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China Eyes Middle East 5th Gen Fighter Jet Market Through F-31 ‘Gyrfalcon

Despite the wealth and petrodollars in the Middle East, especially in Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar, they still lack fifth-generation fighter aircraft like the F-35.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — China is reportedly exploring the market for 5th generation fighter aircraft in the Middle East region, given the reluctance of the United States to sell its popular 5th generation fighter jet, the F-35, to several countries in the region.

According to international defense media reports, Beijing is offering its own 5th generation fighter aircraft, the F-31 (J-31) “Gyrfalcon,” to any interested Middle Eastern country.

Previously, Pakistan was also reported to express interest in acquiring the F-31 fighter developed by the Chinese aerospace company, Shenyang Aircraft Corporation.

Speaking at a recent event introducing new equipment in Islamabad, Air Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu stated that the J-31 aircraft would enter the country’s air force service “soon.”

During the World Defense Show 2024, China, with a significant delegation, showcased a replica of its F-31, to exhibition visitors.

J-31

Despite the wealth and petrodollars in the Middle East, especially in Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar, they still lack fifth-generation fighter aircraft like the F-35.

It is not that Gulf Arab countries are unwilling to possess 5th generation fighter jets, but their attempts to acquire the F-35 have faced obstacles.

Despite being close allies of Washington in the region, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar have been unsuccessful in acquiring the F-35 to date.

Hundreds of F-35 fighter jets have been sold by the United States to its allies worldwide, but none have been sold to the affluent Gulf Arab countries so far. Why?

The United States is willing to sell the F-35 to these countries, but any sales agreement comes with stringent conditions, making it nearly impossible to sell the 5th generation aircraft produced by Lockheed Martin.

One of the key conditions is that the sale of any advanced weaponry, such as the F-35, must not compromise the Qualitative Military Edge (QME) of Israel.

 In 2021, the UAE agreed to purchase 50 F-35 fighter jets and 18 MQ-9 Reaper drones from the United States, during the administration of Donald Trump, in a deal estimated at US$23 billion (RM103.5 billion).

F-31

However, the agreement only received approval from Washington after the UAE established diplomatic relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords initiative.

Nevertheless, the agreement was “suspended” and ultimately failed to proceed after the UAE refused to comply with the United States’ directive to sever ties with the Chinese 5G technology giant, Huawei.

The F-31 fighter, making its appearance at the Zhuhai Air Show several years ago, is China’s second fifth-generation fighter after the J-20 “Mighty Dragon,” currently in operation with the PLAAF.

Beijing does not allow the export of the J-20 Mighty Dragon, similar to the U.S. policy regarding the F-22 Raptor.

The J-31 is a single-seat, twin-engine, medium-sized fighter jet with powerful stealth capabilities and competitive costs.

Reports suggest that the J-31 fighter will serve on the country’s aircraft carriers, with preparations underway for its operations similar to the F-35B and the latest F-35C developed by Lockheed Martin.

F-35
ROKAF (Republic of Korea Air Force) F-35A

 

While detailed technical specifications are not widely known, the Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of F-31 has increased to 28,000kg from 25,000kg as the jet is equipped with WS-19 engines generating 12 tons of thrust.

It features two internal bays, each capable of carrying two medium-range air-to-air missiles. Additionally, the fighter aircraft has hardpoints that can be equipped with various types of bombs and guided missiles. — DSA

To contact email: lulwabyadah@gmail.com 

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