Airshow China 2014

VIPs flock to Zhuhai airshow as J-31 stealth fighter takes to the skies

J-31 flypast in Zhuhai makes China just the second nation after the US to have two stealth fighter designs in field testing at the same time

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 November, 2014, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 10:10am

China's newest fighter jet made its debut yesterday at the biannual international air show in Zhuhai , underscoring its rising military strength in Asia.

The J-31 fifth-generation stealth fighter made a solo fly-past at Airshow China on what was also the official 65th anniversary of the founding of China's air force.

The flypast makes China only the second nation after the United States to have two stealth fighter designs in field testing at the same time.

Chinese media reported last year that the J-31, developed by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, would be redesigned with ground attack capabilities. Photos of test runs have circulated on Chinese military blogs in recent weeks.

Watch: China's Zhuhai airshow takes off, J-31 fighter makes debut

The jet's makers aim to market it overseas, particularly to developing countries, but Hong Kong-based military expert Andrei Chang said the aircraft's future was uncertain because it did not have the full backing of the PLA Air Force.

"I don't think the J-31 is attractive because so far the air force has not wanted to use it," Chang said. "If Avic fails to convince the Chinese air force to use it, how can it lobby international clients to buy it?"

He said that aircraft exported by the US and Russia were first used by their own air forces before being sold elsewhere.

Other aircraft to perform at the air show yesterday were a Y-20, one of the air force's advanced military transport aircraft, and a KJ-2000 early-warning plane.

The air force's "August 1st" aerobatic and parachute team also put on a 40-minute aerial display with six J-10 fighter jets. Half of the aerobatic team were women. But one observer said the performance looked less dangerous than in previous years.

"It looks like the August 1st aerobatic team doesn't want to do any risky flights this year because it is the first time women pilots have taken part in the performance," Macau-based military commentator Antony Wong Dong said.

Various state and military leaders attended the show, which was launched by Vice-President Li Yuanchao.

Air force commander General Ma Xiaotian and General Zhang Youxia , the head of the PLA General Logistics Department also attended. Other guests included former PLA chief of general staff Chen Bingde , Guangzhou military commander General Xu Fenlin , Guangdong party secretary Hu Chunhua and Guangdong governor Zhu Xiaodan .

It is the highest-level official delegation to attend the show since 1998, when the event was held for the second time. That year it was attended by former premier Li Peng , former defence minister Chi Haotian , and former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission Zhang Wannan.