China ‘nearing mass production’ of J-20 stealth fighter after engine problems ironed out

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China’s new J-20 stealth fighter could soon go into mass production as earlier problems with its engine have now been resolved, sources say. Photo: EPA

 

Improved power train will give Chinese jet ability to fly undetected at supersonic speeds, on par with United States’ F-35

A new and improved engine designed to make China’s J-20 stealth fighter a world-class combat jet should be ready for mass production by the end of the year, military sources have said.

The WS-15 engine features cutting-edge single-crystal turbine blades and has been in development for several years, but Chinese technicians have struggled to get it into mass production.

However, many of the problems – which largely related to blades overheating at top speeds – have been ironed out in ground tests and trial flights, putting the goal of a consistently high quality product in sight, sources told the South China Morning Post.

Beijing is keen to have a stealth aircraft capable of competing with the best in the world as tensions rise in the Asia-Pacific and the United States ramps up deployment of its F-22 and F-35 fighters in the region.

“The WS-15 is expected to be ready for widespread installation in the J-20s by the end of this year,” one of the sources said.

Although some “minor problems” remained, these should be resolved once the engine had been more “extensively run in the aircraft”, the source said.

“China currently has about 20 J-20s, which is far from enough,” the source said. “[Having] a home-grown engine is a must for the J-20 to enter mass production, as no other country would be prepared to give China such cutting-edge technology.”

The sources’ claims add weight to an April report by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) that said Chengdu Aerospace Corporation, which manufactures the J-20, was set to open a fourth production line for the stealth fighter in 2019.

And last month CCTV reported that China’s air force had stepped up its training programme for J-20 pilots.

The People’s Liberation Army said that the J-20 entered combat service on February 9 and had been working alongside other fourth-generation aircraft, such as the J-16 and J-10 fighters and the H-6K strategic bomber. In May it took part in island encirclement drills around Taiwan.

Full article: China ‘nearing mass production’ of J-20 stealth fighter after engine problems ironed out (South China Morning Post)

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