China announced deals and publicly unveiled its latest fighter jet as the nation’s biggest air show opened yesterday, showcasing its rising aerospace and military clout as senior U.S. officers looked on.
Global aerospace companies including GE Aviation and Embraer SA are gathered at the Zhuhai Air Show in the southern province of Guangdong as they seek bigger slices an aviation market that Boeing Co. (BA) and Airbus Group NV (AIR) are projecting to surpass the U.S. as the world’s biggest in two decades.
The biennial show, which this year coincides with a meeting in Beijing of leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations, showcases China’s growing ambitions in civil aviation and defense technology at a time of rising geopolitical tensions in the South China Sea.
Kept largely secret until yesterday, China’s J-31 fighter jet is made by a Shenyang-based unit of Aviation Industry Corp. of China. It tests China’s ability to deliver advanced defense technology for its air and sea expansion in the region and its push-back against U.S. economic and military dominance.
Chinese pilots staged an acrobatic display with the planes above the Zhuhai airport, according to footage shown on China Central Television.
The jet is a fifth-generation fighter, a classification that began with the service entry of the U.S.’s F-22 Raptor in 2005, according to IHS Jane’s. Such jets have reduced visibility to infrared sensors and can cruise at supersonic speeds, although little is known about the J-31 beyond reports suggesting it has Russian engines, said Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.