Chinese military sources told the South China Morning Post in early September 2018 that the new engine for its J-20 stealth fighter would soon be ready for mass production.
"The WS-15 [engine] is expected to be ready for widespread installation in the J-20s by the end of 2018," one of the military sources told SCMP, adding that "minor problems" remained but would be resolved quickly.
China currently has about 20 J-20 stealth fighters in the field, but the aircraft are equipped with older Russian Salyut AL-31FN or WS-10B engines, which means they are not yet fifth-generation aircraft.
"It seems interesting that [the WS-15] would be ready for production so quickly," Matthew P. Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.
The South China Morning Post report "might indicate that there was a major milestone in what they consider to be a ready-for-production engine," Funaiole said, but there would likely be more reports out there if the whole package was truly ready.
"I imagine this would be a very proud moment for the PLA Air Force, and that they would want to promote that as much as possible," Funaiole said. "It's an impressive engine."
China's J-20 stealth fighter.
The WS-15 is reported to have a thrust rating of 30,000 to 44,000 pounds. The F-22 Raptor, for example, has a maximum thrust of 35,000 pounds.
Nevertheless, "there's a difference between something being production ready, and an engine being ready to be outfitted on a particular airframe," Funaioloe said.
"There's the initial process of them testing [the J-20 with the WS-15], it being ready for limited production, and then the first outfits training and testing it," Funaiole added.
In other words, there's still a ways to go before the J-20 will be mass-produced with the WS-15, even if the WS-15 is almost ready for mass production.
But it's unclear how long that process will take.
"It's really hard to put a particular date on it," Funaiole said, "I think that most people sort of expect there to be progress on it over the next couple years."
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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