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China’s J-20 Mighty Dragon Soars with Next-Generation WS-15 Engine: Unleashing 186.33 kN of Afterburner Thrust and Advancing Towards Mass Production

In January 2022, the J-20 Mighty Dragon fighter jet was initially observed with the next-generation WS-15 engine. Over a year later, China is getting ready to commence large-scale manufacturing of the propulsion systems.

Here’s What We Know The prototype featuring the WS-15 engine has been designated with the tail number 2012. However, there is no available information regarding whether the other prototypes (totaling six) have undergone testing with the advanced propulsion system.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army started receiving production models of the J-20 from late 2016. Initially, these aircraft were temporarily equipped with Russian AL-31FM2 engines. Starting from mid-2019, the Chinese WS-10C propulsion systems were installed as replacements.

The publication of a photograph showcasing the J-20 with the WS-15 engine followed an announcement by a spokesperson from the Aero Engine Corporation of China (AECC) stating that the new propulsion system was being prepared for mass production. This development also indicates the gradual phase-out of the WS-10C engines.

Experts in Asia describe the WS-15 as an impressive technological achievement. The propulsion system will deliver a thrust of 186.33 kN with afterburner. By comparison, the F119 engine in the F-22 Raptor generates approximately 172 kN of thrust, while the Russian AL-41F1 Type 30, used in the fifth-generation Su-57 fighter, has a thrust of 176.5 kN. According to the source, the WS-15 has no equivalent in terms of thrust, although the F135 engine for the F-35 Lightning II generates a thrust of 191 kN with afterburner.

The J-20 Mighty Dragon entered full-scale production in late 2021. This aircraft serves as a counterpart to the US fifth-generation F-22 Raptor fighter. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has already received a minimum of 200 J-20s.

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