According to a media report, China has developed a new engine for its J-20 stealth fighter jets, rectifying problems like overheating of the blades

BEIJING: China has developed a new engine for its J-20 stealth fighter jets, rectifying problems like overheating of the blades and the aircraft is expected to be ready for mass production by the end of this year, a media report said Wednesday.

The new and improved engine designed to make J-20 stealth fighter a world-class combat jet should be ready for mass production by the end of the year, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted military sources as saying.

China is currently the only country in the region to have developed a stealth fighter jet which is designed to avoid radar detection. It is reported to have about 20 such planes.

According to China's Air Force, the J-20 is China's fourth-generation medium and long-range fighter aircraft. It was commissioned into combat service in February.

In May, it was reported to have taken part in island encirclement drills around Taiwan, a self-ruled island which Beijing says must be reunited with the mainland.

Observers say engine development has become major problems for China's aviation progress though it has made big strides in avionics.

China largely relies on Russian engines for most of its defence aircraft but has recently stepped up efforts to produce engines on its own.

The WS-15 engine features cutting-edge single-crystal turbine blades and has been in development for several years, but Chinese technicians have struggled to get it into mass production, it said.

However, many of the problems – which largely related to blades overheating at top speeds – have been ironed out in ground tests and trial flights, putting the goal of a consistently high quality product in sight, the report quoted sources as saying.

The Post also reported that the problems with the WS-15 needed to be resolved before large numbers of the J-20 could be manufactured.

"China currently has about 20 J-20s, which is far from enough. (Having) a home-grown engine is a must for the J-20 to enter mass production, as no other country would be prepared to give China such cutting-edge technology," it quoted a source as saying.

The Post reported in July that China was developing a new fighter jet for its aircraft carriers to replace its J-15 after a series of mechanical failures and crashes, as it tries to build up a blue-water navy that can operate globally.

It quoted Lieutenant General Zhang Honghe, deputy head of the PLA Air Force as saying that a "new carrier-based fighter to replace the J-15" was being developed.

The need to develop a new fighter jet has become more pressing after a series of "unpardonable mechanical failures" that have killed one top People's Liberation Army pilot and injured another, the report said.

About the J-20, a Beijing-based military expert Zhou Chenming said that China expected the US to deploy between 200 and 300 F-35s – its most advanced stealth fighter – in the Asia-Pacific by 2025, which meant "China needs a similar number of J-20s, or at least 200".