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WS9 Imported Spey Engine Technology

The WS-9 is a licensed production of Spey Mk202. It reduced fan compression from 17 to 14 stages. Different burner, nozzle, 500kg more thrust. After 30 years of efforts, by 2004 Xi'an Aeroengine reportedly started producing the Spey engines licensed to it by Rolls-Royce in the 1970s. Reportedly, these engines were installed in the JH-7A.

At the end of 1971, at a conference on aero-product quality, Premier Zhou Enlai, with regard to the problem of declining quality and poor performance of China-produced aero engines, pointed out that the engine is the "Heart", and asked "How can one fight with a poor Heart uncured"! Following the meeting, he asked MAI to improve the quality of the products, and also to study how best to introduce foreign technology into China. Ye Jianying, Vice Chairman of the Military Commission of CCCPC, and Li Xiannian, Vice Premier, led the study and evaluation and decided to import the military version of the Spey from England. In May 1972, contact with the UK commenced, and a technical survey team was sent to the UK. In August 1974, the negotiations reached a substantial stage, and the technical import contract was signed on December 13th, 1975.

China purchased the manufacturing license of the Spey MK202 turbofan engine from Rolls-Royce, England. This engine was developed from the commercial Spey MK511. At the beginning of the 1970s, England re-engined their F4 Phantom fighters purchased from the United States with Spey engines. The United States also imported the engine, and used it on A7 attack aircraft. The purchase of the Spey Engine technology was a major decision for China.

The Spey MK202 had a high thrust augmentation ratio (i.e. the ratio between the thrust with reheat and the thrust without reheat) comparatively low s.f.c., longer operation life, big surge margin of the compressor, high efficiency of components at various conditions and stable and reliable running. It had an air bleed system for the flap BLC (boundary layer control) to improve the take-off and landing performance of the aeroplane. However, the engine structure was complicated, the thrust to weight ratio was relatively low, and the thrust was insufficient at high altitude. It was, however, a good engine for China to import at that time.

The engine was designated as the WS9 and produced by Xi'an Aeroengine Factory [XEF], and the State paid close attention to the development. Vice Premier Wang Zhen inspected the factory three times, and the Vice Minister of MAI, Mo Wenxiang, was assigned by the MAI to lead a team in the factory. They worked with Shaanxi Province to organize the relative factories, institutes, colleges and universities to translate technical documents and to produce toolings. The State allocated a specific fund for the trial production and the factory's technical reformation. The supply of domestic raw materials was also arranged.

The trial production in XEF started in 1976. The massive staff members and workers contributed all their efforts and completed the translation and copying of 420,000 pages of documents and finished about 30,000 tooling design drawings and the manufacture of these toolings. During the tooling manufacturing stage, Li Guofu, Qu Guangxin, Ma Shiying and other technical leaders of the factory organized the work to tackle the key technical problems and detail parts trial production, solving 76 critical techniques. The titanium alloy thermal form¬ing was a unique process jointly worked out with BAMTRI, superceding the process specified in the supplied technical documents.

Through more than 3 years' effort, in the latter part of 1979, 4 WS9 engines were assembled in two batches. In November the same year, the 150 hours endurance test was completed in China jointly conducted by the British and the Chinese. From February to May 1980, the engine test in the simulated altitude test facility including cold starting at -40 t and fatigue cycling test for 5 major components were carried out in England. All the results met the technical requirements. Documents were signed between the representatives of the two sides for clearance of the qualification test of the China-made WS9 engine.

The successful production of the WS9 engine enabled China to have a moderate thrust reheat turbofan engine. The manufacturing techniques in the Chinese engine industry were brought to a much higher level through the production of the WS9 engines. The engine had a complicated structure, with many blades, precision parts, thin wall fabrications and complicatedly shaped pipes. Some existing Chinese materials used, however, were of poor quality. In order to solve this problem, new work processes and new technologies were introduced including the electro-chemical machining, electron beam welding, laboratory control, inspection and measur¬ing, precision casting and precision forging. The parts and the toolings manufactured were one grade higher in precision than those previously used in China.

During the production of the WS9, the factory mastered 13 items of advanced world technology such as the metal spray, vacuum heat treatment, pipe butt welding, vacuum brazing, NC pipe bending and electro machining, and in addition mastered 46 advanced technologies in China including soft die form¬ing and creep feed grinding. Through the development of the WS9 engine, the manufacturing techniques and technical levels of China's metallurgical, chemical and machinery industries were also improved. Therefore, the gap between China and advanced aeronautical countries in engine manufacturing technology was considerably narrowed.

The imported 137 copies of design and calculation reports and test reports, as well as the complicated manufacturing documents of the Spey engine, were used as reference guides for design and development of our engines, and the manufacture of other western advanced engines.

The import of the Spey promoted the technical reformation of the factory, which purchased some 700 advanced machine tools and facilities from abroad. In its numerical control (NC) machine workshop, there were 26 NC machines both made in China and from abroad, support¬ed by the capabilities of programming, setting, machining and inspection. There were 23 sets of special equipment for producing WS9 parts, which were modified by the factory from their existing capabilities. For example, the machining of the contours of HP and LP compressor casings was done in England by a special copy milling machine, at a cost of 800,000 Pounds Sterling.

Niu Chunpu and his colleagues modified a conventional vertical milling machine, which performed the task perfectly. The precision casting and precision forging production lines all had first class facilities and work processes. It produced very few allowance forging and casting blanks, which greatly saved precious alloys, equipments and manhours. It served not only for other aeroengine factories, but also other military and commercial enterprises. XEF became an aeroengine manufacturing base with the manufacturing technique world competitive in the 1970s.

The introduction of the Spey was the starting point for China's aviation industry to further develop extensive international technical cooperation. The main problem of the import of Spey engine was that there was no proper applications for the engine, which affects the full use of the benefit both in technology and economy.

Qinling Mountains

Recent Chinese turbofan engines have been named after famous mountains in China. The WS9 is named after Shaanxi's Qinling Mountains. Domestic and foreign geologists and biologists generally acknowledge that Qinling is one of the three famous mountain ranges in the world and is known as the "Three Sisters" on the earth with the Alps in Europe and the Rocky Mount in Americas. All the three mountains are of great size and their geographical locations are very important, the ecological and environmental protection of which is related to sustainable development of human beings.

Running east to west, Qinling Mountains lie in the eastern province of Shaanxi and form a natural division between northern and southern China in terms of geography and climate. The Qinling Mountains is the site of one of the most biologically rich temperate forest in the world. Xi`an, the capital city of the province of Shaanxi, is a short distance to the north-east of Qinling Mountains lies. Xi`an is one of the six ancient Chinese capitals and was the starting point of the world-famous "Silk Road". Qinling Mountains is a significant water source area and a "climate adjuster" of Xi'an, and is the lifeblood for sustainable development of Xi'an economy and for production and life of people.

As a grand mountain range of the continental shelf in China, Qinling Mountains is the dividing line of natural ecology and climate of north and south as well as Yangtze River and the Yellow River, but also the important distribution area of rare wild plants and animals in our country. The diversity of ecosystems, species and genes in Qinling all has the important typical and representative characteristics. The main part of the Qinling Mountains is located in Shaanxi province, which covers the part of the region of six cities in the province. The Qinling mountainous areas account for a quarter of the province's total area.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:48:22 ZULU