Chinese military releases video of aircraft on smooth runs in country's mountainous southwest, suggesting advances to problem-plagued AL-31F engines, South China Morning Post has reported.
Footage of Chinese warplanes on drills in the country's mountainous southwest suggest the military has overcome engine problems plaguing the aircraft at high altitudes, sounding a warning to regional rival India.
Video of Chengdu J-10 and Shenyang J-11 jets flying low over snow-capped mountains was posted on the People's Liberation Army's official website.
The jets are part of China's fleet of third-generation lightweight multi-role fighter aircraft and are powered by Russian AL-31F engines.
Military observers said the engines had previously lost power above 3,000 meters, leading to a string of accidents.
In September 2015, a J-10 from the former Shenyang Military Region crashed on a night patrol when the plane climbed above 3,350 meters, state-run China Central Television reported. The pilot ejected to safety.
The footage also showed a Shaanxi Y-9 transport aircraft taking off and landing at a high-altitude airport. The Y-9 can carry 106 passengers or 132 troops at one time.
A Xian JH-7 fighter-bomber is also seen flying over the snow-covered terrain, filling out the combat line-up in the PLA Air Force's Western Theatre Command, which ranges from Chongqing to Tibet and Xinjiang.
Military analysts said the apparent smooth flights by the warplanes suggested the air force had overcome the engine's high-altitude problems, bolstering the PLA's defenses against India.
The apparent advances come less than a year after a protracted border stand-off between Chinese and Indian troops in the Doklam region in the Himalayas, South China Morning News said.
China in talks for sale of jet engine technology to Germany
Tellingly, China is in talks to sell Germany state-of-the-art machinery and technology critical in the manufacture of high-performance jet engines, South China Morning Post (SCMP) has reported.
The machinery produced turbine blades capable of withstanding temperatures several hundred degrees Celsius higher than the melting point of metallic alloys, SCMP quoted a Chinese scientist as saying.
Turbine blades convert heat generated by combusted fuel into the energy that propels a plane. The blades are one of the most important components in modern aircraft, both military and civilian, and their quality determines how safe, powerful and durable a jet engine will be.
The technological progress could be a very important step for made-in-China jet engines, with China now the world's largest market for commercial aircraft. Thousands of planes are on order from Airbus and Boeing, and China is also developing its own C919 passenger jet.
In recent years, tremendous leaps in blade-processing technology, combined with breakthroughs in alloy casting and aerodynamic design, have allowed China to produce a brand-new series of powerful military jet engines, according to SCMP.