"This tells us three things: One, this new export campaign is an export of an export; two, they don't have the technology themselves; and three, they're relying on Russian engines, which are no great prize," says Richard Aboulafia, VP of Analysis at the Teal Group Corporation.
He also has numerous questions about what's inside the FC-31. For example, how advanced are the jet's active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, electronic warfare systems, and sensor fusion? "That's a big capability—fusing all the sensor inputs together into an air combat management picture for the pilot," Aboulafia says. "That's huge. It's one of the key enablers in fighter technology."
He doubts there's much of a foreign market for the FC-31, especially not in China-leery East Asia. And while the Chinese could begin serial production of their own J-31 fighter in five years, "it's not really clear what they get out of that," he says. By the end of the decade, the United States would have already rolled out hundreds of Joint Strike Fighters, which, development problems aside, will be superior planes.