Yilong-1 (Pterodactyl), and Haixunzhe (Sea Patroller).

Robert Michelson, a UAV specialist at Millennial Vision, said the Sky Wing and Sea Patroller are “designed for potential military applications, or to test concepts on an unmanned platform.”

The Pterodactyl started out as a surveillance and aerial reconnaissance platform, “but as with the General Atomics Predator, which was obviously the inspiration for the design, the Pterodactyl has grown to be fitted with air-to-surface weapons for use in unmanned combat aerial vehicle scenarios.”


Y-20, C-17, IL-78, AN-70 will attend in ZhuHai Air Show:-)


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