Video of China’s Stealthy J-31 aircraft’s (quite smoky) flight display practice at Zhuhai airshow

The Shenyang J-31 “Falcon Eagle” to debut at Zhuhai airshow, China’s biggest commercial and defense air show, near Hong Kong.

The first prototype of Shenyang J-31 Falcon Eagle, China’s second stealth fighter jet, is going to be one of the highlights  of China’s most important commercial and defense airshow held next week at Zhuhai, in the southern province of Guangdong, not far from Hong Kong.

The new aircraft, that performed its maiden flight on Oct 31, 2012, which is smaller than the J-20, from which it differs for the grey paint job and the presence of a colored emblem on the tails (in place of the typical red star) with the text 鹘鹰, Chinese for “Falcon Eagle”, embeds several features of the F-22 Raptor, and the F-35 Lightning II, respectively the current and future most advanced multi-role jets in the U.S. Air Force inventory: along with the distinctive lines of the Lockheed Martin’s stealth designs, the Chinese jet has a nose section which reminds that of the Joint Strike Fighter, same twin tails and trapezoidal wings.

Still, unlike the F-35, it is equipped with two engines (like the F-22, even though without Thrust Vectoring capability, at least, not yet).

The following footage shows the video of the J-31 practicing its demo flight at Zhuhai on Nov. 6. Pretty simple stuff (but let’s not forget it is just a prototype at its first public appearance). Noteworthy, the engines that currently equip the aircraft are a bit smoky: the Chinese jet may evade radars and one day equal F-22 and F-35s but for the moment they can be spotted from far away because of its engines pluming black smoke.

Top image credit:


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


    • No, but Chinese do use derivatives of Russian engines…..and they do catch fire. Any time you mix fuel, air and ignite it there is chance it will not combust as planned.

  1. They develop a jet from scratch in half the time and make it fly and improve it still. China is a true force of engineering. We don’t need them, but it would be very useful in alliances.

  2. The US have a history of underestimating the capabilities of Red China since… um, ever. Or at least since approaching the Yalu River in 1950.

    “The Chinese might Mig-19s and 21s, but they will never be able to build a modern airframe” … until they did.

    “The Chinese have a modern airframe but they will never be able to equip it with proper avionics” … until they did.

    The Chinese might have a modern airframes with decent avionics but they will never be able to teach their poliots proper fighting doctrine instead of stupid ground controlled intercept” … until they did.

    “The Chinese might have a modern airframe with decent avionics and properly trained pilots but they will never be able to catch up with decades of US stealth wizardry” … until they did.

    “The Chinese might have a modern stealthy airframe with decent avionics and properly trained pilots but they will never be able to equip them with proper engines” … until …

    Maybe the Chinese are already testing proper engines while collecting first flight experience on the J-31 with crappy MiG-29 engines?

    Who wants to take a bet that by the time the F-35 has full operational capability, the Chinese will have a proper engine?

    Who wants to take a bet that the J-31 or a derivative will end up being a cheaper plane, that is more easy to maintain, costs less per hour to fly, and delivers way more sorties than the F-35?

    Oh and probably whatever engines it uses will not run as hot as the F-35’s and so be less screamingly obvious for long range infrared detection


    It doesn’t matter ONE bit if the Chinese got a lot of their know-how by stealing secrets from the U.S. It’s the DUTY of THEIR intelligence services to get information from the adversary and they are good at that. It’s the responsibility of the U.S. themselves to keep their secrets guarded. If in the interest of maximizing corporate profits, the U.S. has developed a system where that is not possibl anymore, it is natural and logical for the Chinese to exploit that.

    To me it looks like the Chinese have taken the good ideas from the Americans and left out all of the outrageously stupid ideas about the F-35.

    • Good points, however remember their economy is command not demand driven. That alone is going change the development dynamics. It also probably helps that their design teams are unencumbered by shareholders.
      Their design teams are also young. It’s going to be interesting to see what comes in the next 10-15 years/

      • The Chinese adopted the Japanese model of economic expansion. The use of government money as venture capital and use of tariffs and subsidises to ensure the competition cannot win. Then they had the good sense to bribe the American business sector to sell out the American shop in exchange for paper money. They pulled a Leninist “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”. We did just that. An example is Airbus putting production lines in China and Mc DonnelDouglass opening DC-9 production lines in China. The Chinese played their cards very well. They convinced the West to invest their money in them, transfer their factories to them, and then transfer eventual ownership of the enterprise from the West to China. All in exchange for paper money and cheap plastic house goods. Then with the profits the Chinese government made sure the profits were ploughed right back into doing more of the same. Sit back and let the machine run for 40 years and you get a transferral of wealth and means of production from the West to China. Had the USSR been less paranoid and Hitler not started WWII, the USSR probably could have had a chance to do the same to the West back in the 40’s or 50’s. In short the American government and business sector were played for a bunch of suckers.

        • We sold aircraft to the Japanese, Germans and the Russians as well. And the Italians just used the P-35 as a template.

        • Re-read my comment please. They are in a position to assume risk. Western companies that are equity based are not as free to make mistakes and therefore must be more conservative.

    • Don’t forget that china, the worst equipped military, beat the crap out of America, best equipped military with air and navy support, forces in Korea. Whiners like to think that it was a stalemate but America failed to recover any land china seized.

      I know Americans like to downplay their pathetic defeats by justifying failures. Just because chinas plane has a cockpit some wings and an engine doesn’t mean it’s a copied. The plane is still vastly different and will have a great deal of challenges which don’t have solutions in American drawings.

      • Hello Mr Reber,
        The defeats of which you speak are indeed painful. The US should not get into wars that involve the use of ROE. The Chinese should be glad that the US indeed used ROE during the Korean war. Indeed there has only been one war the US has fought in the last 70 years or so that had a relaxed ROE. And that was in 1991.

      • Remember, if the US did have Atomic Weapons and through that, they even it out with firepower that the Chinese can’t touch. Again with the J-31, they SHAPE it to look like the stealth jets. It could very much have the same Radar signiture as a F-15. It is most likely a deterent from US attacking, making us rethink our stratigies for so long they can develop it effectivly.

    • You need to watch what you say. Your facts are way off. The Chinese are good at copying stuff(very good actually), not innovation, all of their major military aircraft are derived from foreign aircraftor stolen from foreign countries(J7-Mig-21, J-8=Ye155, J11,J15,J16 all from the Su-27 flanker family, J-10=Lavi, J-20=raptor nose and air intakes and the body of the Mig-1.44, and the J-31 is essentially a F-35 with two engines since china doesnt have a single engine powerful enough. ). Two just because a aircraft looks stealthy doesn’t mean it is. Look at the Korean KFX for example, Yes it looks like it should be stealthy by according to the Koreans themselves it would initially have a RCS about the same as a super hornet. Later versions would lower the RCS to similar levels as the F-35 through tighter manufacturing compliance’s, IE the gaps between parts would be smaller. Its that level of senitivity in stealth that makes it impossible to know how good the Chinese RCS reduction techniques are. A better way to look at how good china is through the smoke and mirror shows, is to look at their aviation products that have to face tough scrutiny, such as their commercial airliners. their regional jet currently is so poorly made that it cant pass international safety certifications, and the C-919 is 5 years behind schedule,

      and so overpriced that only Chinese airlines which are forced to buy it have ordered it. China still has a long way to go.

      • I think you rather need to watch what you are saying. J8 is definitely not a copy ye155 (which i think that is the prototype of mig23 or mig 25 and i don’t chinese are that advanced at the time). They are inspired by ye152 design but the actual design was closer to su15 with traditional style mig21 nose, until they modified the nose to look like downed F4s, which are the J8II series. Sure there are leaked info saying the Israelis sold the Chinese quadruple fly by wire software but it does not mean that they sold the blue print. Lavi and J10’s leading delta configuration and design are completely different. J20 copy mig1.44? that is the most laughable thing you mentioned! you really think the Russians would give away something that is classified to a foreign nation? BTW, If your only source is Wikipedia, then what you are saying have nothing to back it up but an uneducated guess. Just because 2 planes look like does not mean its an copy, aerodynamics, stealth, and its usage determine its superiority shape. And WTF is KFX topic here? a joke plane that is superior on paper but reality? At current state South Korea have no capability to produce anything close to a 5th gen stealth plane, not now, not 2020. And they are barely able to manufacture trainer plane called FA-50 that is no match against older 4th gen fighters from the 70s.
        Yes, China does have a long way to go but undermining their technological advances assume everything is copied from other design is ignorance.

    • You do know that the US pushed the Chinese and Nkoreans back and if it wasn’t for the cease fire North Korea would not exist today

    • Chinese partisan wrote: “It doesn’t matter ONE bit if the Chinese got a lot of their know-how by stealing secrets from the U.S. It’s the DUTY of THEIR intelligence services to get information from the adversary and they are good at that. It’s the responsibility of the U.S. themselves to keep their secrets guarded.”
      Spoken like a true moral and cultural Marxist. You’re obviously a fan boy and couldn’t engineer your way out of a wet paper bag. That you have 24 thumbs up means there are lots of simple people who like the sound of your BS but lack the brains to call BS on it.
      The Chinese don’t have the engineering skill nor the cultural creativity to build things at the most advanced levels. That’s why they don’t innovate in computers, aerospace, or biotechnology. They don’t make, they only mock. And you’re a fool to believe otherwise.

  3. I happen to be in HK right now. Will try ti go to the show to see the “shape of the future” at less the Chinese one. ;-)

  4. There have been a number of reports about Chinese hackers gaining access to the F-35 design. Of course the average bystander will never know if it is true or not, but from above or below the design looks almost exactly like a F-35 – with two engines. Just coincidence? Sure! That said, it’s not uncommon to have copycat designs in the aviation industry. After all, once a country brings something new to the table through billions of $$ in development, why not just make a copy of what can be seen? Regardless, most analysts will agree that the strength of the F-35 is not in it’s flight envelope, but rather in systems integration. One must conclude that the Chinese have a little ways to go on systems integration – as well as the well discussed engines. Regardless – with stealth designs becoming vogue across the board, and systems to surely follow one wonders where will the US have to go to maintain air superiority beyond 2030… Autonomous UAV’s with AI that can be unleashed like a hoard of locusts… As an enthusiast, it just underscores our need to appreciate and enjoy these flying machines while we can.

    • If you were in the aircraft design business you’d know that airplanes designed for similar purposes look very similar! For amatuers they event look identical! This is not because someone stole other’s technology but because of the fact that we live in the same world where principles of physics work the same way in China as they do in the US. An example would be from supersonic passenger jet designs. The Russian Tupolev Tu-144 and the cancelled American project Lockheed L-2000 look just the same as the Concorde—big delta wings, long and slim fuselages, pointy noses, boxy name it..But the real differences lie in performances, namely, structures, engines, flight control systems etc. Building a good airplane is more of an art of putting superior parts together!

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