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Is the New Klimov RD-93MA Engine an Option for the JF-17?

On 08 July 2020, United Engine Corporation (UEC) announced that one of its companies, Klimov, started testing its newly developed turbofan engine, the RD-93MA.[1] The RD-93MA is an improved variant of the RD-93, which powers the JF-17 Thunder, the mainstay multi-role fighter of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).

Klimov will carry out tests on the RD-93MA at the P.I. Baranova (TsIAM) facility. Klimov will assess the RD-93MA’s behavior under simulated flight conditions. Later, it will proceed towards flight design tests.

According to UEC, the RD-93MA offers a range of improvements over the RD-93. These include “increased thermodynamic parameters” as well as improved fan design and automatic powerplant control system. It also improved the RD-93MA’s safety features – such as the addition of an emergency engine start mode – a necessity because the engine is meant for single-engine aircraft.

UEC was reportedly developing the RD-93MA since at least 2012, if not earlier.[2] In fact, UEC stated that it had gotten a request to develop the RD-93MA from a “foreign customer.” The RD-93MA was intended to offer a thrust of 9,300 kgf, a noticeable improvement over the RD-93’s 8,600 kgf.[3]

In addition, one could assume that the RD-93MA will also contain improvements from the RD-33MK (i.e., the improved variant of the RD-33), such as a full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system, longer time-between-overhaul (TBO), and a longer engine lifespan.

Though not explicit, it generally seems that the intended target customer of the RD-93MA is Pakistan, i.e., the largest user of the RD-93 (via the JF-17). However, it is unclear when those engine can factor into the JF-17 and, in light of the current geo-political environment, if the PAF will seek it.

Will Pakistan Seek the RD-93MA for the JF-17 Block-III?

The JF-17 Block-III is a significant upgrade over the Block-I and Block-II, and while an engine change would have made sense in some respects, it is unlikely the PAF will pursue a new powerplant at this stage.

According to PAF officials, the first two Block-IIIs are already under production, and the 50 aircraft are all due by 2024.[4] The PAF would not have started the Block-III’s production without securing a functional and certified turbofan engine. By UEC’s own admission, the RD-93MA is in its initial testing stage (and not yet ready for flight tests). Thus, the RD-93MA is not ready for integration and testing, much less deployment.

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[1] Press Release. “The new engine for the development of the UEC will be tested in a thermal chamber TsIAM.” United Engine Corporation. 08 July 2020. URL:

[2] “RD-33 Output on the Rise.” Take-Off Magazine. 2012. URL:

[3] Ibid.

[4] Alan Warnes. “JF-17 Thunder – Lightning Strikes Twice.” Air International Online. 15 June 2019. URL: