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China's J-15 naval jet appears with indigenous WS-10 engines

China appears to have fitted at least one SAC J-15 naval fighter with a domestic WS-10B Taihang engine. The potential maturity of this powerplant could free China from its dependency on Russia for combat jet engines. (AFP/Getty Images)

A Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-15 ‘Flying Shark' naval fighter has been fitted with what appears to be a pair of domestically developed engines.

The aircraft was spotted in a video imagery of a hangar at an SAC factory. The footage was aired on 23 November during a China Central Television (CCTV) news report on the 10th anniversary of the J-15 starting sea trials on China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

Janes assesses that the new engine is a variant of the Liming WS-10 Taihang engine. There is a roughly even chance that the ‘B' variant of the Taihang has been installed in the jet. According to Janes Aero-Engines data, the WS-10B is potentially a more powerful version of the WS-10A. The thrust rating of the WS-10B is 135 kN (30,350 lb st).

Earlier imagery aired by CCTV suggest that the WS-10B engines were being fitted to Chengdu Aircraft Industries (Group) Company (CAC) J-10 fighter aircraft from 2020 onwards.

The Taihang series was primarily designed and used for land-based aircraft applications. That this domestic engine is being fitted on production aircraft for carrier-based application suggests that the powerplant has matured.

However, this is not the first time that the J-15 is known to be fitted with a WS-10 powerplant. Information held by Janes indicates that at least two J-15 prototype aircraft were previously fitted with a domestic engine with the designation ‘WS-10H'. However, additional details about the development of the WS-10H have not been made public.

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