China Makes J-20 and C919 Engines with Rhenium Superalloy


On September 12, I reblogged Popular Science’s September-9 article “China’s J-20 stealth fighter may be getting a new engine”. According to the article, there was a new J-20 prototype no. 2021 installed with a new WS-10X engine better stealth with 14-15 ton vector thrust that enables J-20 to conduct supersonic supercruise without using fuel-thirsty afterburners.

The article speculates that China’s J-20 will mainly use homegrown engines because China is able to produce and use rhenium-nickel superalloy, but there has been no other sources to confirm that. At that time, I guess that China got Ukraine help in developing such superalloy.

In my post “Ukraine Helps China Make Rhenium Superalloy for High Tech Warplanes” on September 22, I quoted Global Times’ article “Experts clarify rumor of changes in aircraft engine cooperation: Cooperation achievements in display” on September 20 as saying, “From the manufacturing point of view, China is relatively weak in the technology of making and casting of single crystal alloys, powder metallurgy, etc. In Russian-Ukraine system, those technologies have already been applied for more than one or several decades. They have played a great boosting role in improving China’s aircraft engines.”

However, CCTV’s report on October 24 makes known that China’s Space Travel Superalloy Technology Co., Ltd. of Chengdu extracts and purifies rhenium. The Engineering Physics Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has succeeded in using rhenium superalloy to make various parts of aircraft engines, especially the single crystal turbine blades. Xu Gang, a laboratory chief of the research institute says that all the parts have been designed and produced by the institute on its own.

Zhu Junqiang, head of the research institute, showed CCTV reporter an engine for UAV and commercial airliner. He told the reporter that the engine was undergoing 150 hours of test. When it has passed the test, it will be installed on an aircraft to undergo flight tests.

J-20 is now using China’s homegrown WS-10X engines better than those imported from Russia and will use WS-15 when it has been successfully developed.

China’s C919 airliner uses imported engine now but according to Zhu China is developing its homegrown engine for C919.

The report also discloses that China is using rhenium superalloy for its satellites, rockets and spaceships.

Source: CCTV “Chinese enterprises break US monopoly in successfully making core parts of aircraft engines” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

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Ukraine Helps China Make Rhenium Superalloy for High Tech Warplanes


J-20 new prototype no. 2021 uses WS-10X engine. Photo: fyjs.cn

Popular Science’s September-9 article “China’s J-20 stealth fighter may be getting a new engine” that I reblogged on September 12 says that there is recently a new J-20 prototype no. 2021 installed with a new WS-10X engine better stealth with 14-15 ton vector thrust that enables J-20 to conduct supersonic supercruise without using fuel-thirsty afterburners.

According to the article, China is able to make such good aircraft engines as it has made breakthrough in rhenium-nickel superalloy technology. The article says, “Previously, the development of Chinese engines like the WS-10 were delayed as they suffered from quality control issues regarding single crystal turbine blades. China’s mastery of the rhenium superalloy (and by the private sector, no less) won’t just help China build current fighter engines, but also quickly research more capable, higher tech models.”

Why is China able to make such breakthrough so quickly? Global Times says in its article “Experts clarify rumor of changes in aircraft engine cooperation: Cooperation achievements in display” on September 20, “From the manufacturing point of view, China is relatively weak in the technology of making and casting of single crystal alloys, powder metallurgy, etc. In Russian-Ukraine system, those technologies have already been applied for more than one or several decades. They have played a great boosting role in improving China’s aircraft engines.”

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Popular Science and Global Times’ articles, full text of which can respectively been found at http://www.popsci.com/china-stealth-fighter-new-engine and http://mil.huanqiu.com/observation/2017-09/11264854_3.html. The latter is in Chinese.