AVIC takes aim at the overseas market

Updated: 2014-12-16 07:52

By ZHAO LEI(China Daily)

AVIC takes aim at the overseas market

A J-31 stealth fighter takes off on a test flight ahead of the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. WU CHANGBIN/CHINA DAILY

One of China's leading defense contractors has just unveiled its new generation jet fighter to wide acclaim, as Zhao Lei reports

If the Aviation Industry Corp of China had announced 10 years ago that it wanted to compete with Western or Russian aviation giants such as Lockheed Martin and Sukhoi, its aspirations would have been dismissed as a daydream.

Now, although the company's grand goal has yet to be fully realized, observers will have no doubts that AVIC is serious about its ambitions, especially after seeing the results of the company's past decade of effort.

The hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiasts and professionals that attended the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, in mid-November, were treated to dazzling displays by AVIC's new aircraft.

Air Commodore Khalid Mahmood of the Pakistani Air Force was among the crowd at the event, often known simply as Airshow China, and watched a flypast by the J-31 Gyrfalcon, a twin-engine, fifth-generation, radar-evading plane.

"The past 15 years have been very fruitful for the Chinese aviation industry, and now we have seen the results," Mahmood said, as the stealth jet's turbofans deafened the observers below.

"I'm a professional in this field, so I can tell you that the J-31 is a next-generation aircraft, and that no one else in the world has made as much progress as quickly as AVIC."

In response to reports in the Indian media that Pakistan wants to buy two squadrons of J-31s, Mahmood said he was unaware of any plans for the introduction of the aircraft, but he was confident that "any good thing China has will be shared with Pakistan".

Pakistan has bought many Chinese-made military aircraft over the years, and the JF-17 Thunder, one of the most advanced fighter jets in the country's air force, was jointly developed by AVIC and the defense contractor Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.

Another foreign officer, who declined to give his name, said, "It's amazing that the Chinese aviation industry has grown to a level where it's competing with the global leaders."

As he watched the J-31 flying overhead, the officer added, "The rapid development of China's aviation industry in terms of aerodynamics, avionics and weaponry has taken the world by surprise."

Li Yuhai, AVIC's deputy general manager in charge of military aircraft, was delighted by the comments, and said the J-31 will become the sensible option for developing countries.

"The J-31 Gyrfalcon can compete with any other aircraft of its kind," he told reporters at the show. "Since the very beginning of its development, we have aimed to use the plane to end the dominance of foreign nations in fifth-generation fighter jets, and one of the J-31's variations will be specifically designed for export. It will be our trump card to tap the international market."

Currently, the only production-ready, fifth-generation combat aircraft on the market is the United States' Lockheed Martin F-35, and the US only allows it to be sold to its allies.

Sun Cong, chief designer of China's latest stealth jet, said the instructions AVIC's leaders gave to the developers were simple: Design an aircraft capable of besting the F-35.

The aviation industry was stunned in October 2012 when the J-31 made its maiden flight, because few people had expected China to develop another fifth-generation fighter after the J-20 stealth jet was unveiled in January 2011.

During the past two years, the J-31 has undergone a series of flight tests, which have led to some changes in design, according to aviation industry observers, who have been following the jet's development closely.

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