Pakistan has revealed plans to procure the Shenyang FC-31/J-31 fighter, possibly paving the way for the first purchase of this kind.
At a ceremony in Pakistan, the chief of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Zaheer Sidhu, hinted that efforts are in progress to acquire the Chinese fighter.
In June 2023, at the Paris air show, AVIC showcased a model of the FC-31.
The groundwork for the procurement of the J-31 stealth fighter aircraft has been established and it is poised to join the fleet of the PAF in the forthcoming period, according to a summary of Sidhu's speech published on the official Facebook page of the PAF.
Information regarding the quantity of jets to be acquired and the timeline for their delivery was not disclosed, according to Flight Global.
Shenyang is currently in the process of developing the FC-31/J-31, potentially branded as the J-35, to be used on upcoming Chinese aircraft carriers like the CNS Shandong. However, the plans for a terrestrial version are unclear.
In the past decade, AVIC carried out experiments using a J-31 demonstrator, which was even showcased in the aerial display at the 2014 Airshow China in Zhuhai.
The focus of the People's Liberation Army Air Force has shifted towards the procurement of the Chengdu J-20. This aircraft has not only been put into service, but its deployment is also progressively ongoing.
Despite this, there is a strong partnership between Beijing and Islamabad in the field of military aircraft. The Chengdu/Pakistan Aeronautical Complex JF-17 exemplifies this joint collaboration.
Apart from China, Pakistan is the sole operator of the J-10, specifically the J-10C, which is in service with the Pakistan air force's 15 Squadron. Media speculations indicate that Pakistan may acquire up to 25 J-10Cs.
During the 2015 Dubai air show, AVIC presented a promotional video showcasing the FC-31.
Sidhu's statements seem to contradict a social media post made by Yaser Guler, the Turkish defence minister, in August 2023. The post suggested that Islamabad was on the verge of joining the Kaan fighter programme by Turkish Aerospace Industries.
AVIC, Shenyang's parent company, has in the past suggested the potential of collaborating with international partners on the FC-31/J-31 program.
During the 2015 Dubai air show, AVIC, in a highly uncommon media briefing, showcased the FC-31/J-31 'Gyrfalcon' as a stealth jet featuring "multi-spectrum, low-observability characteristics".
AVIC had previously stated that the inaugural flight of a production model could potentially occur in 2019, but this was dependent on finding a customer with sufficient funding.
The development of a sophisticated, covert aircraft like the FC-31/J-31 could potentially intrigue Pakistan, given its efforts to enhance its aerospace sector.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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