Russia’s war with Ukraine is likely to impact the Chinese military, especially its fighters jets, due to its over-dependence on Moscow.
On May 17, experts at the China Aerospace Studies Institute conference predicted that Russia wouldn’t service or provide engines and components for up to 40% of China’s fighters. This is likely to impact the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s fleet in the near future, as reported by Air Force Magazine.
Washington’s ‘Pakistan Blunder’ – How US Itself Pushed India Into The Russian Camp That It Is Now Trying To Correct
During a panel discussion on military cooperation between China and Russia, experts highlighted that China has not been able to fully develop engine technology, despite all the claims.
With Russia busy restocking its military for a long battle, China may be compelled to focus more intently on developing internal competence. David R. Markov of the Institute for Defense Analysis said that “China is still dependent on Russian components and probably will be for the foreseeable future.”
File Image: A Z-8 helicopter with the flag of PLA (Wikimedia Commons)
The fact that Russia supplied about 4,000 engines for Chinese helicopters and other military aircraft between 1992 and 2019 demonstrates the importance of Russian technology to the Chinese military.
Experts also pointed out that economic sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe hindered Russia’s ability to acquire technologies such as semiconductors, which are utilized by the Russian defense industry.
He went on to say that the situation provides China with a far stronger incentive to use national resources to “fix the engine problem that they have.”
The main part of the Military is Air-Force and the Heart of Air-force is their Aircraft’s deterrence which is measured on design. Coming to design, the Aircraft Design Engine is the Strategic and most important part of it. It is said that they are the “Heart” of Aircraft. Moreover, aircraft are designed on the basis of the Engine that would be used in it. American Engines are niche technology, Russain AL-41 Engine is advancing but still behind with western ones, where Chinese Engines Stand?
We all know, what happens when a heart gets a disease or doesn’t perform well. Well, just RIP. Similarly, an aircraft operating with Bad performing Engine will really be also termed as a bad aircraft. Earlier I made an article on Russian Engines, and also showed they are actually worse than Western ones. But here, we will see where the Chinese Engines stand. There are Quote in English
If you copy someone, you would never get the full knowledge of it.
Well, we all know, how much Chinese are in terms of stealing the data. If it was to be awarded a medal, every year China would get the Gold one. Reason for saying this is every breach in the US of data related to F-22 and F-35 has mostly linked to China. Well not just the leak, even China is going to Hit the Gold in Reverse Engineering. Everyone knows how is China Notorious in both of these fields. From a screw to big cars to Aircraft, there is nothing China cannot replicate.
“China ka maal he, chala to Chand tak, warna Sham tak”
Well, most of the Engines that are “Made in China” are derivatives or would like to say Copies of Russian Engines. We call to know “A copy is never as good as original”. Starting from the journey of the engine, China got an arms embargo in 1980. Means, China couldn’t get critical technologies. Since the embargo was from the US, western firms wouldn’t give technologies of Aircraft to China. Hence, China Decided to make its own Aircraft Technologies i.e. Engines.
A country that doesn’t care about such an embargo and is ready to give such technologies is Russia. Russia sold many of its fighters to China. We all know that to date there are many Soviet Planes in PLA-AF. But since the domestic engine was also to be built, China gave tons of money in every way to get it built. For those who don’t know, that was the sole reason why India even started to make KAVERI as we were also sanctioned after Smiling Buddha(1999) test.
A Chinese J-15 is moved on the flight deck of a People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier. (Chinese Defense Ministry)
MELBOURNE, Australia — China appears to be fitting indigenous engines on its Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-borne fighter jet.
Footage shown Nov. 17 on state-owned broadcaster CCTV showed a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 with the afterburner nozzles of the WS-10 Taihang turbofans undergoing calibration in preparation for a test flight at the facilities of manufacturer Shenyang Aircraft Corp.
This is the first time a production J-15 was seen fitted with the locally developed engines; there was an occasion in which the WS-10 was seen on a J-15 prototype built during the aircraft’s development phase.
The use of WS-10s on the J-15s in China — and on the J-10s after more than a decade in service — suggests China is confident with the performance and reliability of the engine type for use in riskier single-engine and carrier-borne operations.
The WS-10 is already powering production examples of the Shenyang J-11B interceptor, the J-16 strike aircraft and the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter.
Previous reports suggested China was struggling to overcome reliability and performance issues of the WS-10, as the country contended with wider problems in the development of domestic aircraft engines. As a result, China relied on imported Russian engines to power several of its homegrown aircraft, including the J-20 to the Xi’an Y-20 strategic airlifter.
In addition to the indigenous engine, China is continuing to develop the J-15 airframe, which is based on the Russian carrier-borne fighter Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker. This includes a new variant equipped with a catapult-launch attachment on its nose landing gear as China continues construction on its third aircraft carrier and its first to be fitted with catapults for launching aircraft.
China is also reportedly developing a two-seat J-15 for carrier-borne electronic-attack missions, similar to the land-based J-16D first seen in 2021.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.
China fully capable of jet engine development, narrowing technology gaps
With efforts including establishing a laboratory dedicated to research on aviation components, China is now capable of resolving complex problems of warplane engines, said a Chinese political advisor who delivered domestically developed engine technologies for the J-20, the country’s most advanced stealth fighter jet.
China’s technology gap with leading countries like the US in terms of jet engines has been narrowed, and advanced technologies such as higher thrust-weight ratio, vector thrust control and variable cycle are likely under development, analysts said on Wednesday.
China has gained full ability to independently develop engines for military aircraft — from designing to manufacturing, then from experimenting to test flights, Li Zhiqiang, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said in a report by China Central Television (CCTV) on Tuesday.
Li, also the head of the Manufacturing Technology Institute of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, which is the major contractor of warplanes of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, said that jet engines are the heart of aircraft, and China must be able to independently supply such engines, since importing them will inevitably limit the capabilities of Chinese warplanes.
Since the 1990s, Li has led researchers in developing advanced jet engines, building a dedicated laboratory to develop aviation components, with a focus on the hot forming and superplastic forming of titanium alloy, CCTV reported, noting that even the smallest component would need to undergo hundreds or thousands of tests.
In one case, a fan blade that took six years to develop broke after only 60 seconds, Li recalled, noting that despite the failure, the team searched for the problem and eventually solved it.
Their technologies, now mature, are widely used on Chinese warplanes including the J-20, the report said.
Two J-20 fighter jets equipped with domestically developed engines made their first flight performance at Airshow China 2021 in a move analysts said marked the end of the aircraft’s reliance on imported engines and likely the start of the aircraft’s mass production.
Thirty years ago, China’s advanced weapon and equipment manufacturing lagged far behind developed countries, and China had to learn from whatever they were doing. But now, China does not need to look at others, as the country can realize whatever it wants to do, Li said.
People said in the past that China was 20 to 30 years behind leading countries like the US in terms of jet engine development, and this gap is now being narrowed, possibly to 10 to 15 years, Wang Ya’nan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Some of the highly expected technologies, including engines with higher thrust-weight ratio, engines capable of vector thrust control and variable cycle engines, are likely under development, Wang said.
- The device travels at nine times the speed of sound without the expense or explosion risk of burning hydrogen, according to paper
- Researchers in China say ground experiments at Beijing’s JF-12 shock tunnel were successful
Updated: 8:05pm, 18 Nov, 2022
Researchers in China say they have developed the world’s first hypersonic detonation wave engine capable of powering flight at nine times the speed of sound using low-cost jet fuel.
Several successful ground experiments for the oblique detonation engine, which generates thrust through a burst of explosions, were carried out at the JF-12 hypersonic shock tunnel in Beijing earlier this year, according to the researchers.
Chinese scientists tested their hypersonic detonation wave engine in the JF-12 shock tunnel in Beijing. Photo: Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Scientists around the world have built detonation engines, but they mostly use hydrogen as fuel, which comes with a high price tag and risk of explosions.
Liu’s engine uses RP-3, a jet fuel commonly found in Chinese airports.
“Aviation kerosene is the fuel of choice for air-breathing engines due to its high energy density and ease of storage and transport,” he said.
The idea of using jet fuel to power hypersonic flight has been around for decades, but the difficulty of igniting the kerosene in extremely hot and fast air has posed a challenge for scientists.
“It is not easy to detonate,” Liu said.
Kerosene burns more slowly than hydrogen, so kerosene-powered engines typically require a longer detonation chamber to retain the fuel-air mixture for a longer period of time.
Computer models estimated that the detonation chamber of a kerosene-fuelled engine would need to be 10 times longer than one that uses hydrogen.
The extra length would be impossible for most hypersonic planes, where every millimetre counts, according to the team.
The Chinese team’s engine burns aviation kerosene, generating a series of explosions within milliseconds of ignition. Photo: Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
But the Chinese scientists found that a simple modification – adding a thumbnail-size bump to the surface of the engine’s air inlet – could make the ignition of kerosene easier while keeping the chamber’s size small.
When fresh air arrives at the narrow mouth of the engine’s wedge-shaped inlet, fast-moving air molecules are compressed and heated.
The hot air then mixes with tiny droplets of kerosene, which break apart to form even smaller molecules.
As the mixture of air and fuel hits the bump on the otherwise smooth surface of the inlet, shock waves are produced.
The results of the test run, conducted under various conditions in the JF-12 tunnel, suggest that these bump-induced shock waves could not only ignite the kerosene but help confine the explosions to a small space, generating a steady supply of thrust.
China has developed several hypersonic missiles, including the DF-17 and YJ-21, capable of hitting a building or moving warship fast enough to evade most air defence systems.
The Chinese government plans to find civilian applications for hypersonic technology by building a fleet of aircraft that can transport passengers anywhere on the planet within an hour or two.
Meanwhile, defence contractor Lockheed Martin plans to conduct the first flight of the SR-72, an unmanned hypersonic spy plane known as “Son of Blackbird”, by 2025.
Hypersonic aircraft must be capabale of making routine long-distance flights under extreme conditions. Reducing construction and operational costs remains a major challenge, according to scientists and engineers involved in developing the technology.
- CSSC Marine Power Co., Ltd (CMP)CSSC Marine Power Co., Ltd (CMP) signed a licence agreement in 2008 to build Wärtsilä low-speed engines. CMP is a member of CSSC, located at Zhenjiang City in Jiangsu Province. CMP will focus on building engines of 70 cm bore and smaller.
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- CSSC-MES Diesel Co., Ltd. (CMD)CSSC-MES Diesel Co., Ltd. (CMD) was established in 2006 as a joint venture of China State Shipbuilding Corporation, China CSSC Holdings Ltd, and Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co Ltd with its factory in Shanghai Lingang. The factory has an annual production capacity of 2.6 million kW. WinGD and CMD have jointly signed a licence agreement in 2008 for the manufacture and sale of all sizes of WinGD low-speed diesel engines by CMD in China.
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- Hudong Heavy Machinery Co., Ltd. (HHM)Hudong Heavy Machinery Co., Ltd. (HHM) is a WinGD licensee since 1995. HHM is a member of CSSC. The company is focusing on engines with bore sizes between 48 and 70 cm. Annual production capacity is 1.5 million kW. Among the various types of WinGD engines which HHM delivered in the past years, HHM produced the world wide first 6RT-flex58T-D V2 engine and 8RT-flex68-D_L engine.
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- China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC)
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- Dalian Marine Diesel Co., Ltd. (DMD)Dalian Marine Diesel Co., Ltd. (DMD) is a WinGD licensee since 1978. DMD is a member of CSIC. The company focuses on bigger engines with bore sizes from 50 to 96cm. The annual production capacity is 2.2 million kW. In November 2010, China’s first WinGD 7RT-flex84T-D engine manufactured by DMD was delivered. In June 2014, DMD delivered China’s first WinGD 6-cylinder X72 engine.
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- China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC)Established in July 1999, CSIC is an entity directly under the state government with state authorisation for investment and capital management. CSIS is one of the largest groups in China in the field of design, manufacture, and trade of civilian and military ships, marine engineering and marine equipment. There are 46 industrial enterprises, 28 R&D institutes in China, with a total number of 140,000 employees. The annual shipbuilding capacity is five million dwt.
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- Hefei Rong An Power Machinery Co., Ltd. (RPM)Hefei Rong An Power Machinery Co., Ltd. (RPM) signed a licence agreement in 2007 to build all sizes of WinGD low-speed engines. The first Rong’An-WinGD engine, a 6RT-flex68-D, was successfully delivered in October 2009. In June 2010, China’s first 7RT-flex82T engine manufactured by Rong An was delivered.
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- H. Cegielski-Poznań S.A. (HCP S.A.)H. Cegielski-Poznań S.A. (HCP S.A.) has been a WinGD licensed engine builder dating back to 1955. Under the current service agreement HCP, as a former engine builder, provides professional service of HCP produced 2-stroke engines focusing on maintenances, overhauls, repairs and inspections. HCP is also entitled to produce spare parts for these HCP produced engines.
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- HSD Engine Co., Ltd.HSD Engine Co., Ltd. is located in Changwon, South Korea. The company produces low- and medium-speed marine diesel and dual fuel engines in the range between 500 kW and 80.000 kW with an annual production capacity of 4.5 million kW. The licence to HSD Engine (formerly Doosan Engine Co., Ltd.) goes back to 1984 when its predecessor company Korean Heavy Engineering Co., Ltd. signed a technical licence agreement with WinGD.
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- Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. — Engine & Machinery Division (HHI-EMD)The Engine & Machinery Division of Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. (HHI-EMD) is located in Ulsan, South Korea. The company is a WinGD licensee since 1975. HHI-EMD is the world’s largest marine engine builder with an annual production capacity of 9 million kW of low- and medium-speed marine diesel and dual fuels engines in the range between 500 kW and 80.000 kW for marine and stationary applications.
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- IHI Power Systems Co., Ltd.IHI Power Systems Co., Ltd. (Former Diesel United. Ltd.) was established in 1988 as a result of a merger between engine divisions of Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. and Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Ltd. Those two companies had entered into licence agreements in 1948 and 1950 respectively. During the past 60 years, DU produced many world first engine types. Since 2015 DU has a W6X72 Dual Fuel test engine and has a development cooperation agreement with WinGD.
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- Hitachi Zosen Corporation (Hitz)Hitachi Zosen Corporation (Hitz) has a 130 year’s history. A new engine factory including assembly and shop test was opened in 1997 close to the Ariake shipyard (Kyushu Island) of Japan Marine United Corporation. Considering Hitz factory layout they have the possibility to produce WinGD’s whole portfolio range. Hitz has also developed their own Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system for marine diesel engine to comply with Tier III.
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- Japan Engine Corporation (J-ENG)Kobe Diesel acquired the marine engine business of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Marine Machinery division, and changed its corporate name to Japan Engine Corporation (J-ENG) in April, 2017. J-ENG offers after-sales service for WinGD brand engines.
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China has been famously reliant on imported jet engines, but perhaps not for too much longer. At this year’s Zhuhai Airshow that took place last week, there were several Chinese engines on display alongside those from foreign manufacturers such as CFM International, Pratt and Whitney, GE Aviation, and Rolls-Royce.
China’s new jet engines
AECC’s engines have been prominently displayed at Zhuhai airshows going back to 2018. This year, the company’s exhibit included five different engines, including the WS-10 Taihang, which is China’s first high-thrust turbofan engine with an afterburner. There was also a new kind of WS-10 equipped with a 2D-thrust vectoring control nozzle, which provides fighter jets with enhanced maneuverability and stealth capabilities.
These Taihang engines are now powering China’s latest fighter jets: the Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon and the Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon. AECC’s display of a turbofan engine with a 2D-thrust vectoring control nozzle was particularly noteworthy at this year’s airshow, as it shows that China is closing the technology gap between the capabilities of its latest J-20 stealth fighter — with its Chinese engine — and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
Furthermore, the WS-10 engine is a precursor to a new generation of jet engines, the WS-15 turbofan engine. The WS-15 was not on display at this year’s airshow, but in March, the Global Times reported that the WS-15 is undergoing testing and will be installed in the J-20 stealth fighter in the near future, which will allow the J-20 to finally take its “ultimate form.” The WS-15 has a low bypass ratio (i.e., the ratio of the flow rate of the bypass stream and that entering the engine core), which is more efficient at higher speeds, and is capable of thrust vector control (the ability of the aircraft to manipulate the direction of the thrust from its engine) with a thrust of 15–18 tons.
Along with the WS-10 variants, at the airshow, AECC also had some of its newest engines on display for the first time, but there is very little public information about them available as yet.
- The AEF1300: A dual-rotor turbofan engine with high thrust, a high bypass ratio, and low fuel consumption.
- The CJ2000: A turbofan engine with low maintenance cost and low fuel consumption, intended for airliners.
- A series of engines intended for civilian aircraft: the AES100 turboshaft, the AEP100 turboprop, and the AEF100 turbofan engines.
The narrowing gap
Spectators at the 2002 edition of the Zhuhai Airshow got to see what was described as “the first jet engine to be designed, manufactured, and tested entirely in China,” the WP-14 Kunlun. The WP-14 took 20 years to develop, and was fitted to later variants of Chinese fighter jets developed from older Russian jets, the Chengdu J-7 and the Shenyang J-8. The WP-14 was not considered state-of-the-art by any means, but it was touted as a major achievement for China’s aircraft engine program.
Another major milestone occurred in 2021 when two J-20 fighter jets equipped with Chinese-made WS-10 engines flew at that year’s Zhuhai Airshow. Chinese military commentators said that this marked the end of China’s dependence on imported engines. In March 2022, CCTV ran an interview with the head of the Manufacturing Technology Institute at the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), China’s massive state-owned aerospace and defense conglomerate, who stated that China has now mastered the ability to independently develop jet engines, which he called the “hearts” of military aircraft. Around the same time, the chief editor of the magazine Aerospace Knowledge told the Global Times that China has now closed the gap with the U.S. on jet engines from 20–30 years to 10–15 years.
But China still has a long way to go to wean itself off Russian jet engines. According to one estimate, at least 40% of the engines of China’s fighter jets still depend in part or in full on Russian engines and parts. By this estimate, from 1992 to 2019, Russia provided China with around 4,000 engines for helicopters and military aircraft, and with the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries, China’s lingering dependency on Russian engines is now placing the acquisition and servicing of Russian engines at risk.
It was only really in 2016 that China started to devote large investments to promoting its jet engine development program, in particular with the establishment in that year of the Aero Engine Corporation of China (AECC). As outlined above, AECC is now starting to produce the goods, but the use of Chinese engines in fighter jets and other aircraft is still a gradual process, and China will remain hitched to Russian engines for some time to come.
The new C919 commercial passenger jet built by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), which has now been cleared for use by China’s airlines, is a case in point. The plane still makes use of the LEAP engine produced by the France-U.S. joint venture CFM International. China is developing its own engine for the C919, the CJ-1000A Changjiang (长江), a version of which was first unveiled at the 2012 Zhuhai Airshow, but this engine has not yet been certified, and may only start to power the C919 by 2025 at the earliest.
The full installation of China’s own jet engines is not going to be easy or quick. As one foreign observer put it, making jet engines is “more art than science,” and the leading Western manufacturers have “tacit knowledge” that their Chinese competitors are still lacking. Indeed, China’s jet engine development program is literally a young industry, with many of the country’s scientists, engineers, and designers working on jet engine development still in their late twenties and early thirties.
But these people have time on their side. On Monday, the newspaper China Youth Daily, appropriately, ran a lengthy article on a group of scientists researching titanium alloy engines at the Institute of Metal Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This group is indeed very young, but very determined to make China’s planes fly with Chinese engines.
It is a very lesser-known type among Chinese Engines. It will be used one day for Powering the UCAV. Also called is an interim engine between both WS-10 and WS-15. The engine is also many issues but very less information on this engine is available in the public domain. This engine will be used in place of RD-93 Engines. WS-13 produces 86KN of thrust in afterburner. WS-13 E produces 90 KN of thrust in afterburner.
Why WS-15 Isn’t Yet Successful?
As per Russians, they very much doubt China for copying the technology. The proven track record of Beijing making 5 Aircraft the direct copies of Russian Counterparts. The Su-35’s AL-41F1S, alternatively known as the ALS-117S, is an exceptionally powerful thrust-vectoring engine that represents a quantum leap over the AL-31. Russian sources claim it is nearly impossible to reach the “heart” of the engine without breaking it. If the Russians are correct, attempts at reverse-engineering would rob the PLAAF of advanced combat aircraft that would quite obviously be useless without engines.
Also, everyone knows Russia never gives true thing, it always gives a less good model. Because of source codes of the engine are really important. No one likes to giveaway the Billions of Money used up in R&D to someone who will just copy it at a fraction of cost.
The new-generation, single-crystal turbine blades designed for the WS-15 were supposed to be able to cope with the increased mechanical loads caused by significantly higher rotational speeds and extremely high temperatures. Here Single Crystal turbine blade is actually very very crucial for these engines. But they didn’t in 2015.
In December 2016, China struck a deal to import 24 Su-35S fighters—an order widely speculated to be primarily aimed at procuring the thrust-vector-capable Russian jets for study by Chinese technicians. Then in 2018, a J-10C Fighter outfitted with thrust-vectoring controls was showcased at the Zhuhai airshow, revealing Chinese development of the technology.
China realized the issues were with many technologies. Former Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) chairman Lin Zuoming told state media last year that China’s third-generation single-crystal turbine blades could withstand temperatures of up to 3,632 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius) in WS-10 engines, extending the engine’s lifespan from 800 hours to 1,500 hours when compared with those using the previous generation of the turbine blade.
Why Can’t China Produce A Capable Jet Engine?
For many years, it has been widely reported that China is proficient at cloning foreign technologies for domestic use. Almost every Chinese fighter plane is modeled on either stolen or reverse-engineered designs, various media reports citing experts have claimed.
File Image: J-20 Stealth Aircraft
China has been working for years to develop a capable homegrown engine for its fighter jet. As by the EurAsian Times, China has replaced the Russian engines with domestically made WS-10 engines for its J-20 stealth fighters.
However, numerous reports have claimed that these indigenous engines are still falling short and do not provide enough thrust compared to the Russian ones.
Similarly, Markov argued that China is still underperforming in jet engine production because Russia concealed technological secrets, despite China’s major successes in gaining vital military technologies that helped produce its stealthy J-20 and J-31 aircraft.
He added that China’s difficulties in this field are attributable to a lack of domestic competence more than a lack of resources allocated to the effort. Compared to Russia, which inherited the Soviet Union’s defense manufacturing base, the Chinese defense-industrial complex is relatively new.
Many Chinese scientists, engineers, designers, and production managers are still in their twenties and thirties, which explains why they lack the expertise from apprenticeship programs and decades of specialized experience. To address that issue, Beijing contracted Russian specialists to work inside Chinese factories.
“What they still are yet to understand is, modern aviation engines, particularly supercruise fighter engines, are more art than science,” Markov said. He went on to say that engine workers at companies like Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney, and GE have “tacit knowledge” that the Chinese lack.
According to Markov, China’s acquisition of Su-35 aircraft from Russia was aimed at gaining access to the type’s sophisticated engine, ancillary support, and digital control system.
Nonetheless, China is still building on the WS-15 engine to power the J-20 ‘super cruise’ capabilities. According to the Chinese state media – CCTV, the WS-15 seems to have a low bypass ratio and thrust vector control.
It was designed for fifth-generation fighter jets, both heavy and medium. The J-20s were planned to be integrated with the WS-15, but China preferred to settle with the WS-10 C due to test failures of the WS-15.
Why Stealing & Reverse Engineering Is Not Helping?
However, the stealing strategy remains constrained by bottleneck technologies due to a lack of testing data and industrial ecology. This problem is starkly illustrated by China’s ongoing difficulty in producing a high-quality indigenous jet engine. The problem of technology mismatch, at its root, is that the thief lacks trade secrets and human capital associated with the manufacturing and assembly of a system. At the very least, this absence can make the replication of foreign systems a costly and time-consuming process, as the thief needs to develop manufacturing procedures from scratch.
At worst, it can lead to seriously substandard components that reduce the capabilities and reliability of a system. Chinese efforts to reverse engineer certain Russian jet engines during the 1990s and 2000s invariably produced engines with extremely short lifespans, and without the power of their Russian Counterparts.
The proof of the same is also obtained from the fact that the JF-17 Thunder aircraft which Pakistan has currently operated with RD-93 MA engines. It shows us that if the Chinese engines were good why didn’t the Pakistan like country didn’t even choose it. However, they will use WS-13 in the future.
The stealing of technology started in the same phase. Tons of money is used to develop the technology. But to steal it, you will require less. It is understood that the core of the WS-10 is based on CFM International CFM56 (GE F101) technology that China obtained in the 1980s. The purpose of this engine was to replace or make an engine at par with the Russian AL-31 series. The WS-10A, targeted for 130 KN of thrust, was already in development in 2002. An early version flew on a J-8II in 2002. In 2004, Russian sources familiar with the project reported problems meeting the thrust target.
A full-scale WS-10A engine was first seen at the 2008 China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition. But still, it was not successful. The engine took a much longer time to develop thrust than AL-31. Also, the thrust of it was 110-125 KN, lesser than desired. Now here the WS-10A engine had the Reliability of just 30 hours. Means the MTBO (Mean time between overhaul) was 30 hours. For those who haven’t read the Sukhoi Article, MTBO for Sukhoi Engine is 500 hours. Here, the technical life of the WS-10A engine is also less. however, it still was used to power J-11B in 2009. Mainly, this engine was made to power the 4th Generation Aircrafts.
For everyone let me tell you that also that the WS-10 was indirectly even reverse-engineered from the AL-31 series engine which was given in Su-27 to China. After signing a deal to produce 200 Su-27 aircraft locally, China stopped the production line after just 100 units. Electing to learn from and change the design, the subsequent J-11 ruffled feathers as an unlicenced copy.
The TVC (Thrust Vector Control) was actually learned from the Russian AL-31 engines by China. It was then used in the further variant WS-10B of Chinese engines. The WS-10B is said to produce more thrust and reliability than that of WS-10A. Implying TVC in an aircraft reduces the thrust more. This means, if the aircraft is already struggling with power, thrust vectoring would reduce the power more. So this engine is currently powering most of the air fleet of China.
Why WS-15 Is Actually Important?
The stealth fighters need a Super Cruise Ability(Going over the speed of 1 Mach) with less possible radar detection. Now, if the engine doesn’t have this capability then, it has to bring the engine to the afterburner stage. For those who know, the afterburner stage of the engine leads to more detectability. Also, the thrust requirement was not fulfilled by them, the thrust to weight ratio was to be increased.
As of now, the current fleet of J-20 uses a WS-10H (Chinese Engines) or AL-31 (Russian engine). WS-15 was not developed on time. So, it doesn’t provide enough power to its internal systems. Also, it doesn’t give the required thrust. Consumes more fuel when in the afterburner stage of the Engine. There is also TVC in some versions, which again reduces the thrust so indirectly J-20 is not at all performing at the level which it is acclaimed of.
In the end, It was said that after 2015, WS-10 technology would take 3 to 8 years to mature. In 2018, several reports have said that the Chinese have developed the Single Crystal Blade technology. And speculations are made that the WS-15 will be developed by 2020. They have been proved wrong earlier. However, Beijing has stepped up the development of sophisticated jet engines since the turn of the century, with at least 150 billion yuan (US$23.7 billion) invested between 2010 and 2015.
The WS-15 engine in China is boasted to more capabilities than the American F125 i.e. 44 KN of thrust with afterburner. But these haven’t been proved by analysts. Now, even the engine is to be made, this would have very little life and reliability than American ones. The WS-10 was brought to the Technical Life of 1500 hours. Well, this is very very less than American Ones which have more than 10,000 hours at times.
Still, there is a long way to go for Chinese engines. Here, it is also proved that J-20 is actually not a stealth fighter and totally underpowered. And there are only 40-50 J-20 operational. And will not go to mass production until WS-15 gets operational. There are many problems with Russian engines, one of them is Breathing at higher altitudes. So, the same will also be present in Chinese ones, as very a times Chinese jets have been found struggling in Ladakh. But reports have claimed that the Chinese engines have overcome that issue, so this might give IAF a disadvantage.
So, if seen in the current scenario then India has an edge. But not for long. The domestic KAVERI engine has to be fast-tracked else, India will really lag behind in many terms. As the WS-15 might get ready in a year to two and might get operational in less than 3-4 years. So, India also needs to get the same technology in the same period.