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China Signs Contract For Bulk Order Of Russian Jet Engines

September 26, 2011

News of the deal reached the global press via the Russians, as aircraft engine manufacturer SALUT made the transaction known. A total of 150 AL-31FN turbofan engines for the Su-27 and Su-30, the cutting edge of China’s growing fighter fleet, are expected to be delivered in the coming years, though an exact schedule is unknown.

The amount to be paid for the engines is likely in the half a billion dollar range, perhaps more. It’s been a longstanding open secret that Chinese manufacturers are unable to build effective engines for the PLAAF’s modern fighter jets. This isn’t from any lack of effort. Rather, it’s proof China’s access to specific technologies is limited. To date, the most successful Chinese-made jet engine used on the J-10 and the J-11 is the Taihang manufactured by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).

China and the PLA are unable to acquire the technology for advanced engines, often relying on Russian and Ukrainian suppliers, due to arms sanctions imposed more than 20 years ago after the Tiananmen Square incident. This counts as a major weakness for China’s vast armed forces, impairing its ability to project military strength and its bottom line warfighting edge.

The shortage of world-class engines have no doubt hampered the PLA’s development as well, since its rapid modernization can’t move forward if advanced weapon systems are unable to operate effectively.

The same engine woes constraining Chinese aircraft applies to ships and main battle tanks. Even if Russia is growing wary of arms sales to China (there are reverse engineering concerns), it’s still doing lucrative business on a different front.

Via: Economic Times