China plans USD 16 billion R&D project for new jet engines
Stuck with heavy dependence on Russian components for its new generation of fighter aircraft, China has allocated USD 16 billion to fund an R&D project for developing new jet engines. China will invest at least 100 billion yuan (USD 16 billion) in a national research and development project for aircraft engines, state-run China Daily reported today.
The investment will mainly be used for research on technology, designs and materials related to the development and manufacturing of aircraft engines. "Our country remains comparatively weak in almost every field related to the development and production of aircraft engines," the daily quoted an official of the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics as saying.
"Although we're able to develop a handful of advanced engines, they are still defective and it is difficult to put them into mass production," he said. Despite rapid expansion of its Air Force, developing several advanced jets, China continues to depend heavily on Russian and foreign-made engines for its aircraft, including the stealth fighter J-30 as well as the new fighter jet J-15 to operate from its first aircraft carrier.
Russia which is apprehensive of copy cat prototypes, sells its engines with lot of restrictions. The Russian engines are used even for the JF-17 Thunder aircraft being jointly produced by China and Pakistan. The new research will be conducted by China's Shenyang Liming Aero-Engine and Xi'an Aero-Engine, two research and industrial complexes under the nation's biggest aircraft manufacturer, Aviation Industry Corp of China, (AVIC), the official said.
China's past failure to pay enough attention to aviation engine research, together with a shortage of skilled workers in industrial manufacturing, has contributed to its long-time inability to develop and produce reliable engines, the Daily quoted experts as saying.
Even the most advanced domestically developed engine - the Liming WS-10 Taihang turbofan engine failed to apply the cutting-edge techniques of single crystal turbine blades and a powder metallurgy turbine disk, according to aviation industry insiders.
"Developing aviation engines requires a nation to possess solid scientific and technological capabilities and a strong industrial manufacturing sector. Unfortunately, China is comparatively weak in this regard," Li Fangyong, executive vice-president of AVIC said.
"As a conservative estimate, we will witness major breakthroughs in the development of indigenous, advanced aircraft engines within at most 10 years," Aviation industry analyst Wang Ya'nan said. Brokerage firm Guangda Securities said in a report on Wednesday that China will become the biggest buyer of aircraft and aircraft engines within 20 years and will need around 3,000 aircraft by 2026, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
This will create demand for around 6,500 aircraft engines worth USD 65 billion.