New photo of FC-31 Gyrfalcon, China’s second 5th generation stealth fighter and a competitor to Lockheed Martin F-35, started circulating on Chinese social media. It shows an upgraded and refurbished jet in what may have been a flight test.

The photo has been published on Chinese social network Weibo, South China Morning Post reports. While the picture’s authenticity is not verified, it is unlikely to appear without the government's consent.

The photograph shows a plane in many aspects different from two prototypes test-flown earlier. It has bulkier engine housing, redesigned canopy more reminiscent of J-20, and no longer features airspeed measuring device in the nose, suggesting that the new prototype may have been fitted with a radar.

These changes are in line with a FC-31 model shown at Paris Air Show in 2019, and represent another step towards full-scale production of the jet.

FC-31 is developed and manufactured by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, a subsidiary of state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), without an input from the army. Gyrfalcon's reported characteristics are very similar to F-35, with which it was originally slated to compete on the international market. 

Nevertheless, it seems not to have attracted orders since the first reveal in 2012. Since then, reportedly, it was being developed into a carrier-based fighter, similar to F-35C. Chinese aircraft carriers now wield J-15, a reverse-engineered Sukhoi Su-33, and it is very likely that China will want to adopt a newer generation of carrier-based fighters