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Images emerge of China's new carrier-capable fighter aircraft in flight

Images have emerged on Chinese social media platforms showing what appears to be a prototype of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation's (SAC's) next-generation, carrier-capable multirole fighter aircraft performing its maiden flight.

Released on 29 October on Weibo, the images show a green-painted prototype in flight, with its landing gear extended, accompanied by a J-16 fighter aircraft. The aircraft appears to share some design commonality with the FC-31 low-observable multirole fighter prototype, with both single-seat aircraft featuring two engines, twin canted tail fins, and a high-mounted cockpit.

The single-seat prototype features a remodelled cockpit design compared to that of the FC-31, a chin-mounted, electro-optical and infrared (EOIR) sensor turret, possibly an infrared search-and-track (IRST) system, as well as a launch bar in front of the landing gear, the latter of which would enable catapult-assisted take-offs from an aircraft carrier.

No information was provided about when the images were captured. However, they are believed to have been taken recently.

The aircraft, which is being commonly referred to as the J-35, has been reported to also feature folding wings, a retractable arresting hook, more powerful turbofan engines, internal weapon bays, and a maximum take-off weight of about 30 tonnes.

News of the maiden flight comes after Sun Cong, the chief designer of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-15 carrier-borne multirole fighter as well as the FC-31, said during a press conference held on 29 September at the Airshow China 2021 defence exhibition that progress on the new carrier-borne fighter would be announced “by the end of the year”.

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