Jian-8 Interceptor Fighter
The J-8 (Jianji-8, or Jian-8; export designation: F-8; NATO codename: Finback-A) is a single-seat, twin-engine supersonic interceptor fighter aircraft with secondary capability for ground attack. The aircraft was designed by Shenyang-based 601 Aircraft Design Institute and built by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC). An enlarged version of the Shenyang/Chengdu Jian-7 (MiG-21 copy) with two Liyang WP-7 turbojet engines, the J-8 was China’s first attempt to develop a fighter aircraft independently. The fighter only saw limited service with the PLA, but it later evolved into the Jian-8II, which became one of the major fighter aircraft in the PLA service.
As China’s existing Jian-7 (MiG-21F Fishbed) fighter could not effectively intercept the high-speed, high-altitude bombers and spy planes introduced by the U.S. and Soviet Union in the 1960s, the PLA a new fighter aircraft with superior performance. The targets set by the PLA included a maximum speed of Mach 2.2, a service ceiling of over 20,000m, a sea-level climb rate of 200m/s, and a combat radius of 750~1,000km. The new fighter was also required to be equipped with new fire-control radar and medium-range air-to-air missile (MRAAM).
In May 1964, 6th Research Academy of the Chinese Ministry of Defence began the theoretical evaluation of the new-generation Mach 2 fighter aircraft. The programme definition submitted in October 1964 described a high-performance fighter capable of intercepting the U.S. B-58 Hustler bomber and F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bomber. Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute proposed an enlarged twin-engine turbojet-powered version of the J-7 fighter known as J-8, while Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute proposed a single-engine, turbofan-powered, canard-delta J-9. The J-8 received full support from the PLA and was given go ahead in 1965. The J-9 was given up due to unachievable turbofan engine but its concept was later used in the development of the J-10 fighter.
The J-8 entered the engineering development in September 1965, with a mock-up produced for inspection in December. Shenyang Aircraft Facotry (now SAC) began the prototype production in 1966. The first two J-8 prototypes rolled out in July 1968, and the first flight of the aircraft took place on 5 July 1969. However, the J-8 development was seriously interrupted by the ‘Culture Revolution’ in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The test flights of the aircraft was not completed in December 1979, ten years after the aircraft first flew. The J-8 was finally certified for design finalisation in December 1979, and entered the PLAAF service in 1981.
The J-8 fighter has mid-mounted large delta-shape wings and a round nose air inlet with a fully adjustable centre-body, which accommodates the ranging radar. There are two auxiliary air inlets located in front of the wing-root to for low-speed, large angle of attack flying. Two air brakes are located on the belly right behind the cannon. Two belly fins are located under the rear section near the dual exhausts. The basic variant J-8 has a front-hinged one-piece canopy with a round front windscreen, while this was replace by to a back-hinged canopy and a three-piece front windscreen design on later variants. Two 30mm internal cannons are fitted in the lower fuselage. The four under-wing stations can carry up to 2,500kg of disposable stores (each unit rated at 500kg). The aircraft is powered by two Liyang Wopen-7B turbojets, each rated at 43.15kN dry and 58kN with afterburning.
Although the J-8 more or less achieved the original design targets for performance, China’s inability to produce capable avionics and armaments give the aircraft no distinctive advantage over the earlier J-7. Because of the slow progress in developing the fire-control radar and power unit, the basic variant J-8 only had a primitive ranging radar for day light, within visual range operations. The PLA originally planned to equip the J-8 fighter with a powerful 30mm Type 30-II four-barrel Gatling gun with a rate of fire of 1,600 rounds/min. However, the development of the gun was trouble-prone and the aircraft was fitted with two 30mm Type 30-1 cannons instead. Additionally, the PL-4 medium-range air-to-air missile (AAM) scheduled to be carried by the J-8 was also unsuccessful, leaving the fighter relying completely on the PL-2 IR-homing short-range AAM for air combat.
Only 30~50 examples of the basic variant J-8 were produced. Most of these aircraft were retired from active service in the 1990s. The remaining units were converted for photographic reconnaissance role.
The JianZhen-8 (JZ-8) was developed in the mid-1980s based on the J-8 day fighter. Although incapable as a fighter aircraft, the J-8 provides an ideal high-altitude, high-speed aerial platform for the tactical reconnaissance roles. With all armaments removed, the JZ-8 carries an under-fuselage reconnaissance pod containing an optical camera and flies at altitude between 9,500~15,000m for reconnaissance missions.
JZ-8s in current service with the PLAAF are believed to be all converted from the existing J-8 airframes. The aircraft carries the reconnaissance pod under its centreline under-fuselage stores station, with two drop tanks under the wings. The aircraft is almost identical to the conventional J-8 fighter, but can be identified by their four-digit register numbers (combat aircraft all have five-digit series numbers).
Two regiments of the JZ-8 are believed to exist in the PLAAF order of battle. One of the regiments (with series number 35X3) is based in northeast China, close to borders with Russia, Korea, and Japan. The location of the second regiment is unclear, but is possibly in Southeast China near the Taiwan Strait.
The KA-112A long focal-length optical camera takes photos through two windows on the reconnaissance pod. The photos are taken in oblique panoramic mode with 610m-long (550 photos) film. Photo coverage is 3.5° longitudinal and 30° transversal. With two 480 litres drop tanks carried under the wings, the JZ-8 has a maximum ferry range of 2,000km. The normal operation altitude is between 9,500m and 15,000m.
Shenyang Aircraft Factory began to develop an all-weather variant of the J-8 known as J-8I (also referred to as J-8A) in 1976. The design work was completed in February 1978, with the first prototype rolling out in May 1980. However, the aircraft was destroyed in a fire accident in June. Shenyang had to make a new prototype, which delayed the development programme for a year. The second prototype made its first flight on 24 April 1982, followed by the flight of the third prototype in October. The aircraft certified for designation finalisation in July 1985 after completing its test flights.
The J-8I is generally identical to the basic variant J-8 in aerodynamic design and powerplant, but the aircraft has 11 improvements in avionics systems, including the Type 204 (JL-7) mono-pulse fire-control radar, SM-8A aeronautical optical gun-sight, onboard computer, new cockpit panel, and redesign ejection escape system and oxygen supply system. The J-8I can be distinguished from the basic variant J-8 by its
three-piece front windscreen and rear-hinged canopy. The original two Type 30-I 30mm cannons were replaced by two Type 23-III 23mm cannons. The four under-wing stores stations are capable of carrying the PL-2B or PL-5 short-range AAM.
Only a small number of the J-8I was produced before the production finally stopped in 1987. The fighter has been deployed by both PLA Air Force and PLA Naval Air Force for interception role. In the late 1990s, some J-8I fighters were upgraded to the J-8E standard.
J-8I fighters in service with the PLAAF received a mid-life modernisation upgrade in the 1990s. The upgraded aircraft was redesignated J-8E. These aircraft were fitted with an improved electronic countermeasures (ECM) suite including all-aspect radar warning receiver (RWR).
J-8I Active Control Technology Demonstrator
An J-8I fighter was converted into the active control technology demonstrator aircraft for the test of Chinese indigenous fly-by-wire (FBW) system in the late 1980s. The first Chinese indigenous analogue FBW system was first successfully tested on the aircraft on 28 January 1989. A digital FBW system was successfully tested on the aircraft on 24 June 1990. The only example was lost in a flight accident on 23 April 1991.
Last update: 25 December 2008