China is ready to launch its new J-11D fighter after it failed to acquire Russian engines on schedule and was forced to develop its own technology, military observers said.
The progress included advances in home-grown turbofan technology and radar systems, and showed that Beijing was no longer reliant on Russian engines for its new generation of fighters, analysts said.
After a decade of negotiations, China and Russia inked a deal for 24 Su-35 aircraft last year.
China had hoped the deal would include delivery of an extra 48 117S engines, that it could use in its newer aircraft like the J-20.
But Russian red tape forced China to upgrade the Su-27s it already had and develop its own variant of the Su-35, the J-11D. The J-11D, built by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, made its maiden flight on April 29 last year.
Some of the most noticeable improvements are in the radar system, the addition of a computer-controlled antenna that can point in different directions without moving, and greater use of composites and stealth coatings in the fuselage to cut weight. The maiden flight also revealed that the J-11D is powered by a WS-10 engine, a turbofan design originally developed by a subsidiary of Chinese aerospace giant Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic), SAC’s parent company.
In its annual report in July, Avic said it built more than 400 WS-10 engines last year, suggesting the J-10 and J-11 fighters no longer needed Russian engines.
The J-11D is powered by a new WS-10 variant; the variant reportedly had improved reliability, with a thrust of more than 13 tons, and less than that of the AL-31F-M1.
The Su-35 is powered by two turbofan engines, giving it a range of about 3,500km on internal fuel, or 4,500km with two external fuel tanks, making it Russia’s most advanced multi-role fighter.
Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said the J-11D project would help Shenyang Aircraft enter into “virtuous competition” with rival Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (CAC), another Avic offshoot that developed the J-9, J-10, J-20 and other fighters.