[Diplomacy] Fifth Generation Fighter Aircrafts, Shenyang J-31: Meaning, Implications

MrunalDiplomacy21 Comments

Mrunal’s UPSC GSM3-2020 Model Answer lecture: Science Technology, Internal Security Border Management Questions from last Mains Exam Solved!
  1. What is Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA)?
  2. Owners of Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA)?
  3. What is Shenyang J-31 (F60)?
  4. Implications on USA?
  5. Limiations of Chinese Forces
  6. Implications on South Asia?
  7. Implications on India?
  8. Dassault Rafale
  9. Sukhoi/HAL FGFA

What is Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA)?

  • Microsoft has various generations of operating systems: Win95, XP, Vista, Win7 and Win8- Similarly aircraft too have generations.
  • Fourth Generation = Those developed from 1980s onwards.
  • 5th generation=2005 onwards
  • 5th Generation aircraft is very hard to be detected using radars (Stealth technology).
  • They carry more firepower, speed, advanced computer systems, compared to previous generations.

5th Gen fighter aircraft Shenyang

Owners of Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA)?
USA F-22: in service since 2005.F-35 still under development.
China Still under development

  1. J-20 (Chengdu)
  2. J-31 (Shenyang)

It is unknown if the J-31 is meant to be a competitor to the J-20 stealth fighter or a complement to it.

Russia Sukhoi PAK FA (T-50)= Still under development.
India Sukhoi/HAL FGFA= Still under development
Pakistan Lolz but they might just buy F-35 using US donation money. And some reports say they’re collaborating with China in J-** project.

What is Shenyang J-31 (F60)?

  • It is the Fifth Generation Chinese Stealth Fighter jet. Currently, under development.
  • Tests are successful, but it’s not combat-ready yet.
  • Other nicknames: Gyrfalcon, Falcon Eagle.
  • Why in News? Because in Nov. 2012, the Ex-President of India Dr.Kalam went to China.
  • He was supposed to visit Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), this company is developing the J-31.
  • But later, Chinese authorities canceled his visit to that company.
  • Some experts believe that Chinese Government wanted to avoid exposure of J-31 to India’s top defence and aviation specialist, Dr. Kalam.
  • Afterall he was closely connected with top Indian bodies like the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)!

Implications on USA?

  • J-31 shows that China has ambitions to become the premier military power.
  • US military’s performance in the 1991 Gulf War shook the Chinese army out of its Stalinist mindset, and they began modernization.
  • For instance, China’s modern submarine fleet, its emerging navy, its huge ballistic missile arsenal and hundreds of modern combat aircraft = deterrent for USA.
  • It doesn’t mean China could defeat USA forces in a conflict; the balance has not yet tilted quite that far, but the costs of victory for the USA would now be far higher than in the days before China’s modernisation.
  • Now China can inflict a great deal of pain in such a conflict, probably more than the US would be willing to sustain to defend Taiwan or Japan.

Limiations of Chinese Forces

  • China still has very little ability to project military force more than a few hundred kilometres beyond its shores. (String of Pearls not in full force yet.)
  • Much of China’s indigenous military technology remains of poorer quality and performance than that of Russia or USA.
  • There are of course exceptions to this judgement: China has a handful of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles with global reach, and it is developing cyber warfare capabilities that know no geographical limits.

Implications on South Asia?

  • Apart from Nuclear missiles, the second most powerful weapons system for long distance deployment = an aircraft carrier.
  • America has 11 super-carriers. No other nation even comes close to that kind of capability, yet.
  • But If China were  to deploy more than one air-craft carrier with high-performance stealth fighters like the J-31 in the neighbourhood (Indian Ocean, South China Ocean, Sea of Japan etc), then it can coerce neighbors (Japan, Vietnam  India, Taiwan) in disputes, then USA would prefer not to get involved.

Implications on India?

Dassault Rafale

  • In early 2012, India bought Dassault Rafale jets from France. (Cost: about $ 10 billion)
  • It is a medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA).
  • But still it is a fourth-generation  aircraft= cannot match Fifth Generation Chinese J-31 aircraft in a combat.
  • Same goes for Tejas, it is fourth Generation and still under development.


  • This is fifth generation aircraft.
  • Jointly developed by India-Russia.
  • Problem: rising cost (about $30 billion), India had to cut down order from 200 to 144.
  • Unlikely to be combat ready before 2020. (given Russia’s laziness, as shown in Gorshkov deal.)

Overall, $40 billion dollars stuck in above two aircraft. So, right now we don’t have any spare cash left, to buy a readymade Fifth Generation aircraft such as F-22/F-35 from USA, just to deter China.

Indian History Freedom Struggle Pratik Nayak

21 Comments on “[Diplomacy] Fifth Generation Fighter Aircrafts, Shenyang J-31: Meaning, Implications”

  1. Nice analysis Mrunal… Can you also please throw some light on the harrier jump jet family….is it also a fifth generation aircraft?

    1. no.. aircraft belonging to this family are of 1st and second generation although they are also capable of vertical take off.. they were introduced long back in 1969.. indian neavy too have it..

  2. Mrunal- only the F-35 fighter aircraft meant for the US Marines Air Arm will have VTOL capability, otherwise no other 5th generation fighter has this capability. VTOL fighter jets are only used by the Naval forces, however with aircraft carriers having catapult capability- VTOL fighters are not required. However US Marines air arm operates from small aircraft carriers and large amphibious assault ships- modified into landing and take off platforms- requiring the use of VTOL, but VTOL is not an essential feature of a fith generation fighter aircraft

    1. Not once in your comment have you described what the hell really is VTOL or catapult capability. This is the difference between someone who wants to make things easy for others and someone who just wants to show off his own superficial knowledge using unnecessary jargon.

  3. 1) India also has a domestic 5th gen. fighter program – AMCA (Advance medium combat aircraft)
    2) @Varoon F-35 has three variants F-35 A,B & C. F35-B has VTOL capability while F35-A has CTOL(conventional).
    3) HAL FGFA is a variant of SU T-50 PAK-FA just like SU-30 MKI is a variant of SU-30 with Indian, Israeli and French avionics and sub-systems.
    4) F22 is not for sale to any country, US senate passed a law prohibiting the sale of F22. It is less likely that China can have any of its 5th gen aircraft operational before India as it is still dependent on Russia for engines for its 4th gen aircraft. Pakistan will most likely go for Chinese 5th gen aircrafts to counter India.

    1. Problem is not with setting up the questions, but setting up three wrong answer options that sound equally plausible just like UPSC’s authentic questions.
      But i’ll look into it.

  4. mrunal ji..

    I became a big fan of the way you intertwine knowledge,creativity and sense of humour in your articles…. If you start a quiz sooner or later I BET it would be the best available authentic quiz for prelims2013 EVER online :)

    eagerly waiting,

  5. Instead looking only to buy the much delayed Russian 5th Gen FGFA, India should also raise crores of dollars to purchase wither the F-22 Raptor (which seems likely impossible)or the JSF F-35 Lightening II (which right now seems a distant possibility but our stupid Indian Govt. is quite indecisive, corrupt and clumsy in its effective decision making policies on national interest and country’s defense matters)

  6. india hasnt bought dassault rafaels yet.
    and moreover, rafaels belong to 4.5 gen, not 4.0
    and tejas no more runs on kaveri engines as they failed to provide enough thrust. drdo replaced them with american made engines

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