The J-31 is a mid-weight, twin-engine jet fighter with certain stealth characters like forward swept intake cowls with diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) bumps and a two-piece canopy.The J-31 appears to be a smaller and more agile aircraft than the Chengdu J-20 that resembles a twin engine F-35C. This may be because it might be used as a fifth generation carrier based fighter. Another feature that the J-31 shares with the F-35C (and most other carrier based fighter jets) is the twin forward wheels. Bill Sweetman has cited several improvements to the F-35C design files the Chinese may have acquired in the J-31. Like the F-35, the J-31 has two internal weapons bays that can each carry two medium range missiles, along with two heavy hardpoints and one light hardpoint on each wing, but while it seems to have added an additional very light hardpoint to each wing over the capacity of the F-35, it seems to lack the capacity of the F-35 to mount a centerline gunnery or jamming pod.
It is unknown if the J-31 is meant to be a competitor to the J-20 stealth fighter or a complement to it. It is also unknown if it will be a land-based fighter for the People's Liberation Army Air Force, or a carrier-based fighter for the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force on the Liaoning Aircraft Carrier and future Chinese carriers.
Vladimir Barkovsky of Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (formerly known as the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau) has stated that, despite some design flaws, the J-31 "looks like a good machine." Although it contains features already in use on the U.S. fifth generation fighter designs, it is "not a copy but a well done indigenous design." Barkovsky has confirmed that the engines on the prototype aircraft are RD-93s. However, China already has an engine similar to the RD-93, the Guizhou WS-13 currently installed on the JF-17 which has the same thrust and size of the Russian RD-93. China is working on an improved variant named WS-13G with 100KN of thrust for use on the J-31. China will not use Russian built engines for production J-31, since J-31 is intended for export to compete with the American F-35. The appearance of the J-31 signals a national commitment to make the needed investments.
As the Chinese build up confidence in every larger and more powerful domestic engines, they may be able to power the J-31 sooner than the larger J-20 and in greater numbers.
The J-31 made its maiden flight on Oct 31, 2012 It was accompanied by two J-11 fighters in a ten-minute test flight with its landing gear lowered. Prior to the flight, it conducted a high-speed taxiing and then became airborne.
The appearance of the J-31 may cause neighboring countries to consider again the purchase of the F-35.
A quarter sized model of the J-31 was shown at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition 2012, hinting at a desire to offer the aircraft for export, as an alternative for those countries that cannot purchase the F-35. AVIC confirmed at the exhibition that the aircraft was intended for export, after the failure of the CAC/PAC JF-17 Thunder to win export orders so far.
Because the aircraft is in development, these specifications are speculated based from the available images.
Data from Wikipedia.
Crew: one (pilot)
Length: 16.9 m (55 ft 5 in)
Wingspan: 11.5 m (37 ft 9 in)
Height: 4.8 m (15 ft 9 in)
Wing area: 40 m2 (430 sq ft)
Powerplant: 2 × Klimov RD-93 afterburning Turbofans (Presumably domestic engines such as the Guizhou WS-13 would be used for production aircraft.)
Maximum speed: Mach 1.8
Combat range: 1,250 km (777 mi; 675 nmi)
Ferry range: 4,000 km (2,485 mi; 2,160 nmi)
None on prototype, apparently will have 12 hardpoints. (Four are internal for "low observable" missions.)