The “Eurasia Times” reported on this video found on Twitter, which showcased the J-35 in its distinctive gray paint, performing a low-speed, low-altitude flight. Notably, the aircraft’s landing gear was still deployed. Recent reports have indicated that the Fujian, expected to be the home ship for the J-35, has recently had the construction scaffolding around its electromagnetic catapult removed, revealing its complete form and signifying its readiness for the next phase of sea trials.
J35 during test flights in China. pic.twitter.com/bQtgLUlRA3
— International Defence Analysis (@Defence_IDA) August 25, 2023
Developed by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, the J-35 is the PLA’s second stealth aircraft following the J-20 from the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group. Rumors suggest that the J-35 might also be stationed on China’s other two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong. These two carriers currently house the J-15 fighters, which are modifications of the Russian-made Su-33. Gradually, the J-35 is anticipated to become the primary aircraft for China’s carriers.
Compared to the operational J-15, the J-35 is lighter and smaller, mainly designated for air defense roles aboard carriers, providing tactical support when the J-15 is engaged in anti-ship and ground-attack missions.
It’s worth noting that the J-35 was initially showcased and tested as the FC-31 Falcon Hawk. However, the PLA wasn’t entirely satisfied with its initial design, especially after lukewarm responses at international defense exhibitions. The FC-31 project was revitalized and underwent significant modifications after Sino-U.S. relations deteriorated under the Trump administration, leading to its transformation into the J-35, the PLA’s premier stealth carrier-based jet.
NATO intelligence personnel have previously indicated that the J-35 program continued unabated even during the pandemic. Despite rising tensions in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, the development of the J-35 has not been delayed.
A photo dated July 2022 showed a J-35 on the ground surrounded by maintenance staff, labeled “35003” and bearing its signature gray paint. It remains unclear whether this aircraft is the same as the one in the newly released video. However, unlike the 2022 photograph, which featured a Pitot tube on the aircraft’s nose, the latest video does not. This suggests that the radar system’s trial installation phase has concluded. The J-35 reportedly features an advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, fitting the specifications of a fifth-generation fighter.
Comparisons have been drawn between the J-35’s cockpit canopy design and the U.S.’s F-35B, though the J-35 lacks Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) capabilities, making it unsuitable for amphibious assault ships. The electromagnetic catapult-equipped Fujian will host both the J-35 and J-15, whereas the future of these jets on the Shandong and Liaoning remains uncertain.
Since 2021, the U.S. has been closely monitoring China’s development of its second fifth-generation fighter and carrier-based aircraft. U.S. Navy intelligence officer James Farnell believes the J-35 could mark a significant turning point in China’s pursuit of a blue-water navy, a sentiment shared by retired PLA Navy Admiral Wu Shengli. China’s tradition of keeping military advancements under wraps often leads to surprising developments for the international community.