1 September 2016

China to develop its own aircraft engine with new company


Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai (3rd L) attends a ceremony to mark the establishment of the (AECC) in Beijing, Aug. 28, 2016. [Photo: Xinhua/Rao Aimin] 

China has established the Aero Engine Corp of China in Beijing on Sunday, a “strategic” move that aims to boost its fast-growing aviation industry and the modernization of the Chinese military.

The AECC was set up with investment from the State Council, the Beijing municipal government, Commercial Aircraft Corp of China and Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC), with a registered capital of 50 billion yuan (US$7.5 billion).

It also has 96,000 employees, including six academics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering, according to the company.

Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed the establishment in a written note, calling for acceleration of the research, development and manufacturing of aircraft engines and gas turbines to help China to build a strong aviation industry.

Premier Li Keqiang also said in his written instruction that engineers at the company should learn from other nations' experience and focus on key technologies for aircraft engines.

Photo taken on November 29, 2015 shows ARJ 21, China's first indigenously designed regional jet. [Photo: Chinanews.com]

China’s efforts to home-grown aviation businesses

Despite China having made tremendous achievements in science, technology and manufacturing industries, aircraft engines remain one of the few fields in which the country still lags largely behind top players, especially the United States.

Because advanced aircraft engines such as the afterburning turbofan, which propels the world's best combat planes including the US' Lockheed Martin F-22 and Russia's Sukhoi Su-35, are so sophisticated, only the five members of the United Nations Security Council are able to develop and produce them.

According to military sources, most of the People's Liberation Army Air Force's best aircraft, such as the J-10 fighter jet and Y-20 transport plane, rely heavily on engines imported from Russia, while the new-generation J-20 stealth fighter jet also used Russian-made engines for its test flight.

In the Made in China 2025 blueprint published by the central government last year, aircraft engines were listed as one of the 10 crucial manufacturing sectors that are of great importance to the nation and would be strongly supported by the government.

Thanks to efforts made by Chinese researchers in the past 10 years, a number of domestically developed engines such as the WS-10 "Taihang" turbofan have been introduced and installed on some J-10 and J-11 fighter jets, observers said.

They added that a certain period of time will be needed to see whether they are reliable and powerful enough to replace the imported ones.

Yin Zeyong, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and head of AECC's science and technology commission, said the company's founding indicates that China is determined to mobilize all resources needed to research and develop key aircraft engine technologies.

Wang Ya'nan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said, "The establishment of an aircraft engine firm will strengthen China's capability in the aviation field and improve efficiency in research and development."

More participation from the private sector should be encouraged in the aircraft engine industry to bolster competition, he added.

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