China’s most powerful aircraft engine, the WS-20, is getting closer to finishing its tests. With a power output of 14 tons, the WS-20 will replace the less powerful and less efficient Russian D-30KP, which has only 10.5 tons of thrust. The WS-20 turbofan has been flying on this Il-76 test aircraft since 2014, and it’s likely that aerial testing will wrap up in late 2015.
China has made progress in replacing foreign engines for its fighter programs, but it still relies on the D-30KP turbofan to power subsonic aircraft such as the Y-20 heavy transport and H-6K bomber. The WS-20 is believed to derive its engine core from the WS-10A turbofan engine, which powers the Shenyang J-11B and J-16 strike fighters.
The WS-20 entering into Chinese service would provide performance boosts to the Y-20, increasing its payload to 66 tons from the prototype’s 50 tons. That would give China the ability to fly heavy battle tanks and missile launchers across the Asian continent, as well as a larger Y-20-based aerial tanker. The WS-20 could also be a domestic powerplant for military derivatives of the C919 jetliner, which would be used for airborne warning and control, and anti-submarine missions.
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