A photo of a Chinese FC-31, a stealth fighter, landing on a life-size model of an aircraft carrier, that has been circulating in social media has led many global military experts to opine that this, China’s second stealth fighter, could be the primary candidate for Beijing’s next-generation fighter jet.

According to Liu Xuanzun, a Chinese reporter from Global Times, the photo was unconfirmed.  

It is important to verify the veracity of the photograph because historically Beijing has used a model of the actual size of its aircraft carriers near Wuhan to test the size, range, and compatibility of aircraft following which it tested weapon systems before it placed the asset into operation.

The photo of the Chinese FC-31 featured in the American edition of The Drive. Turns out, this is the reason why Liu Xuanzun doubts the authenticity of the photo.

Regardless of Liu Xuanzun’s opinion, the likelihood of the photograph being real is high since The Drive is not a regular news portal, but an analytical one. The bulk of its military-political or industrial assumptions are based on received material.

Given the suspicious similarity between American and Chinese air assets, including helicopters, the relationship between the FC-31 and the J-15 are similar to that of the US F-35 and F-18. The relationship between the two aircrafts has found support from Chinese military aviation analyst Fu Qianshao.

The photo also potentially answers what other air assets may find itself on Chinese aircraft carrier; along with J-15 fighters, it is probable that China’s Z-18 helicopter, can also be deployed on Chinese aircraft carriers. Both aircraft are already in operation.

Beijing followed the same pattern two years ago: initially it tested its KJ-600 reconnaissance and early warning aircraft on a life-size model on an aircraft carrier, following which the aircraft made its first test flights; the plane will soon become operational.

Thus it is very likely that the photo of the FC-31 landing on the life-size model of an aircraft carrier may be the first step before it gets the green light for serial production.