Sunday, September 19, 2021

How China’s Stealth J-20 Fighter Jets Are Being ‘Held Hostage’ By Both US & Russia?

A possible Chinese takeover of a Ukrainian jet-engine manufacturer, Motor Sich, has hit roadblocks with the US and Ukraine governments throwing a spanner in the works, according to reports.

China is facing a dearth of high-quality engines to power its J-20 fighters. To overcome this problem, it has zeroed in on Motor Sich, which has its headquarters in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.

If Beijing becomes successful in the takeover of the firm, it will obtain a key defense technology that has eluded the Asian nation for several decades. However, Washington and Kyiv have blocked the Chinese efforts, claims Euronews, one of Europe’s leading portals.

China’s fifth-generation Chengdu J-20 fighter jet boasts advanced avionics, low cross-section radar, and other state-of-the-art features, and can compete with the most-advanced modern airframes in the world.

File:Motor Sich AI-322F engine, Kyiv 2018, 101.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
A Motor Sich engine

However, China’s inability to design and build reliable and powerful jet engines has proved a big disadvantage, forcing the country to rely on its aero-engine technology and engines imported from Russia.

To overcome this problem, China is planning to take over Motor Sich. The Ukrainian engine-maker is considered the largest aero-engine enterprise that has been operating since the Soviet era. It produces engines for missiles, helicopters, and jets.

Motor Sich is perhaps one of the few companies in the world which can design and build a new engine front-to-back on their own.

According to reports, Motor Sich produces 28 different types of engines, which are installed on Mi- (Mil Mi-2, Mil Mi-8/17, and variants, Mil Mi-24, Mi-28) and Ka-series (Ka-27/32, Ka-52) military helicopters and the Antonov An-26, An-72, An-74, An-124 Ruslan and An-225 (Mriya) planes.

Some of the key engines in its portfolio include the Progress D-18T, which powers the Antonov An-124 and An-225 strategic transports, the Ivchenko AI-25 for powering trainer aircraft that include China’s AVIC Hongdu JL-8.

The strategic and technical potential of the firm is extremely vital to Ukraine’s national security.

While Russia has supplied China with a huge number of engines for Chinese fighter jets, Moscow has however declined to part with its fighter engine technology.

According to experts, Beijing has been left surprised by Moscow’s reluctance in supplying fighter jet engines directly. Rather, Russia prefers to sell the entire aircraft to China due to China’s history of reverse engineering.

This may have forced China to take over the Ukrainian firm but the same has hit hurdles now. It is believed Ukraine does not wish to lose a strategically important enterprise to China and the US is against the idea of China finding a solution to their jet engine crisis.

“This issue is being watched very closely by all the major allied nations. It is none of our interests for the PLA to plug this rather significant gap in their defense-industrial sector,” Western intelligence officials were quoted as saying by Breaking Defense, a digital magazine on the strategy, politics, and technology of defense.

Meanwhile, China is expected to replace Russian AL-31F engines, which power its J-20 jets, with the upgraded version of its home-grown WS-10 engines. According to reports, Chinese aircraft engineers found the indigenously built WS-10C engines to be as capable as the Russian-made AL-31F ones.

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