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Pakistan Air Force Chief confirms that Pakistan will be getting Chinese 5th generation J-31 stealth fighter

Source : Bulgarian Military

Pakistan continues to modernize its air force. Following the acquisition of 20 J-10C Vigorous Dragon and 149 JF-17 Thunder, Islamabad intends to start negotiations with Beijing for the acquisition of J-31 stealth fighters.

The acquisition plans were confirmed by Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Zahir Ahmed Babar. He said, “The groundwork has already been laid for the acquisition of the J-31 Stealth Fighter aircraft, which is all set to become part of the PAF fleet shortly.” Indian and Pakistani media have also written about Pakistan’s plans for the country to acquire a stealth fighter.

Pakistan Air Force Chief confirms that Pakistan will be getting Chinese 5th generation J-31 stealth fighter
Chinese J-31 5th Generation Stealth Fighter CGI

According to Indian analysts, Islamabad wants Chinese stealth fighters to replace the Pakistan Air Force’s [PAF] aging fleet of F-16s. Currently, 75 F-16 units in various modifications [F-16A, F-16B, F-16C, and F-16D] are in service with the PAF.

Together with them, another 87 Dassault Mirage 3 and 92 Dassault Mirage 5 fighters are the core of the “older” Pakistani combat aviation. Some of these aircraft have been refurbished and are still flying. However, all of them are scheduled to be replaced by newer combat aircraft.

Such a replacement has already begun as the JF-17s are already flying as Pakistan’s plans were. As India acquired the French Dassault Rafale, Pakistan responded by acquiring 20 Chinese J-10s. Thus, to replace the aging fleet of American F-16 fighter jets, Pakistan is apparently planning for this replacement to be again a Chinese aircraft – the J-31.

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A Pakistani Air Force F-16 (File Photo)

Game-changer for the Pakistan Air Force

The J-31, with its impressive stealth features and extensive striking range, has the potential to dramatically alter the role of the Pakistan Air Force [PAF] in regional power dynamics. It would significantly increase the PAF’s tactical flexibility and enable it to infiltrate deeper into enemy territory. 

In sync with the planned retirement of the aging American F-16s from the Cold War epoch, the proposed deployment of the J-31 clearly signals Pakistan’s dedication to keeping its air defenses abreast with the latest technology. The shift from older aircraft to this modern, stealth-platform displays the country’s progressiveness in terms of defense technology. 

China's J-31 stealth fighter may fly in Pakistan, replacing the F-16
Photo by Hunter Chen

However, no concrete details on the procurement timeline for the J-31s are divulged by Munir. This reticence could be attributed to ongoing dialogues with China, monetary considerations, or even the prospect of global scrutiny associated with such prominent arms purchases. 

Even in the absence of a definite schedule for the acquisition, the mere mention of the J-31 sheds light on Pakistan’s strategic intentions. The country is visibly concentrated on affording its airspace with cutting-edge security technology, reinforcing its intent to remain a dominant actor in the region. 

The speculation of the J-31 making its way to Pakistan has managed to attract substantial attention within the defense circles. It stirs conjecture about its repercussions on regional stability and the India-Pakistan arms competition. Still, the actual prospect of this acquisition remains shrouded in uncertainty.

China's J-31 stealth fighter may fly in Pakistan, replacing the F-16
Photo credit: Chinese Internet

The J-31

China is not quick to speculate on such claims, although it has apparently held talks with Pakistan about such an acquisition. However, uncertainty surrounding the J-31 continues to linger in the public eye, especially as China provides little information about the aircraft’s characteristics.

There are some well-known, albeit questionable, facts about the Shenyang J-31. For instance, the maximum take-off weight of the J-31 has reportedly increased from 25,000 kg to 28,000 kg. The Shenyang Aircraft Corporation has verified that the J-31 engine has been upgraded to the WS-19, offering a more significant thrust of 12 tons, compared to the previous WS-13 engine with a 9-ton thrust. 

Despite being smaller, the J-31 is often compared to the Chengdu J-20. The adoption of twin-wheel nose landing gear sparked conjecture that the J-31 was designed to be a carrier-based fighter. Bill Sweetman points to various improvements mirrored from the F-35C design files, suggesting that the Chinese may have gleaned inspiration from the same. However, analyst David Bignell makes a case for the J-31 being more akin to the F-22, noting the likenesses in platform, form, aerodynamics, and airframe configuration. 

Pakistan getting J-31 5th gen stealth fighter from China; What are India’s options now, and India can do to counter this Pakistani move ? Watch the whole video below.

The J-31 boasts two internal weapons bays, each capable of securing two medium-range missiles. Each wing carries two heavy hardpoints and one light hardpoint, with an additional light hardpoint fitted over the F-35’s capacity. However, it falls short of the F-35’s ability to equip a centerline gunnery or jamming pod. 

Despite these specifications, AVIC officials noted significant usage of additive manufacturing on the aircraft, which resulted in a 50% decrease in components compared to similar aircraft. One noteworthy consequence of this manufacturing process is that the resultant airframe can’t be disassembled, meaning the static test frame needs to be transported in its entirety.

Pakistan is also looking at the KAAN

In August of 2023, Yasar Güler, the Defense Minister of Turkey, made an exciting announcement. According to Güler, Pakistan is potentially on the verge of participating in the KAAN national combat aircraft program, as an agreement is close to being inked. 

Intriguingly, Güler highlighted the silver lining that emerged from the refusal of the US to supply Turkey with the F-35. He stressed that this apparent roadblock stimulated Turkey to develop its own aircraft, resulting in the birth of the KAAN project. This particular aircraft not only testifies to Turkey’s remarkable skills but is also drawing the attention of nations friendly to Turkey who express avid interest in the project. Güler went on to add, “We have a signed agreement with Azerbaijan, and several other nations, including Pakistan, are expressing significant interest.”

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