Pakistan aims to be the first customer for the J-31 (FC-31) stealth fighter jet, developed by Shenyang. The Chinese aircraft was unveiled at the beginning of the last decade, but ended up being supplanted by the Chengdu J-20 in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
In a recent speech, air force chief Zaheer Sidhu stated that “the foundation for acquiring the J-31 stealth fighter aircraft has already been laid, which is all set to become part of the fleet in the near future.”
The FC-31 is a twin-engine 5th generation fighter similar in size to the Lockheed Martin F-35. The Chinese government had abandoned plans to produce the supersonic jet, but decided to develop a naval variant, the J-35, to operate aboard the new Fujian aircraft carrier.
However, AVIC, the company that controls Shenyang, has presented the FC-31 as an export product and a model of the fighter was displayed at the company’s stand at the Paris Air Show.
The Pakistani Air Force has had ties with China for several years, being a major operator of the Chengdu F-7, a licensed MiG-21.
Furthermore, the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chengdu jointly developed the JF-17 Thunder fighter and the air force is the only external customer for the J-10C, a very capable fighter.
The Pakistani government intends not only to expand the Asian country’s military power but also to develop its local defense industry. To achieve this, a stealth aircraft is considered essential in view of the growing investment in armaments made by neighboring India.
There are reports, however, that Pakistan is also considering participating in the Turkish KAAN fighter project, by Turkish Aerospace Industries.
Sidhu, however, did not specify how many 5th generation aircraft the air force intends to order.