Russia could directly supply RD-93MA engine to Pakistan for JF-17 Block III

The first flight of JF-17 Block III.

Despite repeated Indian protests, Russia has continued supply of RD-93 to Pakistan reports India Today.

In a press release on its website on Wednesday, UEC said the RD-93MA engine had been shipped from St. Petersburg to Moscow for thermal pressure chamber trials at the Central Institute of Aviation Motors (CIAM). The pressure chamber trials at CIAM are expected to subject the RD-93MA engine to simulated heat and altitude conditions the power-plant would experience in actual flight.

A new engine for the Pakistani JF-17 fighter jet, dubbed RD-93MA being developed by Russia’s United Engine Corporation (UEC)-Klimov has entered thermal chamber tests to confirm high-speed characteristics in simulated flight conditions.

Performance Testing At UEC

RD-93MA specifically designed for single engine fighters. Russia doesn’t operate single engine powered fighter jets. The engine is destined to Pakistan which operates single engine JF-17 fighter jets.

During the tests, the engine will simulate conditions as close as possible to actual flight. Here, the BARK-93MA, the automatic control system of the engine, designed and manufactured at UEC-Klimov, will also be put to test.

The RD-93MA engine is distinguished by improved operational characteristics, increased thermodynamic parameters, a larger fan and an upgraded automatic power plant control system. The main engine parameters are also enhanced- the assigned resource and thrust, an emergency engine start mode is provided, and the possibility of emergency fuel drain is realized.” the statement said.

The state-owned United Engine Corporation controls the development and manufacturing of all engines for military, civilian and space use in Russia and for Russian exports. The UEC’s Klimov plant in St Petersburg had been developing the RD-93MA engine, which is a modification of the RD-93 engine, used on the JF-17 fighter, being built by Pakistan and China.

“The start of testing was preceded by a long preparatory phase. During 2018-2019 design documentation was handed over to manufacturing plants, production was organized in a new cooperation structure, engine models of the RD-93MA were developed and a new engine “harness” was manufactured. In addition, tests of the VK-100-1MK turbo-starter in the TsIAM heat chamber according to confirmation of high-altitude launch were conducted. Prototypes of the BARK-93MA (automatic engine control system) were made and much more,” the statement said.

The UEC press release states, “The RD-93MA engine has improved performance. In particular, increased thermodynamic parameters, an improved design of the fan and the hot part, an upgraded automatic power-plant control system… An additional emergency engine start mode was provided… and the possibility of emergency fuel drain was realised. All this is due to the specifics associated with the possible use of the power-plant on a single-engine aircraft.”

The reference to use in single-engine aircraft has given rise to speculation that the new engine is destined for the JF-17 fighter. This is because Russia does not have any active single-engine fighter project at the moment.

According to reports, the RD-93MA engine can produce maximum thrust of 9,300 kgf (kilogram-force). The RD-93MA would have significantly greater thrust than the existing RD-93 engine used on Pakistan’s JF-17 fighter, which can produce maximum thrust of 8,300kgf, according to UEC.

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Indian Air Force Worries About Legacy MiG-29UPG

Interestingly, the RD-93 has a connection to India. The RD-93 is developed from the RD-33 engine that powers the MiG-29UPG fighters of the Indian Air Force and MiG-29K jets of the Indian Navy. India operates over 60 MiG-29UPG jets and about 40 MiG-29K fighters. The government recently cleared the purchase of 21 MiG-29 fighters for the Indian Air Force.

During the meeting with the top management of the UEC, Indian Defense Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh check out the design capacities of JSC “UEC-Klimov”.

Despite repeated Indian protests in the past two decades, Russia has continued supply of the RD-93 to China and Pakistan.

About JF-17 Thunder Block III

The JF-17 block III, an advanced version of the JF-17 Block II, was test flown for the first time at the start of last year. Besides the engine, the key upgrade is a KLJ-7A AESA- Active electronically scanning array- radar which has already been selected from a Chinese manufacturer.

Pakistan has already built over 100 JF-17 fighters for its air force and officials have indicated 62 JF-17 Block 3 fighters will be ordered by 2024.

In 2015, IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly reported Pakistan would continue to use Russian engines for the JF-17 even though China was developing an alternate engine. “We are completely satisfied with this Russian-made engine,” an official Pakistan Aeronautical Complex had told IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. Pakistani officials had claimed “changing to another engine would not make any sense and would be disruptive and cause a huge expense for the JF-17 programme”.

The engine is expected to enter fight test mode towards the end of the year which means the JF-17 Block III would enter flight tests with the RD-93MA engine sometime in 2021-22 at the earliest.

Having a new engine offers advantages in addition to increased thrust in combat situations. In December, Chinese state media Global Times confirmed that the latest version of the JF-17, dubbed the JF-17 Block 3, had made its maiden flight.

The upgraded fighter will have new electronically scanned radar and other electronics, all of which necessitate higher power requirements than can be met by the existing power-plant.

Earlier reports said, the RD-93MA engine is manufactured for JF-17 Block III,– will directly be sold to Pakistan. However, UEC sources told that the engine upgrade work is under a contract from a Chinese company for which over 100 such engines is to be manufactured and deliver to a Chinese company.

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