China Needs To Improve Jet Engine Technology To Make J-31 Competitive With US F-35

China flew an improved version of its Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon stealth fighter. Compared to the previous prototype, the new version features a host of refinements and has started to resemble a genuine fifth-generation stealth aircraft in many ways. The J-31 is intended for military export markets.

It is expected to be priced around $70 million. This is half of the F-35 stealth fighter price. The fourth-generation Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale fighter jets are priced at about $100 million.

 J-31
 J-31

The J-31 is believed to be powered by a pair of Russian-made Klimov RD-93 afterburning turbofans each developing roughly 18,000lb of thrust at maximum power. The Chinese hope to replace those engines with a pair of indigenous WS-13E turbofans, which are expected to develop roughly 22,000lbs of thrust.

China began development of the Taishan in 2000 to replace the Klimov RD-93 turbofan, which had been selected in the 1990s to power the JF-17 light-weight fighter. It is designed to have a life span of 2,200 hours and an improved version, providing around 100 kN (22,450 lb) of thrust with afterburner, is under development.

Th RD-93 is a variant used to power the JF-17 (FC-1). The Klimov poster at Zhuhai 2010 airshow gave the thrust range of the engine to be 79 kN Dry to 98 kN Wet. This was designed specifically for FC-1 with increased thrust and relocated gearbox compared to base RD-33’s. Although the increase of thrust decreased the service life of RD-93 to 2200 hours from RD-33’s 4000 hours. According to Air Commodore Mehmood engines are solid and reliable. They have claimed to have flown 7,000 hours with the engine and we haven’t had any problems.