September 30, 2009: China has ordered another hundred RD93 jet engines from Russia. This order is believed to be for an ungraded RD93, with additional thrust. India is not happy about Russia supplying China with RD93 jet engines for Chinese made fighters that are being sold to Pakistan. But India and Russia have worked out an unpublicized compromise. China is a major customer for RD93 engines (originally designed for the MiG-29), and has bought over a thousand of them. The RD93 engines currently cost about $2.5 million each.
After changing its mind several times over the last few years, Russia has apparently agreed to allow the use of Russian made engines, in Chinese made JF-17 (also known as FC-1) jet fighters that are exported (to Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia.) Lebanon, Burma, Iran and Sri Lanka have also shown interest in this low cost fighter that is similar to early model F-16s. The JF-17 is also being built in Pakistan.
China has been developing a similar (apparently identical) engine to the RD93, the WS-13. Actually, this effort is being aided by Russia, which is selling China technology needed for the manufacture of key engine components. Russia isn't happy about this, because they don't want competition in the low cost jet engine market. Then again, China has a history of stealing technology it cannot buy, so the Russians are making the best of a bad situation. China says the WS-13 is nearly ready for service. Maybe, maybe not. Building high performance military jet engines is difficult, and China has had problems mastering this kind of stuff. Not that they will not eventually acquire the skills, but until they do, they need the Russian made RD93s. And are ordering more of them. Officially, because they cannot produce enough of their WS-13s.
Pakistan already has eight JF-17 fighters, which it has received over the last two years. Recently, it signed a deal to buy the next 42, of 300, of these jets from China. These 42 will cost $14.3 million per aircraft. The final 250 will cost $12 million each. The aircraft is assembled in both Pakistan and China, with the engines coming from Russia, and most of the other components from China (which calls the aircraft the FC-1). Azerbaijan, Sudan and Zimbabwe have ordered the aircraft, or are negotiating to. Pakistan will replace its MiG-21s and Mirage IIIs with the low cost JF-17s.
When the first JF-17 fighter arrived in Pakistan two years ago, it ended over twenty years of development for what was first called the Super 7 fighter. The JF-17 was developed by China in cooperation with Pakistan, which originally only wanted to buy 150 of them. All this came about because Pakistan could not get modern fighters from anyone else, and turned to China. At the time, China had nothing comparable to the early model F-16s Pakistan already had.
The 13 ton JF-17 is meant to be a low cost alternative to the American F-16. The JF-17 is considered the equal to earlier versions of the F-16, but only 80 percent as effective as more recent F16 models. The JF-17 design is based on a cancelled Russian project, the MiG-33. Most of the JF-17 electronics are Western, with Italian firms being major suppliers.
The JF-17 can carry 3.6 tons of weapons and use radar guided and heat seeking missiles. It has max speed of nearly 2,000 kilometers an hour, an operating range of 1,300 kilometers and a max altitude of 55,000 feet. China has not yet decided on whether it will use the FC-1/JF-17 itself. This is apparently because China believes its own J-10 (another local design) and J-11 (a license built Russian Su-27) are adequate for their needs. The J-10, like the JF-17, did not work out as well as was hoped.