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LEAP-X Engine / AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co. Ltd.

Currently, only four countries in the world, namely the United States, Russia, Britain and France, can independently develop advanced aircraft engines. The only shortcoming of China's aviation industry is the engine. According to Chinese analysts, developing aircraft engines will break the monopoly of foreign suppliers such as GE, Rolls-Royce and the Pratt & Whitney Group. An engine industry will also stimulate the growth of other domestic sectors such as electronics, digitally-controlled machines and composite materials. The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) established the AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Company at the beginning of 2009 to produce LEAP-X engines for the domestically-made C919 large aircraft. In November 2009 AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine (ACAE) (China) signed a MOU with MTU Aero Engines to study the building of an aircraft engine industry in China.

In July 2008 CFM International launched LEAP-X, an entirely new baseline turbofan engine to power future replacements for current narrow-body aircraft. CFM International (CFM) is a 50/50 joint venture between Snecma (SAFRAN Group) and General Electric Company. LEAP-X thrust baseline for the C919 starts at 30,000 lbs - with much more growth potential. The LEAP-X's launch aircraft is the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China's (COMAC's) 168-190 passenger C919 narrowbody. This engine will incorporate various technologies developed over the previous three years as part of the LEAP56 technology acquisition program. The first full demonstrator engine was scheduled to run in 2012, and LEAP-X could be certified by 2016.

The LEAP-X fan features 18 blades, a 50% reduction from the CFM56-5C, and 25% fewer blades than the CFM56-7B. This advanced new turbofan will reduce the engine contribution to aircraft fuel burn by up to 16 percent compared to current CFM56 Tech Insertion engines that power Airbus A320 and Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft. Additional fuel burn improvements will be achieved once this engine is paired with new aircraft technology. The LEAP-X1C-powered C919 is the beginning of a new chapter in the collaboration between CFM, the Chinese aviation industry and Chinese airline customers - a relationship that goes back more than 25 years. As of 2010 there were more than 2,300 CFM56 engines in service or on order with Chinese airlines, representing more than 10 percent of CFM's commercial fleet.

The AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co. Ltd. was established in Shanghai in January 2009. The company, which has also used the English name Avic Engine, will focus on the research and development of home-made jet engines. The government-owned Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC) holds a 40 percent stake in the company, which has registered capital of 6 billion yuan (US$ 877 million). The firm is another step in the development of the commercial aviation industry after the establishment of the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd. in May 2008. The plan is to put aircraft with at least 150 seats into the market by 2020.

AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co has signed a memorandum of understanding with its German counterpart MTU Aero Engine to research and develop domestically made engines for China's jumbo jet project but they haven't decided on the form of cooperation. "We will own independent intellectual property rights of the engines no matter if it is jointly or independently researched," said Zhang Jian, general manager of AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine. MTU is Germany's leading engine maker and is strong in the development, manufacturing and repair of commercial and military engines. The two firms have been discussing the cooperation for half a year. In 2010 AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co. Ltd. started building a research and development center to develop engines for domestic-made jumbo jets in Shanghai. The center is responsible for developing home-made engines for the 150-seat C919 and a 250-seat model. The center in Minhang District covers an area of 30 hectares and will have a floor area of 300,000 square meters. It costs CNY 3.23 billion ($473 million) and will be finished in 2013. The center will accommodate nearly 3,000 research staff, according to the company.

China's first home-made jet engine will make a debut in 2016, a significant step of the large-jet program, an official said 27 August 2009. "China is expected to complete the research of its first jumbo jet engine in 2016 and begin to apply for aviation certificate from the state aviation authority," said Zhang Jian, general manager of the Shanghai-based AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co. Ltd. "We hope the home-made engine will fly together with the home-made large aircraft," he said.

ACAE states that it will "carry out the philosophy of "commitment and integrity, innovative and preeminent", and stick to the development strategy of "TWO Participations, THREE Innovations, FIVE Approaches, Target of Sales of One Trinity".Firmly centering on the company's main thought-Technology Development, Product Development and lndustry Development, ACAE bears the responsibility for commercial aircraft engine and the related products, including R&D, manufacture, final assembly, testing, sales, MRO, service, technological development and consultation. ACAE focuses on setting up the network-researching, developing, manufacturing, assembling, testing and serving for the China-made high bypass ratio aero-engine, by the way of combining self-made business with international cooperation, take advantage of the domestic/international research and manufacturing resource; build up the integrated resource network; realize the promotion of 'component to full engine R&D and manufacture' by designing, researching and breaking through the key technologies together; train and strengthen the core capability of the company constantly; create the strong 'China Heart'; fasten the process of 'China commercial aircraft' project, realizing the will of the state, boosting China, boosting the world."

In March 2011 AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co (ACAE) said that it was seeking local and foreign partners to supply parts for the country's large commercial jets engines. ACAE started seeking suppliers to take over work packages for an engine program, which includes the design, manufacturing and testing of parts and systems for aircraft engines.

The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) plans to invest 10 billion yuan to focus on the development of high-performance aircraft engines during the 12th Five-Year Plan period. "This will be our biggest independent investment," Lin Zuoming, general manager of AVIC, said on 11 April 2011. According to sources, the research and development cycle of each type of engine will be five to 10 years and the investment payoff period will be as long as 30 years.

As of mid-2013 the CFM Leap-1C engine was due to be certified in June 2015, although the Civil Aviation Administration of China could permit C919 flight testing before the engine is certified.

CFM International proposed to assemble the Leap 1C in China for the Comac C919, but the deal was cancelled when the authorities demanded more technical information about the design. Some within the administration were concerned that the Chinese could reverse-engineer the CFM engines, allowing China to break into the global jet-engine market, undermining U.S. business interests.

Interrupting the supply of engines could produce an indefinite delay in the production of the C919. If put in place, the proposal wouldn’t bar all engines made by GE or its CFM joint venture from flying in China. Engines sold to airplane makers such as Boeing or Airbus, rather than to China’s Comac, are Federal Aviation Administration certified and don’t require the license that some in the administration want to use to hold up engines for the Comac aircraft.

On 18 February 2020 Donald Trump tweeted “I want China to buy our jet engines, the best in the World … I want to make it EASY to do business with the United States, not difficult. Everyone in my Administration is being so instructed, with no excuses … THE UNITED STATES IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

”The United States cannot, & will not, become such a difficult place to deal with in terms of foreign countries buying our product, including for the always used National Security excuse, that our companies will be forced to leave in order to remain competitive. We want to sell product and goods to China and other countries. That’s what trade is all about. We don’t want to make it impossible to do business with us. That will only mean that orders will go to someplace else. As an example, I want China to buy our jet engines, the best in the World...."

The US government reapproved GE Aviation’s application to supply engines for Comac’s C919 narrowbody program on 09 April 2020, a few months after it had considered blocking engine sales. The enginemaker states the licence to supply CFM International Leap-1C engines will last for a term of four years. Donald Trump waded into the debate a day later, tweeting that he wanted “China to buy our jet engines, the best in the world”. He also blasted proposals that would make it difficult to sell engines and other components into the Chinese market.


With the publishing of “long-term development plan of China civil aerospace industry(2011-2020)” in 2013 and development of C919, ARJ and MA 700 aircraft and CJ-1000 civil engine programs, China has fully committed to promote national aerospace manufacturing capability as well as to accelerate integration into the world aerospace industry chain.

The CJ-1000AX has long been suspected of being a copy of the LEAP-1C. The two engines share a great many suspicious similarities, including their dimensions and turbofan blade sizes. Avic Commercial Aircraft Engines is "developing" the CJ-1000 as the military alternative to the Franco-US CFM Leap-1 for the Comac C919 airliner and with the aim of matching the performance of that engine. CJ-1000 development faces major technical challenges but is probably well funded. With abundant thrust, it is hoped the CJ-1000 would transform the performance of the Y-20. The CJ-1000 is intended as a 30,000 lb thrust engine to power the C919 (i.e. as a second engine choice after the Leap-1C developed by GE/Safran). CJ stands for ChangJiang, the Chinese name for the river Yangtse, meaning continuity for the future.

Crowdstrike wrote: "Though it is difficult to assess that the CJ-1000AX is a exact copy of the LEAP-X without direct access to technical engineering specifications, it is highly likely that its makers benefited significantly from the cyber espionage efforts of the MSS, which will be detailed further in subsequent blog installments, knocking several years (and potentially billions of dollars) off its development time."

AVIC allocates significant funding to developing military and civil aero engines: according to Aviation Week (April 23, 2012), itself citing the Huanqiu news service, in April this year the President of AVIC, Lin Zuoming, stated that AVIC had allocated 10 bn Yuan (c.US$1.6 bn) to developing aero engines over the coming five years. This figure appears to include the development of multiple military aero engines, as well as the development of the commercial CJ-1000 by ACAE.

The larger western aero engine manufacturers (GE, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and Safran) all declined to cooperate on the CJ-1000, perhaps owing to conflicts of interest. MTU Aero Engines of Germany and the Chinese engine manufacturer AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine Co. Ltd. (ACAE) have signed an agreement on key terms for a possible cooperation on the future CJ1000 engine. As of 2012 ACAE targets a demonstrator engine by 2016, with entry into service in 2020, but notes that date could slip. Observers do not expect the CJ-1000 to be a perfect engine, but would expect it to be viable, and believe that the Chinese government may mandate orders for CJ-1000-powered C919 aircraft.

A demonstrator engine for the CJ-1000 project is due to meet its performance requirements in 2018, compared with an initial plan of 2016, a conference in Chengdu heard on 28-29 May 2014. An aim to certify the CJ-1000 in 2022 was stated as long ago as 2011, though ACAE officials even then did not seem to regard it as very firm. So widening the target to 2022-25 is not at all surprising. The program’s prospects of early, or even any, success have diminished with the refusal of major Western manufacturers to help.

Avic Commercial Aircraft Engines (ACAE), greatly challenged in developing a Chinese turbofan for the C919 airliner, plans to introduce an upgraded version of the engine in 2026, following certification of the initial mark in 2022-25. The first version of its C919 engine will be the CJ-1000A. Features to be introduced in the upgrade, the CJ-1000B, are not disclosed. ACAE’s demonstrator is supposed to meet lower performance targets than the production aircraft. The 158-seat Chinese airliner needs about 30,000 lb. thrust.

The prototype of the CJ-1000AX, the alternative powerplant manufactured by Chinese engine maker AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine (ACAE), was first publicised in December 2017, after 18 months of assembly. ACAE had signed a deal with Comac a year earlier to supply engines to the narrowbody program. The CJ-1000AX was touted as the "home-made engine" by the state-owned Global Times newspaper that would "replace imported foreign engines in future". The C919 will initially be powered by CFM International Leap-1C engines. In May 2019, the CJ-1000AX hit a milestone in its development when it achieved power-on.

Progress on the developmental CJ-1000AX high-bypass turbofan, manufactured by AECC Commercial Aircraft Engine, is still unclear. It was reported in 2018 that the CJ-1000AX demonstrator engine achieved power-on. Chinese media reports indicate the CJ-1000AX is looking to enter service in 2021.


ACAE has begun preliminary work on the CJ-2000, an engine for the proposed C929 widebody airliner that Comac is supposed to develop with United Aircraft Corp. of Russia. More distantly, the Chinese engine company also plans to develop a regional-jet engine, the CJ-500, an ACAE official told the China Aerospace Propulsion Technology Summit, organized by Galleon in May 2014. As difficult as CJ-1000 development will be, the CJ-2000 will be harder, the ACAE official says. For it, the timetable is to complete technical research in 2020, reach performance targets with a demonstrator in 2022, and achieve certification in 2025-2030. Since the widebody is due to go into service in 2023-25. It is apparently intended to use a Western engine at first. The CJ-2000 could well evolve into another Russo-Chinese product. Little is known about the status of AEF3500, but media reports suggest it could be put into service on the CR929 by around 2030.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:08:35 ZULU