A month after China’s first home-grown civilian jet, COMAC’s ARJ-21, took to the skies for the first time, the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping, has announced the creation of the country’s latest economic incentive, Aero Engine Corp. which will have 96,000 employees concentrating on the design, manufacturing and testing of jet engines. The principal target of such a move will include GE, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce.
The company has been formed through the amalgamation of a number of state-owned companies including AVIC Aviation Engine Corp., Sichuan Chengfa Aero-Science & Technology Co. and AVIC Aero-Engine Controls Co. Funding will come from the Chinese government and two other state-owned firms: Aviation Industry Corp. the aviation and defense conglomerate, and Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC), which produces passenger jets, including the ARJ-21. According to Chinese state media, the current level of registered capital stands at 50 billion yuan (US$7.5 million).
Comments published in state media on Sunday have Xi Jinping describing the creation of Aero Engine Corp. of China as a “strategic move” aimed at accelerating the development of indigenous jet engines to boost both national prestige and military power.
China is looking to shed its reliance on foreign manufacturers in such high-technology industrial areas as aerospace, robotics and nuclear power. The country has state-owned aerospace firms which date back to the 1950s which began by building Soviet-designed civilian and military aircraft under license from Moscow. Since then Chinese engineers have developed a number of military jet engines, but have to date failed to master the technology required to produce powerful turbofan engines suited for commercial use. As a consequence, their commercial jet aircraft are being powered by foreign suppliers.
The ARJ21 regional jet, a 78-to-90-seater, is powered by engines produced by General Electric Co., while the single-aisle C919 jetliner—which is currently under development—will be powered by engines made by CFM International, a joint venture between GE and the Snecma engine unit of France’s Safran SA.