China Tested New Powerful Engine for Its Lijian Stealth Attack DronePosted: July 5, 2016
I had a post on July 2, titled “Successful Test Flight of China’s J-31 with New Powerful WS-13E Engine” based on Chinese website mil.163.com’s report the same day. The report said that China’s fighter jet engine producer Liyang Company sent a public message on July 1 on the successful maiden flight of an aircraft installed with a certain type of engine the company has developed.
The company did not specify the type of engine or aircraft in the test, but its great excitement at the success makes the website speculate that it was the test flight of a J-31 installed with new WS-13E engines that are improved version of WS-13 with greater thrust.
The website says, “The aircraft took off at 9:53 am and landed at 10:01 am along designated route and did the climbing and flight according to schedule. During the 7 minutes 33 seconds flight, all the parameters of the engine remain normal and the engine worked stably.”
The speculation is based on the news that on April 22, 2016, Liyang’s holding company announced that it was investing 961 million yuan (US$171 million) in Liyang to build a production line of third-generation medium thrust aircraft engines including WS-13E with reduced weight and increased augmented thrust compared with WS-13.
WS-13E is an improved version of WS-13 that China developed on the basis of Russian RD-93. China imports RD-93s from Russia for J-31 and FC-1 fighter jets and Lijian (Sharp Sword) stealth attack drone.
RD-93 is obviously not powerful enough as proved by the black smoke emitted by the J-31 during its demonstration flight at Zhuhai Air Show. That is why China develops WS-13E with greater thrust and less weight for J-31. However, as the second prototype of J-31 has just been made. It is too risky to test the new engine on a new prototype that has not yet conducted its maiden flight.
Moreover, according to the report, the test lasted only seven and a half minutes with everything normal. That was too short for the test on a manned fighter jet if everything is normal. However, it is normal for the test of a new engine on a test drone.
As there has been little information since Lijian’s test flight in late November 2013, an article on mil.news.sina.com.cn today speculates that as the drone also uses RD-93 engine and finds it not powerful enough, the new engine was tested on the drone to enable it to have a satisfactory engine. That would be a careful beginning for the tests of the new engine as the drone is much cheaper than J-31 and there would be no risk to a test pilot’s life as the drone is unmanned.
Source: mil.news.sina.com.cn “Depth Column: The engine China conducted recent test flight is not for equipping J-31 or J-20” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the article in Chinese)