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Airshow China 2021: AVIC to announce next-generation, carrier-based fighter before end of 2021

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) plans to disclose new information on its next-generation, carrier-based fighter aircraft before the end of 2021.

The announcement was made on 29 September during a press conference organised by AVIC at the Airshow China 2021 defence exhibition, which is being held from 28 September to 3 October in Zhuhai.

Sun Cong, the chief designer of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-15 carrier-borne multirole fighter as well as the SAC FC-31 fifth-generation multirole fighter prototype, said during the press conference that progress on the new carrier-borne fighter will be announced by the end of the year, adding that the aircraft will be unveiled as soon as it is ready.

Although there has been no official confirmation, a variant of the FC-31 has previously been mentioned in connection with the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force's (PLANAF's) requirement for a next-generation, carrier-based fighter aircraft to supplement and eventually replace the J-15 fleet. The PLANAF's J-15s are operating from the navy's two aircraft carriers. A third carrier, designed to enable catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery aircraft operations, is under construction near Shanghai.

A scale model of the FC-31 was once again on display at Zhuhai after the prototype made its debut at Airshow China 2014. The FC-31 conducted its first flight in December 2016.

The development of a carrier-capable variant of the prototype has been rumoured since at least 2018. However, only in early 2021 did SAC confirm that it was developing an FC-31 version for deployment from PLA Navy (PLAN) carriers. In June, images circulated online of what appeared to be a mock-up of the FC-31 at a naval test facility in Wuhan, China. The image showed the aircraft model positioned on a full-size carrier mock-up.

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