Our Bureau
06:06 PM, September 4, 2017
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China's J-20 fighter jet

"China's J-20, J-31 and H-20 fighter jets are now powered by homemade engines that feature single-crystal turbine blades that are manufactured using Rhenium metal.

Southwest China's Sichuan Province-based private firm, Chengdu Aerospace Superalloy Technology is capable of producing single-crystal turbine blades using Rhenium metal, Global Times reported Sunday.

The production could benefit the military and improve the quality of domestic parts. The firm, which relies on its parent company that produces rhenium, became China's first company to mass produce single-crystal turbine blades, China Central Television (CCTV) reported Sunday.

Rhenium is a key metal used in producing single-crystal turbine blades, 80 percent of which are used to produce aircraft engines, either jets or rockets, and is vital to the military. "Mastering the production technology of single-crystal turbine blades and aero engines will offer assured supply to the army and increase our fighter jets' ability to withstand prolonged battles," Xu Guangyu, a retired rear admiral and senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association said.

Mainly it is believed to be bringing strategic benefits to the army since most fighter jets were powered by Western engines, Xu said. The products produced by the company have a huge market because the US had blocked core production techniques, Zhang Zheng, chairman of the board of the Chengdu Aerospace Superalloy Technology, told CCTV. "Civil-military integration would boost not only the civil but also military aviation industry. It would be great achievement if China's C919 passenger jumbo jet can be powered by domestic engines," Xu said.

It's rare to see a private Chinese company master the technology used for aircraft engines, since most of technology of single-crystal turbine blades is in hands of State companies, Wang Yanan, chief editor of the Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said. Private firms' entry into the aviation industry would help increase its capacity and efficiency, Wang said.

"Because of differences in management style, private firms are more cost-efficient, which is likely to bring a new perspective to the current industry. They are more efficient and competitive in terms of quality," Wang said. China's 13th Five-year Plan for the National Development of Strategic Emerging Industries, which was released in 2016, highlights the need to improve homemade aircraft engines and develop the domestic aircraft industry.

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