Murphy's Law: China Builds A Legal Rolls Royce That Works


July 27, 2010: China recently confirmed that, a year ago, they had perfected their WS9 jet engine, and had resumed production of the warplane that used it, the JH-7 fighter bomber. The JH-7 entered service a decade ago, although only about a hundred were built. Additional production was delayed because the aircraft was designed to use a British engine (the Spey 202), which was not supposed to be going to China after the 1989 embargo. But Rolls Royce, the manufacturer quietly continued exporting some engines, and technical assistance.

China thought it could reverse-engineer this engine, but was unable to do so. China made peace with Rolls Royce over this abortive bit of tech piracy, and began producing their version of the Spey 202 (the WS9) in the late 1990s. But China continued to have problems with manufacturing jet engines to Western standards, and sought more direct assistance from Rolls Royce. China was trying to get a proper production license from the British engine manufacturer, so that it could build the improved  JH-7A. But that 1989 embargo kept getting in the way. China began open discussions about the technical aspects of resuming engine imports, with Rolls Royce and Snecma, in expectation that the European Union will soon drop the embargo. Meanwhile, China bought second hand Spey 202 engines wherever it could. And, secretly, it apparently got the technical aid it needed from Rolls Royce, to enable it to successfully build its copy of the Spey 202.

The JH-7A is a 28 ton, twin engine aircraft, with a 12.9 meter/40 foot wingspan. It is still underpowered, but can carry nine ton of bombs, missiles or additional fuel. Now, by using new Chinese made smart bombs and air-to-ground missiles, the JH-7 becomes more useful. The JH-7 is used mainly by the Chinese navy. The aircraft has an operational radius of about 900 kilometers, enabling it to contribute to an attack on Taiwan, or a blockade of the island's ports. The JH7A could carry four KD-88 missiles. China wants to build another 150 JH-7s, as an improved version (JH-7A) with more powerful engines and better electronics, and is apparently doing that now that it has the engines it needs.



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