China has upgraded its J-15 carrier-based fighters with new homegrown jet engines, greatly increasing its combat capabilities and increasing its technological independence.
The Global Times reported last week. China tested the J-15 Flying Shark carrier-based fighter, powered by what appeared to be an independently developed engine. While adequate for the aircraft’s current mission, it also presents technical, operational and political challenges.
The thrust of the engine model is 135 kN, F414-GE-400 Used in Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet.
The upgrade appears to solve many of China’s J-15 fleet problems related to Russian engines, including maintenance costs.
“While the biggest drawback of Russian engines is their relatively short service life, Chinese engines have improved in terms of overall performance, especially in terms of life.” The South China Morning Post was quoted last week as saying.
“Especially since the J-15 is a carrier-based aircraft, the safety and reliability of the engine directly affects its operational capability. Due to the limited hangar space on an aircraft carrier, frequent engine changes are very cumbersome. ” said Hu Chengxiao, a former PLA Air Force equipment expert who was also quoted by the South China Morning Post.
Before the upgrade, the Chinese J-15 had limited combat capabilities. As pointed out by David Centciotti in The AviationistThe J-15 has been derided as a “flopfish” by the Chinese media due to its minimal range and weapon load.
Senciotti says flight tests of the J-15 aboard the ski ramp carrier Liaoning with heavy weapons have limited its attack range to just 120 km from the carrier. Additionally, the J-15 allows her to carry 12 tons of weapons, but when loaded with fuel she cannot exceed 2 tons.
Senciotti also pointed out that the Liaoning and Shandong carriers’ ski-ramp configurations make it very difficult to launch aircraft weighing more than 26 tons unless they have more powerful engines. I’m here.
However, alongside developments such as China’s third aircraft carrier, the Fujian Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), engine upgrades put the J-15 ahead of its U.S. rivals, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet. may be equivalent.
China has also upgraded its J-20 stealth fighter with domestic engines, greatly increasing its capabilities. The Asia Times reported in April this year. The J-20 patrols in the South China Sea are powered by domestically produced WS-15 engines, giving the aircraft ultra-cruise and ultra-maneuverability to challenge US fighters such as the F-22 and F-35.
The Chinese are likely to be able to carry out airborne attrition at a much higher intensity, as their engines are known for their longevity. The Asia Times previously reported As for China’s air attrition strategy against Japan, this is aimed at keeping Tokyo up on operational tempo beyond its ability to respond to an increasingly relentless Chinese aggression.
The new engines can also increase the J-20’s range, allowing it to conduct long-range strikes in complex, defended airspace before retreating to safety in China’s air defense network.
China has a clear strategic interest in homegrown jet engines. As pointed out by Chinese signposts, China seeks to avoid over-reliance on Russia for shutting down the logistics and supply chains of jet engines-critical technology. Buying rather than producing more jet engines to modernize its own air force and compensate for combat losses in Ukraine could reduce Russia’s dependence as a supplier.
As China aims to become a major exporter of jet fighters, its customers are likely to want products that do not rely on other foreign suppliers for maintenance and technical support, Signpost said. I’m here. It also notes that China’s jet fighter sales may start to fall behind Russia’s, and that Russia may block jet engine sales to China to protect its market share.
The signpost claims China has had bad experiences with Russian aftermarket support for jet engines, including expensive and delayed spare parts deliveries and manuals available only in Russian or non-existent. be
Until now, China has struggled to produce jet engines, which has seriously hampered its ability to produce top-class fighters. 2020 Report by China Aerospace Institute (CASI) China’s aerospace industry suffers from inadequate basic research and a lack of sophisticated design and manufacturing tools. , says the CASI report.
Additionally, China faces institutional bottlenecks in its homegrown jet engine program. September 2021 article in The National InterestRobert Farley and J Tyler Lovell, argue that China’s longstanding reliance on borrowing or copying foreign jet engine designs, lack of access to trade secrets, and poor domestic industrial ecology all contribute to the It points out that it has been conspiring against production.
Farley and Lovell point out that China’s attempts to reverse-engineer Russian jet engines in the 1990s and 2000s resulted in units with short lifespans and insufficient power. They also noted Russia’s refusal to sell China’s stand-alone high-performance ALS-117 engine. They claim China cannot study her ALS-117 without destroying it, ultimately forcing it to rely on domestic bases for jet engine production.
CASI notes that jet engines are a key focus of China’s military-civil fusion (MCF) strategy. MCF aims to accelerate the development of critical technologies by coordinating military and civilian industries with research institutes.
Apart from MCF, China is also leveraging its own growing expertise to overcome jet engine production challenges. for example, Sina News recently reported Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have announced that they have developed a titanium alloy for jet engine blades that extends life, reduces weight and reduces operating costs.
All in all, China finally seems to have the resources, technology and manpower it needs to compete with Russia and the West in jet engine production.