The Shenyang J-8 (Jian-8; NATO reporting name Finback) is a high-speed, high-altitude Chinese-built single-seat interceptor fighter aircraft.
Design and development
The effort to develop an all-weather interceptor began in full in 1964 and this was to result in the first Chinese fighter jet to be designed and built indigenously. The prototype took its maiden flight in 1969. Despite the early beginnings, due to political turmoils such as the Cultural Revolution
, it was not produced until 1979 and entered service in 1980. Its basic configuration resembles an enlargement of the delta-wing MiG-21 'Fishbed'
with two Liyang (LMC) Wopen-7A turbojet engines and a maximum speed of Mach
2.2. The twin engined J-8 competed with the single engine 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.
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 Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 Flagon-A fighter. The aircraft was originally armed with cannons and seven hardpoints for missiles, bombs, rockets or fuel tanks. Weapons carried include The PL-2, PL-5, and PL-8 short-range air-to-air missiles as well as the PL-11 medium-range radar-guided air-to-air missile. Unguided bombs and rockets can also be carried.
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 gun armament was also changed from two 30-mm cannons to a single 23-mm twin-barreled cannon. The later J-8E featured improved electronic warfare systems. In 1982 work began to replace the unimpressive J-8I type with a new design known as the J-8II.
The J-8II series appear quite different from the original J-8, with a new forward fuselage, intakes and nose structure more reminiscent of the F-4 Phantom II or Sukhoi Su-15. J-8IIs are powered by Wopen-13A engines. It was hoped to equip the production J-8B with an American AN/APG-66(V) radar, but this proved politically impossible after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. At least 30 J-8Bs have been converted by the PLA Navy to J-8D standard, with an in-flight refuelling probe for use with Xian H-6DU tankers.
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. The J-8IIM has had no new orders from China or the export market, where it is offered as the F-8IIM. However the experience gained has been applied by Shenyang Aircraft Company to the later J-8H/F upgrades.
The J-8H configuration features WP-13B turbojet engines and the KLJ-1 (Type-1471) Pulse Doppler fire control radar. With the radar upgrade comes the ability to fire the PL-12/SD-10 MRAAM employing an Active Radar Homing (ARH) seeker. The J-8F, featuring a glass cockpit and enhanced air-to-ground capability using the AS-17 'Krypton' anti-radar missile, has also been demonstrated. New build J-8H/Fs have an improved "Type-02" airframe with additional wing fences. The Type-02 is heavier than the original airframe, but can tolerate higher G-loadings.
The J-8III/J-8C advanced variant with digital fly-by-wire flight controls was apparently cancelled during the development stage. In 1988, one airframe was converted into the J-8ACT an experimental fly-by-wire testbed for the J-10 program. To date, no plans for a twin-seat J-8 design have been announced.
The J-8 project was largely made possible due to the transfer of MiG-21
technology from the Soviet Union
in 1961. However this aircraft lacked the speed, range, altitude, and radar capability the PLAAF
needed in an all-weather interceptor. The nascent Chinese jet aircraft industry was mostly established with Soviet assistance and Chinese designers followed Soviet design methodology for the J-8. A Soviet experimental aircraft known as the Ye-152
"Flipper" with similar configuration may have influenced the J-8 layout, as did the Sukhoi Su-15
After the Chinese military delegation led by Field Marshal Peng Dehuai visited Soviet Union in the late 1950s, some believe China subsequently purchased the incomplete Soviet design of Ye-152 (E-12) fighter. Several Russian and Chinese sources do claim The J-8 was modelled upon the Soviet Ye-152A and several Russian authors claim the Ye-152A documentation was sold to China and used for the development of the J-8I, in fact the Chinese designer Wong Nanso said this in an interview regarding Soviet influence on Chinese aviation:
"-We wouldn't have anything without hand-in-hand tutelage from the Soviets. Even the Dongfeng 107 (early Chinese supersonic fighter) design team included Soviet experts. Also regarding some aspects of the J-8 aerodynamic characteristics, we studied some results from Soviet design. Of course, "the abbot can open the door to the monastery, but spiritual achievement is up to the individual-"
This seems to confirm what has been written in several Russian sources that do claim the Ye-152 documentation was sold to China. The hope of joint development or any Soviet help was lost when the relationship between the two countries soured during the Sino-Soviet Split.
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
; that number is expected to grow in limited numbers in the next ten years. The J-8 is expected to be exceeded by modern J-10 and J-11 variants in the coming years.
April 2001 incident
On April 1
, a Chinese J-8D
fighter jet collided
with a U.S. EP-3
reconnaissance aircraft flying over disputed waters about 70 miles south of China. The EP-3 crew was forced to make an emergency landing on China's Hainan
Island; the pilot of the J-8D, Wang Wei
, ejected but was never found and is presumed dead. American reconnaissance crews had been intercepted many times before, in some instances the interceptors flew as close as ten meters away from the American surveillance aircraft. The crew of 24 Americans was detained for 11 days, eventually allowed to return home on April 11
. The American aircraft was not returned for another 3 months.
J-8 (Finback-A) Series
- First flew on July 5, 1969. Initial day fighter variant, resembles an enlarged MiG-21. Equipped with 2 x WP-7A turbojet engines, SR-4 ranging radar 2 x Type 30-I 30mm cannon (200 rounds each), and 2 x PL-2 IR-guided AAMs. Limited production. J-8I
- First flew in April 24, 1981. Improved all-weather version with SL-7A fire-control radar (40 km range), twin-barrel Type 23-III 23 mm cannon, & up to 4 AAMs (or rockets/bombs). Limited production. J-8E
- Mid-life upgrade for J-8I. JZ-8 (J-8R)
- Reconnaissance version of J-8 or J-8I.J-8ACT
- First flew on June 24, 1990, fly-by-wire testbed aircraft.
J-8II (Finback-B) Series
- First flew on June 12, 1984. Improved J-8I prototype with redesigned nose/front section and fuselage. Replaced nose air inlet with solid nose and lateral air intakes, similar to those of the MiG-23 China indeed received several MiG-23s in the late 1970s from Egypt and the hinged ventral fin and lateral intakes shown reversed engineering of these MiG-23 features into the J-8II, in fact China followed a very similar development process to the Su-15 when from the Sukhoi T-5, the large T-58 (Su-15) was spawned, the MiG-23PD also has some similarities with the J-8II however the MiG-23PD is a single engined experimental fighter with direct lift engines, but the transformation of the MiG-21 into the MiG-23PD was mirrored in the J-8II. Equipped with Type 208 (SL-4A) monopulse radar (40 km range).J-8II Batch 02 (J-8IIB)
- First flew in November 1989, improved J-8II with SL-8A (Type 208?) PD radar (70 km range). Powered by 2 x WP-13AII turbojet engines. Armed with twin-barrel 23mm Type 23-III cannon (copy of GSh-23L) and up to 4 PL-5 or PL-8 AAMs (or rockets/bombs). No BVR capability.Peace Pearl J-8 (J-8II)
- During the Sino-US cooperation era, up to 50 J-8IIs were to be delivered to the US for upgrades and installation of AN/APG-66(v) radar and fire control system for US$500 million, under the Peace Pearl program. However, the project was cancelled and only about 24 J-8II was produced. J-8IIACT (J-8II-BW2)
- First flew in 1988, fly-by-wire testbed and technology demonstrator. J-8IID (J-8D)
- First flew on November 21, 1990, modified J-8B with fixed refuelling probe and updated avionics such as TACAN navigation system. J-8IIM (F-8IIM)
- Unveiled in Zhuhai Air Show 1996, export version of J-8B with Russian Phazotron Zhuk-8II PD radar (70 km range), R-27R1 (AA-10) AAM and Kh-31A (AS-17) anti-ship missile. Failed to attract any export customers and no domestic orders. Conversion from older airframe was reportedly much fewer than the 100 units of Zhuk-8II radar delivered, and the conversion might have only been an experimental program. J-8III (J-8C)
- Upgraded J-8II with FBW system and 2 x WP-14 powerplants. Compared to the J-8II, the J-8C had a number of improvements including a new multi-mode pulse Doppler radar which was reportedly based on the Israeli Elta EL/M 2035 radar technology. The aircraft was also equipped with a digital fire-control system and a new ‘glass’ cockpit with multifunctional displays (MFD). The J-8C programme entered full scale development around 1991 and the aircraft first flew successfully in 1993. Development halted in favor of other version described below, but was used to test new radars such as Type 1471 (KLJ-1) and other avionics associated with FBW system. From this version on, electronic warfare pods such as BM/KG300G and KZ900, as well as navigational / targeting pods including Blue Sky navigation pod and FILAT become operational on J-8II. J-8IIH (J-8H)
- First flew in December 1998, upgraded J-8II with new glass cockpit, WP-13B power plant, Type 1471 (KLJ-1) PD radar (75 km range) with look-down, shoot-down capability. Can use medium-range R-27 (AA-10), PL-11 AAMs, and YJ-91 anti-radiation ASMs. J-8IIF (J-8F)
- First flew in 2000, J-8H with WP-13BII powerplant, in-flight refueling probe, and Type 1492 PD radar. Successfully test-fired PL-12/SD-10 AAM in 2004. J-8IIM (2006)
- At Zhuhai Air Show 2006, a newer version of the J-8IIM was put on display with upgraded systems similar to the J-8F. The most significant improvement is the radar upgrade with a new domestic radar. In comparison to the Russian Zhuk-8II radar, the domestic radar has a number of performance enhancements:
- * The domestic Chinese radar has a range of 75 km maximum range for targets with 3 square meters, in comparison to Zhuk-8II's 70 km maximum range against target of 5 square meters.
- * Additional ability to handle sea-borne target that Zhuk-8II does not have. For sea targets with 50 square meters RCS, the max range is greater than 100/80 km for sea state 1/2.
- * Simultaneously tracking 10 targets and display 8 most threatening ones out of the 10 on displays, engaging 2 out the 8.
- * Air-to-Air modes: VS (Velocity Search), RWS (Recon./Search while Scan), TWS (Track While Scan), STT (Single Target Tracking), Air Combat Mode (ACM). AMTI, (aerial moving target indication) mode which is used to discover hovering helicopters can be added upon customer request, though this does not come as standard feature.
- * Air-to-Ground modes: Mapping (Real Beam Mapping RBM), Mapping Expansion/Freezing (EXP/FRZ), Doppler Beam Sharpening (DBS), Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI), Sea Single Target Tracking (SSTT), Air-to-Ground Ranging (AGR).
- * An improved beacon navigation (BCN) and weather (WX) capability.