Match F-22 Raptor Capabilities, China Shows Off 2D Thrust Vector Technology For Chengdu J-20

Match F-22 Raptor Capabilities, China Shows Off 2D Thrust Vector Technology For Chengdu J-20

In the aftermath of the 'retirement' of the F-15 C/D Eagle from Kadena Air Base in Japan, the United States plans in the near future to place F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets as a temporary replacement force. From Beijing's perspective, the placement of the F-22 Raptor in Japan will bring its own pressure, because the F-22 has the potential to intersect with Chinese fighter jets in the region.

Regarding the debut of the F-22 Raptor which will be stationed at Kadena Air Force Base, China is also continuing to prepare the capabilities of the stealth fighter jet Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon, which from the start was predicted to be a rival to the F-22 Raptor.

Even though it is plotted as a rival to the Raptor, technically the combat readiness of the Chengdu J-20 is still below standard, especially the Chinese Air Force still has challenges in improving the capabilities of the J-20 engine, which has so far been complained about.

Initially, the Chengdu J-20 used the Shenyang WS-10B engine, but there are other sources who say that the initial twin jet variant used the Russian Salyut AL-31FM2 engine which had an afterburning power of 145 kN. But apparently China was not satisfied with the integration of these engines, then the J-20 was installed with the WS-10 "Taihang" engine. Unfortunately, with the WS-10 engine, the fighter from this fifth generation failed to maintain its supersonic speed.

But that was before, at the Zhuhai AirShow 2022, China has showcased its 2D thrust vector technology – 2D Thrust Vector Tech. Quoted from (12/11/2022), it was stated that the turbofan engine with a 2D thrust vector control nozzle provides increased maneuverability and stealth capabilities of the J-20.

Chinese engineers are reported to have worked on this technology to close the gap between the capabilities of the J-20 stealth fighter jet and the F-22 Raptor, which already uses a thrust vector control nozzle. The J-20 engine with 2D thrust vectoring was showcased in five variants.

According to the Aero Engine Corp of China (AECC), five different variants of the Taihang series are used on other aircraft by the Chinese military. Although the WS-10 Taihang engine has been around for a long time, the engine with thrust vector control technology has already caught the attention of visitors at the Zhuhai AirShow 2022 air show.

According to the AECC, the WS-10 Taihang engine continues to receive technical upgrades which have improved performance, reliability, safety, stealth, power extraction, environmental adaptability, durability and thrust vectoring. 

Wei Dongxu, a Chinese military expert said, that thrust vectoring can significantly improve the maneuverability of fighter jets by providing direct thrust in the desired direction and using aerodynamics. 

Thrust Vector Technology
Thrust Vector Technology

"The development of a turbofan engine with 2D thrust vector control nozzles means the engine has enough power to manage the loss of thrust," said Wei.

In January 2022, China announced that it would start upgrading its J-20 stealth fighter jet engines with modern technology to match the capabilities of the F-22 Raptor. For now, the J-20 fighter is believed to use the WS-10C engine.

The WS-10C engine is a stop-gap solution until the more advanced WS-15 engine is ready for installation. However, the WS-10C, which is also used on other stealth fighter jets, limits the capabilities of the J-20.

According to a study from the Pentagon, Beijing has been actively modernizing its J-20 fighter jets. China is speculated to add 2D thrust-vectoring nozzles and “super cruise” capabilities like the F-22 with domestically made WS-15 engines to the J-20.

Failure after failure in the engine test, causing China for now to be satisfied with the capabilities of the WS-10C engine. Earlier this year, there were reports that China had finally upgraded its WS-10C engine with thrust vector nozzle technology.

A J-10B fighter jet makes a flight at the Zhuhai AirShow 2018 with a 3D thrust vector control nozzle. One of five versions of the Taihang, an engine with 3D thrust vector control nozzle, was also showcased this year. However, it should be noted that 2D nozzles can lose more thrust than 3D nozzles.

Wei told the Global Times that China had developed a turbofan engine that includes a 2D thrust vector control nozzle, implying that the engine has enough power to handle some loss of thrust.

This technology typically allows jets to fly longer and perform more complex combat missions without refueling as frequently as conventional fighter jets. The F-22 Raptor, which will currently be stationed at Japan's Kadena Air Base, has had this technology since two decades ago.

According to Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviator, 2D nozzles are usually preferred if the engines can deliver enough power, as they usually have better radar detection and infrared signature potential than 3D nozzles. 2D nozzles are rectangular, and 3D nozzles are circular.

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