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China to promote FC-31 for export

Rear aspect of the SAC FC-31 prototype. AVIC has established an office to promote FC-31 for export, the company announced in mid-February 2022. (Janes/Kelvin Wong)

State-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has established an office to actively promote foreign sales of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) FC-31 fifth-generation multirole fighter aircraft, the company said.

AVIC said in a report published in mid-February that, with resources from SAC, Chinese research institute, and China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation, the new SAC deputy general manager, Zhan Qiang, has established an office that will pursue a ‘self-oriented active promoting' tactic to achieve FC-31 exports to targeted countries as well as domestic sales.

The report says that Zhan has made significant progress in assessing the export market for the low-observable FC-31, a scale model of which was on display at Airshow China 2021 held from 28 September to 3 October 2021 in Zhuhai.

The establishment of an office for export suggests that the land-based aircraft could have been deemed ready for serial production and could be available for sale from the late 2020s at the earliest. The medium-weight FC-31 would be the third Chinese-made fighter aircraft to be offered for export, alongside the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (PAC/CAIG) JF-17 Thunder/FC-1 Xiaolong light fighter and the CAIG J-10 multirole fighter.

The FC-31 would offer the benefits of a stealth fifth-generation design at a lower procurement cost of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II but probably at high operation and support costs, given its twin-engine configuration. Moreover, the lack of firm commitment of the People's Liberation Army Air Force to buy the FC-31 may reduce confidence of potential export customers.

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