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|J-8 / F-8|
|The original J-8 fuselage design at the Beijing Military Museum|
|Manufacturer||Shenyang Aircraft Corporation|
|Design group||Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute|
|First flight||J-8: 5 July 1969|
J-8II: 12 June 1984
|Primary users||PLA Air Force|
PLA Naval Air Force
The effort to develop an all-weather interceptor began in full in 1964 and this produced the first Chinese-designed and built jet fighter to combat new, high altitude threats such as the B-58 Hustler bomber, F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bomber and Lockheed U-2 spy plane. In 1964 the People's Liberation Army Air Force requested an aircraft from Shenyang Aircraft Corporation and the 601 Institute to develop a fighter/interceptor to counter bombers and spy planes as the newly introduced Chengdu J-7 (a reverse engineered MiG-21) was incapable of doing so. The prototype took its maiden flight in 1969. Despite the mid 1960s origins of the J-8, due to the political turmoil of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the J-8 was not produced until 1979 and entered service in 1980. Its basic configuration resembles an enlargement of the delta-winged J-7, utilizes two Liyang (LMC) Wopen-7A turbojet engines, and features a maximum speed of Mach 2.2. The twin engined J-8 competed with rival Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group's single, turbofan powered engine, canard-delta J-9 project and ultimately emerged as the victor largely due to the existing availability of the former's MiG-21 based powerplant and proven layout, while the J-9 project was cancelled in 1980 due to difficulty in creating a suitably powerful engine.
In order to house a large radar set, the design called for a solid nose and variable geometry side air intakes. However, the lack of familiarity with this type of intake meant the J-8 had to settle for a MiG-21 style nose intake. The solid nose J-8 was finally realized in the J-8II (Finback-B), which was based on the layout of the J-8I (same improvement is like the J-6 to Q-5). The radar chosen for the J-8 was the Type 204 mono-pulse fire-control radar, a primitive ranging radar for daylight within-visual-range operations. The performance of the radar fell well short of the PLAAF's requirements as research into a more capable fire control radar and power source proved difficult and time-consuming. The aircraft was originally armed with cannons and seven hardpoints for missiles, bombs, rockets or fuel tanks. The original weapons layout of the J-8 was two 30 mm Type 30-1 cannons after initial problems with the 30 mm Type 30-II four-barrel Gatling gun. The J-8 was also planned to be armed with the experimental PL-4 medium ranged missile but technical issues and political upheavals prevented any in-depth development and the project was cancelled in 1985 citing unsatisfactory performance. Therefore, the PL-2 IR-homing short-range air-to-air missile (SRAAM) was used instead. Unguided bombs and rockets can also be carried on the J-8. And nowadays with the development of light-weight military nuclear weaponry, the J-8II will now be able to carry missiles with nuclear warheads.
Despite entering service relatively recently, it was comparable to many older Soviet fighter designs, with limited maneuverability. The original combat avionics package was soon replaced with an all-weather capability in aircraft designated J-8I (Finback-A). The J-8I (later redesignated as the J-8A) received a new gun sight, onboard computer, new cockpit design and redesigned ejection escape system and oxygen supply system. The gun armament was also changed from two 30 mm cannons to a single 23 mm twin-barreled cannon and the PL-5 short ranged AAM was also equipped. The later J-8E featured improved electronic warfare systems. The unsatisfactory performance of the J-8I led to a very short production run of 20-50 aircraft and the J-8I has slowly began being phased out as early as the 1990s. A tactical reconnaissance variant of the J-8, known as the JZ-8 was developed in the mid 1980s to take advantage of the J-8s few favourable qualities, most notably its capability of reaching high speeds and altitudes to replace the Shenyang JZ-6 in the tactical reconnaissance role. Using an under-fuselage reconnaissance pod with a KA-112A long focal-length optical camera, the JZ-8 usually operates at heights ranging from ~9,500m-15,000m during reconnaissance missions. By 1982 work began to replace the unimpressive J-8I type with a new design known as the J-8II. The new 1982 requirements from the PLAAF demanded being capable of beyond visual range combat (BVR) with the use medium ranged missiles (MRAAM) and secondary ground attack capabilities. In terms of performance, the aircraft was expected to have better aerodynamic performance at medium to low altitudes and at transonic speeds.
The J-8II series appear quite different from the original J-8, with a new forward fuselage, intake ramps with splitter plates and nose structure more reminiscent of the F-4 Phantom II or Sukhoi Su-15 to house a new, more powerful radar. The J-8II is powered by two Wopen-13A (WP-13A) engines. The design and development team was led by Gu Songfen, who is also a key member of J-8I design team.
It was hoped to equip the production J-8B with an American AN/APG-66(V) radar (to be dubbed the J-8C), but this proved politically impossible after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 so the indigenous Type 208A monopulse radar fire-control radar initially was used. Although the Type 208A was an improvement over the original J-8I radar, the Type 208A did not have true beyond visual range capabilities (The detection range of the Type 208 was 40 km) nor look-down/shoot-up ground attack capabilities, thereby falling short of the PLAAFs initial requirements and the redesign of the airframe. The J-8B was the early production batch of the new J-8II series. In addition to receiving a new radar, new engine and redesigned noses, cockpit and intake, the J-8B also benefited from a new head-up display, integrated inertial navigation system/Global positioning satellite system and TACAN technology. Later J-8Bs were equipped with the more robust KLJ-1 pulse-Doppler radar fire-control radar and radar warning receiver, theoretically giving the later batch BVR capabilities. J-8B is the second Chinese aircraft to be equipped with a data link, the first being the Chengdu J-7III, and the data link is designated as Type 483 (developed from Type 481 data link used for J-7III), which enables ground-controlled interception centres to feed directions directly to the autopilots of J-8Bs to fly "hands off" to the interception.
At least 30 J-8Bs have been converted by the PLA Navy to J-8D standard, with an aerial refuelling probe for use with Xian H-6DU tankers in addition to newly built J-8Ds. The most significant difference between the J-8B and J-8D is the use of the new Type-02 airframe that was heavier than the J-8B and featured uneven length wing fences. The heavier 'Type 02' airframe is able to carry a larger payload and can tolerate higher G-loadings. The new airframe also has a stiffer radome. A few minor differences between the later J-8B batches and the J-8D are the J-8Ds slightly improved avionics. The use of the KLJ-1 pulse-Doppler radar was used through the J-8Ds entire production run. The J-8B and J-8D both suffered from China's difficulty in developing a MRAAM. Although the Type 208A was theoretically capable of using semi-active radar homing missiles and the KLJ-1 was certainly capable; no such missile, semi-active or active, were available at the time. Both variants were only initially armed with SRAAMs such as the PL-2 and PL-5, and the more advanced infrared-homing PL-8 SRAAM.
An early attempt to remedy these technological shortcomings still present after the redesign of the J-8 to the J-8II was the J-8C. The project began shortly after failure to obtain American cooperation for the J-8B, so Shenyang turned to Israel and Russia instead. The J-8C was considered a 'radical' upgrade of the original J-8II with a new radar based on the Israeli Elta EL/M 2035 multi-mode pulse Doppler radar, digital fire-control system, a new 'glass' cockpit, in-flight refuelling probe and equipped with a new WP-14 Kunlun engine. These upgrades are said to 'bring the fighter into the same league as modern Russian and Western fighters such as Mikoyan MiG-29 and Dassault Mirage 2000-5'. The project was cancelled in the late 1990s after two prototypes were built in favour of further development of the Shenyang J-11 fighter (which is based on the Sukhoi Su-27). The J-8IIM, first flown in 1996, is a further improved version. One major improvement over the J-8II is the capable Russian-made Zhuk-8II coherent pulse-Doppler radar, 100 of which have been delivered in the 1990s. Additionally, the J-8IIM carried new multifunction displays, integrated INS/GPS navigation system, new fire-control systems, new alternators and a new electronic countermeasures suite. The J-8IIM possessed true BVR capabilities with the use of the R-27 (air-to-air missile) semi-active infrared seeker medium-ranged missile. New WP-13B turbojet engines were adopted as well. The J-8IIM has had no new orders from China or the export market, where it is offered as the F-8IIM. It was heavily marketed to Iran but ultimately was not exported anywhere. However the experience and technological achievements gained from the J-8C and F-8IIM projects were later applied by Shenyang Aircraft Company to the later J-8H/F variants.
It was also during this time that the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology certified the PL-11 in 2001 after successfully test firing five missiles from the J-8II.
The J-8H configuration features the more powerful WP-13B turbojet engines, improved avionics and the improved Type 1471 pulse-doppler fire control radar with look-down/shoot-down capability and a range of new operating modes. With the radar upgrade comes the ability to fire the PL-11 and the PL-12/SD-10 MRAAM, which employs an Active radar homing (ARH) seeker. The J-8H also is equipped with IFR probe, INS/GPS, HOTAS, and an integrated ECM suite, with twin wing fences on each side of the wings that greatly increased handling ability. The J-8Ds heavier airframe is used but with modified wing fences. Production of the J-8H and the J-8D it had superseded has now ceased in favor of upgrading earlier J-8D aircraft to J-8H standards. It is uncertain if the older J-8B will be upgraded to J-8H standards given the difference in airframe. The J-8F is the most modern and capable J-8 variant currently in service and has been in production since 2003. The J-8H/F has inherited many of the improvements of the earlier J-8C and F-8IIM, and in some cases, has improved on them. The J-8F features a glass cockpit, a more powerful WP-13BII turbojet engine and enhanced Type 1492 radar for enhanced air-to-air capabilities with the PL-12 active radar homing medium range air-to-air missile, full air-to-ground and air-to-sea capabilities using the AS-17 'Krypton' anti-radar missile, and a variety of Chinese designed precision guided laser and satellite guided bombs, making it the first true Multirole combat aircraft variant of the J-8 series. The J-8F also possesses all the avionic and electronic upgrades the J-8H received. The earlier J-8B/Ds can be distinguished from later J-8H/Fs by their dark green radomes, compared to the latter's black radomes. Introduction of the more powerful WP-14 Kunlun turbojet engine for the J-8 series is planned to go under way in the coming years. The J-8F also serves in the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force as well. A notable variant of the J-8F is the JZ-8F which has been introduced into the PLAAF in the tactical reconnaissance role. Little information has been released on the JZ-8F, other than the use of an internal camera compartment which replaces the twin 23 mm cannon, rather than a camera pod as used by the older JZ-8.
In 1988, one J-8II airframe was converted into the J-8ACT an experimental fly-by-wire testbed for the J-10 programme. The J-8ACT had a shorter fuselage and a pair of canards were fixed to the side of each intake, and replaced older FBW technological demonstrators based on the older Shenyang J-6 and J-8I airframes. To date, no plans for a twin-seat J-8 design have been announced.
There are currently over 300 J-8s of all types serving in the People's Liberation Army Air Force and People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force. The J-8 is expected to be superseded by modern Chengdu J-10 and J-11 variants in the coming years.
On 1 April 2001, a Chinese J-8D fighter jet collided with a US EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft flying near Chinese airspace about 70 miles (110 km) south of China. The EP-3 crew was forced to make an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island; according to Chinese officials, the pilot of the J-8D, Wang Wei, ejected, but he was never found and is presumed dead. American reconnaissance crews had been intercepted many times before, in some instances the interceptors flying as close as ten metres from the American surveillance aircraft. The crew of 24 Americans was eventually allowed to return home on 11 April. The American aircraft was not returned for another 3 months.
As of early 2011, there are about 300 Chinese J-8s in service.
Data from Chinese aircraft : China's aviation industry since 1951
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