The combustion performance of a compression ignition (CI) four-stroke aviation engine fueled with pure kerosene No. 3 rocket propellant (RP-3) was experimentally investigated for comparison with diesel. Pilot injection and main injection for RP-3 and diesel were unified under same test conditions. The results show that when burning RP-3, the maximum power of engine is 1% lower than that of burning diesel, with lower specific fuel consumption (SFC) and effective thermal efficiency (ETE). The combustion durations of RP-3 and diesel show small differences of less than 0.4 °CA under heavy loads, while the combustion duration of RP-3 is shorter than that of diesel under low loads. The crank angle at 50% mass fraction burnt (CA50) of RP-3 shows differences of 0.3–1 °CA compared with that of diesel. For pilot injection at a high engine speed, the ignition delay angle (IDA) of RP-3 is basically equal to that of diesel. With decreasing engine speed, the maximum difference of 1.2 °CA in IDAs exists under medium or small loads. For the main injection, the IDA of RP-3 is larger than that of diesel under heavy loads at various engine speeds. As the load decreases, the IDA of RP-3 is extended. The peak heat release rate (HRR) of RP-3 during main injection combustion is basically the same as that of diesel under heavy loads, while the intervention effect of unburnt pilot-injected RP-3 under low loads results in a higher peak HRR.