|The J-31, right, on its maiden flight, with J-11B escort|
Well, the Chinese aviation industry sure isn’t wasting any time: From the first glimpse of the tarp-covered fuselage being hauled in the first official pictures released by Shenyang Aircraft Corp (SAC) in September, China’s second fifth-generation stealth aircraft, the J-31, has now taken its maiden flight.
While defense analysts have been busy fretting over Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corp’s (CAC) J-20, first unveiled in January 2011, it looks like SAC was not dwindling its thumbs but instead was hard at work developing a second low-signature aircraft. Since the unveiling in September, defense watchers had been holding their breath in anticipation of what would come next.
SAC didn’t make them wait for long, with in-flight images of the J-31, which previously had been designated J-21, popping up on defense Internet sites on October 31. Bearing the tail designation “31001,” the aircraft, accompanied by two Shenyang J-11Bs, reportedly conducted a high-speed taxi run, followed by a 10-minute flight with its landing gear in the lowered position.
My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.