Home » Aviation » New Chinese Stealth Fighter Relies on Russian Jet Engine

New Chinese Stealth Fighter Relies on Russian Jet Engine

An undated photo of the Shenyang-J-31

An undated photo of the Shenyang-J-31

The Chinese Shenyang J-31 stealth fighter will use Russian-built engines when it enters production. The prototype was known use Klimov RD-93 engines, which were derived from the Soviet-era Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum’s RD-33 afterburning turbofans. Many observers had expected the new Chinese fifth-generation fighter to eventually sport domestically developed engines.

“The J-31 with the Russian RD-93 engine is considered to be an export program, capable of rivaling the American [Lockheed Martin] F-35 fifth-generation aircraft on the regional markets,” Sergey Kornev told Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti. Kornev leads the aircraft department of Russia’s military export agency Rosoboronexport.

Who the Chinese might export their fighters to is another question.

“The Chinese face a conundrum. Their core market has always been poor and near-failed states,” Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia told USNI News.

“Pakistan is their biggest customer by far. So, moving up-market with an attempt at a ‘fifth-generation jet’ means recruiting an entirely new set of customers. I don’t know where these would come from.”

Klimov RD-93 engine. Photo via RT.

Klimov RD-93 engine. Photo via RT.

Another problem Beijing faces is that the most of their neighbors –who might be natural customers for an aircraft like the J-31—are suspicious of China and its intentions.

“The other conundrum they face is that much of the export fighter market is right around them, in East Asia,” Aboulafia said.
“Given tensions, these countries are probably not eager to start relying on Chinese defense equipment.”

Meanwhile, the domestic Chinese People’s Liberation Army versions of the J-31 might eventually be fitted with a variant of the Guizhou WS-13 engine—which is theoretically in the same performance class as the RD-93. However, it is unclear how much progress the Chinese have made with developing the WS-13. Most Chinese engine developments to date have not been successful.

While China has made great strides in developing its aviation industry, it has had difficulty with perfecting jet engine technology. The Chinese have severely lagged behind on quality control and material sciences—which are crucial for building jet engines. Thus far, no Chinese engine has come remotely close to matching the reliability or durability of a Russian engine let alone a Western propulsion system.

  • 2IDSGT

    This is a relief. Usage of RD-93 means it is almost certainly underpowered or of rather limited range/payload.

    • JoeOvercoat

      Going by the specs available online, it only has one third the thrust of the F-22’s engine. If that is correct, then the performance is more theatre than combat.

      • Secundius

        @ JoeOvercoat.

        I believe it’s class “Bunraku” or Japanese Puppet Theater.

  • Secundius

    Well, that should keep them in the maintenance hanger for at least a decade, if not longer…

    • Waldez

      When we finally get the F-35 Goldfinch on line we’ll show them what a real Fighter is, until then let them waste their money.

  • Julieann Wozniak

    Exploding Russian rocket engines…what could possibly go wrong, lol.

    • Wizzy

      Really? What is it with you boys from the West? You are like bee larvae. What you become is dependent on the food you are fed. It’s not difficult to comprehend what royal jelly you have been fed to think that Russian weapons are inferior. Utter ignorance. The problem is it’s a whole generation!

      • Julieann Wozniak

        Half-Russian on my mom’s side, lol. And fluent, especially when schmoozing the cooks at church suppers. However, I’m old, and grew up during the Cold War, when that was the propaganda we were fed.

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    They will eventually steal the rest of the technology that goes along with their theft of airframe technology.

  • Guest

    Russian jet engine. LOL

    • Waldez

      F-35 Goldfinch LOL

  • Ole salt

    NO Surprise. They also get help from Russia like their refurbished Aircraft Carrier OR like most of their “technology”. China just copy or do reverse engineering. Crafty fellows – save time and money.

  • old guy

    A look at the Chinese computer and telephone worlds shows that what starts out as copycat can turn into leap forward technologies. Do not underestimate the opposition. It is a foolish move.