Wednesday, January 13, 2010

China buys Russian engines for JF-17 and J-10

China, which has not found a Western supplier, has decided to buy Russian engines for its FC-1/JF-17 Xiaolong multirole fighter plane, a rival of Russia's MiG-29 in developing countries.In late December 2009, Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport signed a contract with China to deliver 43 RD-93 engines, a modification of the RD-33 engines mounted on the MiG-29 planes.

Aviaport, a news agency of the Russian aircraft industry, reported yesterday that China would receive the engines by the end of the year and that the first 25 engines had been manufactured at the Chernyshev mechanical engineering enterprise in Moscow. The agency said another contract could be signed in May for 100 such engines.

A manager at one of Russia's producers of aircraft engines said the December contract was worth $160 million.The contract has completed a framework agreement signed in 2006 to deliver 100 RD-93 engines to China. Russia has already supplied 57 such engines, said Konstantin Makiyenko, an analyst with the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

The engines are to be mounted on the FC-1 fighter planes, which China makes for export. It signed the first contract for 150 such aircraft with Pakistan, where the fighter plane is assembled.A more complicated and expensive fighter designed for the Chinese Air Force in the past two decades, J-10, also has a Russian engine, AL-31FN, Makiyenko said. The latest contract for the delivery of 122 such engines, worth approximately $500 million, was signed in January 2009.

The FC-1 is the biggest rival of Russia's MiG-29 Fulcrum in developing countries, the analyst said. However, the Russian plane won the first direct competition in Myanmar, which decided to buy 20 MiG-29s for 400 million euros in December 2009 even though China offered better terms for a mixed delivery of the FC-1 and J-10 planes.

"China has more than once said that it has created an engine for its planes, but this is unlikely because it continues to buy Russian engines," Makiyenko said.China has no alternative for the Russian engines, said Mikhail Barabanov, editor-in-chief of Moscow Defense Brief. The United States will not supply such engines to China so as not to strengthen its opponent, while the EU does not deliver military equipment to China due to sanctions, he said.

According to Barabanov, the delivery of engines, which are a key element of aircraft, is a good opportunity for Russia to prevent Chinese aircraft from becoming a big rival of Russian planes.The FC-1/JF-17 (Fighter China-1) Xiaolong is the result of a joint Chinese-Pakistani development program that started in 1999, with each side contributing 50% of the total development cost.


What is the status of the Chinese engines that were being developed domestically? Chinese may be focussing on developing better engines than their Russian counterparts. In the mean time, it may be more cost effective to source the engines from Russia. Is that hypothesis correct?

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