Thursday, January 06, 2011

Switcharoo: Multiple Engine Types for China's J-20 Stealth Fighter?

Our intrepid forum members have noticed there appear to be two different sets of engines powering China's J-20 stealth fighter as it undergoes testing at Chengdu.

Judging by the nozzle petals, one engine set seems to be the Russian AL-31F, possibly the 117S upgrade variant. The AL-31F powers some Chinese J-10 and J-11 fighters, while the 117S variant powers the Russian Su-35 and is the interim powerplant for the T-50 PAK-FA. The 117S was approved for export by the Russians a few years ago and some sources indicate China has at least negotiated for them if not obtained some.

The other petal set looks like the indigenous WS-10A engine. The WS-10A powers new-build J-11B fighters coming off the assembly line at Shenyang, and is reportedly in use on the first J-10B aircraft. There are other variants of WS-10 reportedly in development.

China's AVIC I aircraft industry announced in 2009 it was developing the WS-15 engine for use in China's next generation fighter. Some components for the engine are known to have completed development, but there have yet been no indications of a complete operational WS-15 engine. It seems unlikely the J-20 would undergo initial testing with an unproven WS-15 engine.

The latest J-20 photos show a prototype equipped with what appear to be WS-10A engines. If standard AL-31F engines were used initially, it would have likely been as a risk reduction measure. However, WS-10A engines are also a known quantity and in service with the PLAAF so it seems unlikely for J-20 to undergo test with the standard AL-31F now.

There are some tantalizing rumors about more than one prototype and previous secret J-20 flight testing that provide possible answers, but I'll leave these on forum.


gardengnomesareevil said...

Is it an engine switch or is another plane? Any distinct markings on the plane (001,002)?

fibonacci said...

China's New J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet - First "Flight" Video?