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China consolidates aircraft engine development efforts
September 18, 2019
The Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon is one of China's two next-generation fighter programs. According to Jane's Pakistan reportedly expressed interest in 36-40 FC-31, the export variant of the J-31 Gyrfalcon.

China consolidates aircraft engine development efforts

The Chinese government recently established a new state-owned corporation, the Aero Engine Corp. of China (AECC), which will be responsible for aircraft engine development and production in China.

AECC was formed by consolidating existing state-run efforts to develop modern turbofan engines for civil and defence purposes. Along with the Chinese government, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) will also contribute to AECC.

Existing engine development firms, i.e. AVIC Aviation Engine Corporation, AVIC Aero-Engine Controls Co., and Sichuan Chengfa Aero-Science & Technology Co. will become part of AECC.

Notes, Comments & Analysis

By consolidating existing engine development companies, AECC was founded with $7.5 billion U.S. in registered capital and 96,000 employees (China Internet Information Center). AECC will essentially adopt current turbofan (and potentially turboshaft) programs, such as the WS-13, WS-10, etc.

President Xi Jinping has called upon AECC to accelerate indigenous research and development of engine and gas turbine technology in China. It is likely that the consolidation of AVIC’s engine efforts – which are divided between multiple (and seemingly siloed) subsidiaries – is an attempt to rationalize and channel resources. In turn, each entity’s human, technology, and financial capital can be used to perfect core or central technologies, which can then be scaled across different applications.

The next five to ten years will be critical, especially as the People Liberation Army (PLA) increasingly calls upon the domestic defence industry to produce solutions that are at par with those used by China’s geostrategic and political rivals. Moreover, China will continue seeking markets for its high-value aerospace goods, such as transport aircraft, fighter aircraft, and helicopters.

It will be worth watching how AECC organizes existing programs and manages overseas partnerships (e.g. the WZ-16 turboshaft program with France’s Safran Group).