The arrival of the J-31B Gyrfalcon in the Chinese air forces is taking shape

Since the first flight of a naval version of the FC-31, called "J-35" by the media, to emphasize its proximity to the American F-35, the attention of the specialized press surrounding this new aircraft has long been been focused on this version intended to embark aboard the new Type 003 Fujian aircraft carrier, and perhaps on the two CATOBAR aircraft carriers of the Chinese Navy.

At the start of 2024, however, Pakistani authorities announced their intention to acquire a squadron of 5th generation FC-31 fighters with Beijing, after acquiring 2 squadrons of J-10C and 36 aircraft in 2022, suggesting that a land version of the aircraft was still in development.

Beyond the reservations that should be had around Islamabad's announcements, especially since they had not been officially made by Beijing, the question then arose of a possible land version of the FC-31, intended for the Chinese air forces.

Without providing a definitive answer to this question, the new promotional video published by the aircraft manufacturer Shenyang, nevertheless reinforces the body of information tending to confirm this hypothesis, since it presents the new aircraft, alongside other great successes of the aircraft manufacturer such as the J-2, the J-8 and the J-15, and that it is, for the occasion, adorned with an official designation of the People's Liberation Army, the J-31B Gyrfalcon.

The J-31B Gyrfalcon, a land version of the FC-31 for the Chinese air forces?

La video published by Shenyang should be taken with some reservation. Not only is this a video for communication purposes, but it consists exclusively of computer-generated images, and not real shots.

D-35 tests
The arrival of the J-31B Gyrfalcon in the Chinese air forces is taking shape 6

However, the Chinese aircraft manufacturer does not have the habit of exaggerating its communication, particularly when it comes to capabilities intended for the PLA, an area strictly supervised by the Chinese general staff and by the authorities of the Chinese Communist Party, in particular since the legislative tightening given in the field of defense industrial communication, in 2019.

These reservations taken into account, what does this new video tell us? The first, and most obvious information, concerns the designation of the device, no longer as FC-31, but as J-31. Indeed, the J-XX designation is, as a general rule, given exclusively to fighter aircraft in service within the Chinese air or naval forces, but also to certain programs carried out directly under the control of these forces (such as the J-13 ), where the designation FC-XX concerns aircraft intended for the export market, such as the Sino-Pakistani FC-17.

In fact, by taking the “official” designation of J-31, the aircraft would indeed enter, over a still undetermined period, in the inventory of the Chinese fighter fleet. The “B” suffix of the J-31B does not, however, provide additional information. He speculates that there would also be a J-31A, perhaps the official designation of the naval version in place of J-35, but this is only speculation.

Indeed, by observing the device that appeared in the video, we notice that it has a front landing gear with a single wheel, compared to two on the supposedly naval version observed since its first flight in 2021.

The hypothesis of a land version of the Shenyang fighter appeared at the end of 2023, shortly after the first flight of a new prototype identified as having dimensions different from those of the devices observed so far, and of which it is believed that they are intended to prepare for the arrival of the on-board fighter version.

J-31B Gyrfalcon
Image capture from the Shenyang promotional video broadcast on Chinese television, showing the FC-31B Gyrfalcon – Note the side bay for 2 short-range air-to-air missiles.

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