Chinese AL31F Orders Keep Russian Engine Maker Busy

 - May 11, 2012, 2:00 PM
The proposed AL31FM3 is the most powerful of this series of combat aircraft engines by Salut. It is seen here in mock-up form. (Vladimir Karnozov)

Russian engine manufacturer Salut revealed that its backlog for the AL31F series now exceeds 400, thanks largely to orders from China. At the Engines 2000 exhibition in Moscow last month, Salut confirmed that more negotiations with China took place recently, but it declined to provide details. Salut also revealed progress on increased-thrust versions of the AL31F.

This engine powers several combat aircraft in Chinese service, including Russian-built twin-engine Su-27s, Su-30MKKs and Su-30MK2s, and their Chinese clones, namely the land-based J-11 and ship-launched J-15. It also powers the Chinese-designed and built J-10 fighter. Salut general director Vladislav Masalov told AIN last September that negotiations were under way for a second batch of nearly 140 AL31FN versions for the J-10.

China buys most of its AL31F-series engines from Salut, but also takes smaller quantities from the Ufa-based UMPO factory of the United Engine Corporation (ODK). Some of the engines going to China are replacing older ones with expiring lifetimes. Salut has established a partnership with Limin in China for local repair and maintenance. China may now have ordered more than 250 AL31FNs for the J-10, which suggests that confidence in the indigenous WS10A turbofan to power the single-engine fighter might not be as high as previously indicated.

Meanwhile, Salut has completed bench testing of the improved AL31FM-2 engine, confirming its ability to deliver the promised thrust of 14,500 kg (almost 32,000 pounds) at full afterburner, some two tons more than the standard AL31F (27,560 pounds). This version is intended for new-build Sukhoi Su-34 frontal bombers and Su-27SM single-seat multirole fighters being procured by the Russian air force.

The AL31FM-2 program was started at Salut’s initiative early in the last decade. It has recently won approval from the Russian defense ministry, which has validated the bench test results and opened talks with Sukhoi about flight-testing the improved engine on the airframer’s aircraft. Salut continues working on the more advanced AL31FM-3 with an advertised thrust at full afterburner of 15,200 kg (33,510 pounds).