After China's FC-31 stealth fighter jet appeared in the most recent pilot recruitment video for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, speculation increased that the aircraft could become China's next-generation aircraft carrier-based fighter jet.
The PLA Navy's pilot recruitment program for 2020 recently started, with students from all around the country gathering for a series of qualification tests in Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Wednesday.
This year's tests featured more subjects based on past years' experience and also made COVID-19 prevention and control a priority.
The CCTV report featured a video which introduced the requirements to apply for the program, in which a cartoon figure of a pilot sitting in a FC-31 fighter jet is displayed.
Chinese military observers speculate that this is yet another official hint that the FC-31 might become China's next generation aircraft carrier-based fighter jet.
According to the website of the PLA Navy's pilot recruitment program, pilot cadets will study five years before graduation.
In these five years, the FC-31, which is still under development, could finish the necessary modifications and join the PLA Navy, as China's third, more advanced aircraft carrier could also be commissioned around that time, observers predict.
Other observers expressed doubt over how much the cartoon figure reflects the PLA Navy's plan. They say the video is likely made by CCTV and not the Navy, and it could be just a random picture.
Independently developed by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the FC-31 is a single-seat, twin-engine multi-role stealth fighter jet available for export, but rumors persist that it would be commissioned into domestic military forces.
Recent photos circulating on Chinese social media show the FC-31 has been making new test flights as one prototype is painted in a new silver-gray coating, reports said.
Fu Qianshao, a Chinese air defense expert, told the Global Times that the development of the FC-31 is seemingly making rapid progress, and that he hopes it will eventually serve in the PLA.
The development of the FC-31 will continue, and modifications will likely be made based on test flights, including the installation of new engines and other devices, Fu said.