Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Chinese Fighter Turbine Engines: Production Outlook through 2026

A recent Alert5 article "China still struggling to develop new military turbofan engines" used production forecasts from the Hebei Cisri Dekai Technology Co. Ltd. to suggest that China was having trouble developing engines.  However, the assumptions Alert5 used as to which aircraft would use which engine were not entirely correct, as evidenced by recent pics of J-20 production aircraft fitted with WS-10C instead of projected WS-15. Particularly in terms of fighter aircraft, we can see now that indigenous engine production is more than capable of supporting a tremendous number of new airframes in the coming years.

CDF Forum Member "Pierrotlefeu" explains how:

WS-10C is just a placeholder for J-20 like Al-31F was for J-10. It allows the first batch of J-20s to be operationalized and put into service, which is important to get feedback for improvement and familiarize the fighter corps. The WS-15 may not appear in service until after 2026, which is actually FASTER than how WS-10 was for the J-10 (entered service 2008, indigenous engine 2019, 11 years vs potentially 8).

What is more interesting is that production of WS-10 is slated to reach 2740 engines by 2026. Assuming worst case scenario of 1/3 for spares and re-engine of older planes, that leaves around 1800 engines for new planes. Assume China will maintain the current production rate of 24 annually for J-20, which I think will be the plan until WS-15 becomes available, just like how J-10 production was kept low until J-10C became available, then that would be 7 x 24 x 2 = 336 engines for J-20, leaving 1464 engines. Assume production of Flankers and J-10s stay at the same 1:1 rate we've been seeing, then we'll have an additional 1464 : 3 ~ 488 each of Flankers and J-10s. I'm counting J-11s, 15s, 16s, and 17s as just "Flankers" here, and 2 carriers will need 2 x 48 x 2 (one regiment deployed, one spare) = 192 J-15s and 17s. 

That's potentially 168 new J-20s, 488 J-10s, and 488 homemade Flankers (including naval ones). That's 1144 new fighters from the availability of a single engine type, not bad at all. 

Of course, many will replace J-7s and J-8s still in inventory as well as older Flankers and J-10s, so net growth won't be too extreme for now.

Like WS-10C on J-20 instead of WS-15, it would be reasonable to expect the WS-10 series turbines to also power any early production FC-31 navalized Gen 5 fighters instead of WS-19. This would ameliorate the low-rate initial production of WS-19 and counterindicate "struggling" in that program as well.


jason toms said...

Is the navalized FC-31 an ongoing project? I've heard both yes & no.

SteveM said...

It is uncertain still. What seems most likely is that it's still an industry sponsored program, like JF-17, being developed against an expected military need statement.

G said...

You're posting the projected production rates of WZ-10 and WS-15 respectively, not WS-10C. It's confusing for your readers. Check the Alert5 article.