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China's fighter jets in Tibet overcome high-altitude engine problems : report

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BEIJING (PTI): China's third generation fighter jets seem to have overcome their engine problems plaguing them while flying over high-altitude regions in Tibet bordering India, according to a media report on Thursday.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has posted video footage of drills by Chengdu J-10 and Shenyang J-11 fighter jets flying low over snow-capped mountains on Monday, suggest that the military has overcome engine problems afflicting the aircraft at high altitude areas, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

The jets are part of China's fleet of third-generation lightweight multi-role fighter aircraft, powered by Russian AL-31F engines. The J-11 is also part of fleet of China's third-generation fighter aircraft.

According to military observers, the engines had previously lost power above 3,000 metres, leading to a string of accidents, the report said, a rare revelation of the problems faced by the Chinese fighter aircraft in the high-altitude region.

In September 2015, a J-10 from the former Shenyang Military Region crashed during a night patrol when the plane climbed above 3,350 metres, state-run China Central Television reported.

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, the Post report said.

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 Forces' Western Theatre Command, which ranges from Chongqing to Tibet and Xinjiang.

In various exercises, we not only target imaginary rivals, but focus more on acquiring useful and effective combat skills, Zhan Houshun, the western theatres air force commander, said.

Military analysts said the apparent smooth flights by the warplanes in the latest drills suggested the air force had overcome the engines high-altitude problems, bolstering the PLA's defences against India.

Beijing-based military commentator Song Zhongping said the lack of air pressure at high altitudes made flying difficult, a situation complicated by variations in airflow in mountainous terrain.

The video showed that the engines in Chinese warplanes have been improved in terms of stability over complex geography. It also signalled that China has set up a highly specialised air wing in the country's west, Song was quoted as saying by the Post.

Hong Kong-based military analyst Leung Kwok-leung said the improvements would strengthen China's air defence against India.

Once the engine problem is solved, Chinese planes will be able to easily take off and land in high-altitude areas, making Indias air force less effective, Leung said.

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