China’s new stealth fighter has made its first flight. The J-31 was airborne for 10 minutes from Shenyang, accompanied by two J-11 (Su-27) chaseplanes.
As has become normal practice in the unveiling of new aircraft designs in China, the event was made public via unofficial websites, and re-broadcast by official media, but without the benefit of any government statement. The first flight may have been timed to coincide with the opening this weekend of the 18th Chinese People’s Conference.
According to a calculation that was broadcast by CCTV, the twin-engine J-31 has a wingspan of 10 meters (33 feet), a fuselage length of 16-17 meters (52-55 feet) and a wing area of 40 sq meters (130 sq feet). This is similar to the F-35, and smaller than the J-20, China’s other fifth-generation combat aircraft.
The aircraft does not carry Chinese Air Force insignia, but instead has a Sea Eagle badge on the tail and fuselage. This, together with the double-wheel nose landing gear, has led Chinese commentators to speculate that the J-31 is intended to fly from China’s new aircraft carrier. However, no tail hook was visible in the images of the first flight that appeared on Chinese websites.