It has been suggested that the J-35, China’s supposed stealth fighter, is a knockoff of the American F-35 and will soon be used on Beijing’s new aircraft carriers.
Does the J-35 look like an F-35? China’s most cutting-edge aircraft were displayed this month at Airshow China 2022, officially known as the China International Aviation and Aerospace Expo. Since its 1996 inception, it has been the most prominent aviation and aerospace trade exhibition (with the 2020 event taking place in 2019 due to the global new coronavirus epidemic).
Ground displays of the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter and a concept of China’s sixth-generation fighter aircraft were among the highlights of this year’s show in Zhuhai, Guangdong, which wrapped up on Sunday.
Perhaps just as noteworthy is what was missed.
Despite initial rumors, the J-35, a purported third variation of the Shenyang FC-31, did not appear.
According to reports, the PLA Air Force and PLANAF are developing it (the PLAAF).
In June 2020, reports claimed to have seen the J-35 in its “production-ready” form, complete with rounded corners, a broader radome to accommodate more powerful radar, and more closely spaced control surfaces to lower its radar signature.
The PLANAF designed the twin-engine fighter to be flown from the future Type 003 Fujian-class aircraft carriers China plans to build. This system could work with the carrier’s electromagnetic ALSALS (ALSALS). Beijing should start promoting the plane sooner rather than later, given that it was launched this summer and is scheduled to begin sea testing by the end of next year.
Yet, the first flight of the J-35 wasn’t until the previous year.
In July, photos of the prospective stealth fighter a carrier can carry surfaced on Weibo, a Chinese social networking service. These high-resolution images were the most specific depictions of the plane online.
More than just the name suggests, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II may have influenced the design of the J-35.
Although it does not appear that China is working on a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variation, the J-35 employs a canopy design identical to the Lightning II’s, which was made to fit the lift fan used in the STOVL type.
It’s no secret that China has long copied, or worse, reverse-engineered or stolen, various airplane designs from other countries. The Lightning II’s radar design, down to the number and type of modules used in the system, and the F-35’s engine, down to the procedure used for cooling down the gases, leading and trailing edge treatments, and aft deck heating contour maps, were allegedly stolen by Chinese hackers, along with multiple terabytes of other data.
Although most public sources have called it “J-35” or “J-XY,” the exact terminology of the new twin-engine stealth fighter aircraft is unknown. Some have merely referred to it as an FC-31 derivative deployed from a carrier. In June 2021, a full-scale replica of the stealth plane debuted at a Chinese ground testing site.
It could be accurate now, but whether or not it’s ready for use in carrier operations is debatable.