The J-31 prepares to land after a test flight. (Internet photo)
A bomber version of the Shenyang J-31, China's second fifth-generation stealth fighter, is likely to be designed by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation in the near future to meet the demands of the People's Liberation Army Air Force, the Beijing-based Sina Military Network reported on Dec. 30.
Since both the Chengdu J-20 — the country's first stealth fighter prototype — and the J-31 are currently developed as fighters with the primary mission of engaging enemy aircraft in aerial combat, the Sina Military Network stated that what the PLA Air Force needs now is a stealth aircraft that is capable of attacking ground targets as a tactical bomber. Currently, the Xian JH-7 bomber's range is too short to provide long-range close air support to the PLA ground force while it is too expensive to call in the Xian H-6 strategic bomber for such a tactical mission.
The only suitable aircraft China is currently in possession of to conduct long-range attack missions is the Russian-built Sukhoi Su-30MK2 fighter. However, Sina Military Network said the Su-30MK2 can be easily detected by enemy radar. This is the reason why stealth aircraft with larger weapons bays to carry a larger payload are extremely important for the PLA Air Force. Photos recently released on the internet suggest Shenyang Aircraft Corporation is building a bomber based on the stealth fighter.
In the article, the Sina Military Network explained that a stealth fighter bomber based on the design of the J-31 will be far superior to the JH-7 and the Su-30MK2. By reducing the J-31's capability as a fighter, Shenyang Aircraft Corporation can increase its combat range, payload and stealth capability to make it the first real tactical bomber in the history of the PLA Air Force. This is what China needs to forge a modern air force, Sina Military Network said.