As China reaches an agreement with Russia to buy Sukhoi Su-35 fighters, the domestic J-20 fighter program might have developed problems that China cannot solve on its own anytime soon.
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.
Following months of speculation, fueled by tidbits gleaned during the Zhuhai airshow in November, the first images of China’s newest combat aircraft were revealed in the week before Christmas. Believed to be designated the J-20, the aircraft is under development by Chengdu (611 Design Institute) and Shenyang, with the former leading the effort having effectively won a design competition in 2008.
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.