Singapore: China has a long way to go before it can produce a world-class jet engines for fighter aircraft, Chen Xiangbao, vice-president of the AECC Beijing Institute of Aeronautical Materials has been quoted as saying.

"For instance, we are able to develop the two most important components in an advanced engine — the single crystal superalloy turbine blades and powder metallurgy superalloy turbine disks — but in mass production, the products' quality is not very satisfactory," he said. It is a matter of time and persistence to make reliable engines, he was quoted as saying by state-owned Chinamil website.

However, referring to the engine of the J-20 stealth fighter he said, “the engine's development is proceeding well. We also have begun to design a next-generation aviation engine with a thrust-to-weight ratio that is much higher than that of current types," he said. Thrust-to-weight ratio is considered the top indicator of an aviation engine's capability.

The People's Liberation Army Air Force recently confirmed that the J-20 has been put into active service. Aviation industry observers said the plane is still equipped with Russian-made engines due to the lack of a suitable domestically developed engine.

China recently received Russian Su-35 jets which industry observers believe was intended to help Beijing acquire advanced fighter aircraft engine technology. This opinion is buttressed by the fact that there is no news of the aircraft being inducted into active service of the PLA Air Force.

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Chinese state media recently reported that the J-20 has entered People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) service in small numbers. The type made its public debut last year at Airshow China in Zhuhai.

The display saw two aircraft fly down the runway at several hundred feet and perform a vertical split. One aircraft then departed, while its partner performed a few high-g turns followed by a high-speed climb out to conclude the performance.

The aircraft was agile enough for its large size but stayed within a fairly basic envelope. Neither aircraft conducted a low-speed, high angle of attack pass, nor opened its weapons bays.

Little is known about the J-20’s sensor suite, datalink capabilities, and payload.

The jet’s large size and lack of thrust vectoring, however, suggest it lacks the maneuverability of US fifth generation fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-22. This has led some observers to speculate that one mission is the long-range, high-speed interdiction of pivotal enemy support assets, such as air-to-air refueling tankers and airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft.

With Agency Inputs