China’s recently flown second stealth fighter is powered by a pair of Russian-supplied Klimov RD-93 turbofans, AIN has learned. A large model of the design, which has been dubbed the J-31 in unofficial reports, was on display at Airshow China in Zhuhai last week.
Imagery emerged on the Internet last weekend showing China’s latest stealth fighter in prototype form. With fifth-generation characteristics, it bears a distinct resemblance to the Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor and F-35A/C Lightning II stealth fighter designs, and appears to be similar in size to the latter. Photos of the twin-engine aircraft on the ground at an unidentified airfield–possibly Xian-Yanliang airbase–were leaked the day before U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta started a three-day visit to Beijing. Could this be mere coincidence?
Since the late 1980s China has aggressively pursued a policy of modernizing its defense industries, with the aim of rivaling those of the West and Russia. Now the results of that policy are reaching the front line, allowing China’s forces to transition from a Cold War inventory that was dominated by huge quantities of unsophisticated equipment to a leaner force equipped with systems that are smarter and more competitive with those fielded by the West.
The design institute at Chengdu flew a J-10B development aircraft fitted with the indigenous Shenyang Liming WS-10A Taihang engine at the end of July. All previous J-10s, apart from the first few prototypes, have flown with the Russian AL-31FN engine. The aircraft with the homegrown engine is coded “1035” and is presumably the fifth J-10B prototype, although that number may include a ground-test article.
China has signed a fifth contract with Russia’s Rosoboronexport for the supply of Saturn AL-31FN military turbofan engines from the MMPP Salyut factory to power the Chengdu J-10 multi-role fighter, according to reports from Moscow.
The prototype of China’s J-20 fighter made its first publicly witnessed flight on January 11 from Chengdu’s factory airfield. The aircraft, which lifted off at 12:50 p.m. local time and landed 18 minutes later, was accompanied by a two-seat J-10S during its flight. The event was witnessed by high-ranking officials, who arrived from Beijing in two VIP Boeing 737s.
China’s new J-10 combat aircraft made its public debut at the Zhuhai airshow last month. Two examples of the fourth-generation fighter named “Vigorous Dragon” were part of an expanded Chinese defense presence at the event. The JH-7 fighter-bomber, L-15 jet trainer, J-8 interceptor and H-6Y bomber-tanker were also on flying and static display.
China’s march to overhaul its front-line fighter fleet is making good progress, thanks to two major indigenous production programs involving the Chengdu J-10 and Shenyang J-11 models. The Chengdu product is an all-Chinese design that is now entering service in numbers. The J-11 is a license-built Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker, which in its latest production version incorporates important Chinese components.
AIN recently obtained the video footage of China’s indigenous J-10 fighter, which was released when the aircraft was officially revealed just over a year ago. Development of the J-10 started in the mid-1990s but was shrouded in secrecy amid speculation about technology theft from the West and of assistance from Israel following the cancellation of that country’s own Lavi fighter.
For the better part of the last 20 years an increasing number of defense policy makers and military analysts assumed that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was gradually replacing the Soviet Union (and later Russia) as the single largest potential adversary that the U.S. and other Western aligned nations would have to face in the 21st century.