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Air Platforms

J-11D and J-20 programmes vying for supremacy, Chinese sources indicate

25 April 2019
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Recent footage of the Shenyang J-11D in factory primer suggests the programme has not been cancelled and that production of the type could go ahead. Source: CFTE/Weixin

Key Points

  • China's J-11D fighter programme appears to be intact and making progress
  • The J-11D may now effectively be in a fight for funding with the J-20 programme

Two major Chinese fighters, the J-11D and the J-20, appear to be competing for prioritised funding, despite the two platforms appearing to have distinctly differentiated missions, according to recent information provided to Jane's by Chinese sources.

Some of the details of these programmes have come to light via a special documentary produced by the China Flight Test Establishment (CFTE) at Xi'an Yanliang airbase. The film was released to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the facility's founding. The documentary showed close-up shots of the Shenyang J-11D still in factory primer and described it as "one of the latest aircraft to successfully pass through the programme of state flight testing". Prominently displaying the J-11D in this manner is a clear signal that the programme has not been cancelled, as previously rumoured, and that production of this comprehensively modernised version of the J-11 will go ahead, according to Chinese industry sources.

The same sources had earlier stated that the combined costs of continued testing and finalising both the J-11D design and the configuration of the J-20 stealth fighter, which is designed and built by Shenyang's rivals at Chengdu Aerospace in Sichuan Province, was partly why the advanced J-11 was believed to be on the cancellation list.

Another reason the J-11D was thought to be in jeopardy was the notion that the Shenyang design team appeared to have another more pressing assignment: the development of a carrier variant of the FC-31 fifth-generation multirole fighter. Several previous reports have stated that the need for a carrier-capable fighter to replace one of Shenyang's older products, the J-15, is becoming more pronounced.

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