China is moving away from the use of Russia’s AL-31F engines on future J-20 stealth fighters, opting instead for a domestically-produced alternative.
Earlier this week, the South China Morning Post reported that future models of China’s fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter will no longer ship with Russia’s AL-31F engines. The decision apparently stems from Russia’s insistence on tying future AL-31F engine sales to further Su-35 import deals.
“It’s impossible for China to rely on the Russian engine because Russia asked China to purchase more Su-35 fighter jets in exchange for the AL-31F engine deals,” an insider source told the Morning Post.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force was the first foreign customer to import the Su-35, one of Russia’s most advanced air superiority fighters, in a 2015 contract for the procurement of twenty-four units. But the PLAAF is reportedly no longer interested in acquiring additional Su-35’s, with Morning Post’s source alleging that China’s domestic aircraft industry has attained similar, if not superior, capabilities with the J-16 strike fighter: “The key problem is – except for its longer combat range advantage – the radar, navigation system and other electronic components on the Su-35s are inferior to Chinese aircraft like the J-16 strike fighter.”