|J-8 / F-8|
|Shenyang F-8IIM, armed with air-to-air missiles and six bombs on a centreline tri-rack.|
|Manufacturer||Shenyang Aircraft Corporation|
|Designer||Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute|
|First flight||5 July 1969|
|Primary users||PLA Air Force
PLA Naval Air Force
|Produced||1979 – present|
Design and development
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, then, 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 early-mid to late 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. J-8IIs are powered by 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 a completely 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 is 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 centers 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 PL-11 is a copy of the Italian Aspide semi-active radar homing medium ranged missile originally acquired in 1989 before Italy refused to cooperate further with the Chinese government in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square incident. This slowed down China's testing of the missile considerably, preventing the J-8B/D from carrying the missile when they were introduced in the 1990s, as the original plan had intended.
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 easily 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 quietly been introduced into the PLAAF in the tactical reconnaissance role. Very 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 program. The J-8ACT had a shorter fueslage and a pair of canards were affixed 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.
The J-8 project was made possible largely 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 established mostly 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 'Flagon-A' airframe.
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.
April 2001 incident
On 1 April 2001, a Chinese J-8D fighter jet collided with a US EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft flying over Chinese waters 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 meters 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.
J-8 (Finback-A) Series
- First flew on 5 July 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.
- First flew on 24 April 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.
- Mid-life upgrade for J-8I.
- JZ-8 (J-8R)
- Reconnaissance version of J-8 or J-8I.
- First flew on 24 June 1990, fly-by-wire testbed aircraft.
J-8II (Finback-B) Series
- J-8II (Finback-B)
- First flown on 12 June 1984, the improved J-8I prototype with redesigned nose/front section and fuselage. replacing the nose air inlet with a solid nose and lateral air intakes, similar to those of the MiG-23. China received several MiG-23s in the late 1970s from Egypt and the hinged ventral fin and lateral intakes indicate probable reverse engineering from the MiG-23. 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 programme. However, the project was cancelled and only about 24 J-8II were produced. USAF Air Force Flight Test Center(6510 Squadron)took the task of test flight of modified J-8II.
- J-8IIACT (J-8II-BW2)
- First flew in 1988, fly-by-wire testbed and technology demonstrator.
- J-8IID (J-8D)
- First flew on 21 November 1990, modified J-8B with fixed refuelling probe and updated avionics such as TACAN navigation system.
- Unveiled in Zhuhai Air Show 1996, export version of J-8B with Russian Phazotron Zhuk-8II PD radar (75 km range, and able to track up to ten airborne targets and attack two of them simultaneously), R-27R1 (AA-10) AAM and Kh-31P anti-radiation missile. The F-8IIM was to be powered by two, more powerful WP-13B turbojet engines. This aircraft is often mistakenly referred to as the "J-8IIM" with Kh-31A anti-ship missile (ASM) capability, but its radar lacked sea search mode for anti-shipping role. The F-8IIM 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 programme with none entering service.
- The F-8IIM fighter will probably be equipped with Russia's or China's helmet sight and advanced PL-9 and P-73 missiles. Phazotron, a Russian firm, has signed contracts with China to provide 150–200 improved Zhuk radars mainly in support of China's new F-8II fighter, but also to equip the new Chengdu J-10 fighter. These radars have six times the data and signal processing power of the basic variant and greater detection range than the current 80KM. They can track while scanning on 24 targets, display up to 8 of them, and simultaneously provide fire-control solutions for 2–4 of them.
- 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 favour 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.
- Canceled after 2nd testbed had crashed.
- J-8IIF (J-8F)
- It is reported that during 2006–2008, J-8II production suffered major setback due to engine problem.
- Modified J-8II with tail hook and other improvements for developmental work on ship-borne aircraft for carrier operations, such as in April 1987, evaluating & testing the Chinese reverse-engineered steam catapult from that of HMAS Melbourne (R21), which was finally confirmed 27 years later in April 2014 by CCTV-13. Both the take-off and landing were conducted on land with the reverse engineered steam catapult installed on the beach, and the test pilot was PLANAF pilot Li Guoqiang (李国强). Experience gained was applied to Shenyang J-15.
- An advanced modified variant of the J-8II tasked with the suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) mission was said to have been developed by the SAC in the 2000s. The aircraft, reportedly designated J-8G, was said to be capable of carrying two indigenous YJ-91 anti-radiation missile and electronic warfare suite to attack enemy radar stations.
- J-8IIM (2006)
- At Zhuhai Air Show 2006, a new variant "J-8IIM" was put on display with upgraded systems similar to the J-8H. The most significant improvement is the radar upgrade with a new Type 1471 domestic radar used by the J-8H. In comparison to F-8IIM's Russian Zhuk-8II radar, the Type 1471 radar has a number of performance enhancements:
- Type 1471 radar has 75 km maximum range for targets with 3 square meters RCS, in comparison to Zhuk-8II's 70 km maximum range against target of 5 square meters RCS.
- Additional ability to handle sea-borne targets that Zhuk-8II does not have. For sea targets with 50 square metres 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.
- A reconnaissance version of the J-8F with internal camera in the forward fuselage replacing the cannon.
- Upgraded J-8 with JL-10A X-band radar. Export variant, F-8T, has WP-13B-II engines. China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation claims J-8T is equipped with improved integrate avionic and various guided weapons. J-8T can carry out air-to-air BVR intercepting mission, air-to-ground precise attacking mission and stand-off attacking mission.
- J-8D upgraded to J-8F standard. Lack of cooling duck below intake. Can fire PL-12 and PL-8 missiles.
- People's Republic of China
- People's Liberation Army Air Force: 24 J-8, 42 J-8A, 64 J-8B, 36 J-8D, 12 J-8E, 24 J-8F, 48 J-8H, 8 JZ-8, 24 JZ-8F in service in 2010
- People's Liberation Army Navy Air Force: 48 J-8I/J-8F/J-8B/J-8D in service in 2010
As of early 2011, there are about 300 Chinese J-8s in service.
Specifications (F-8 IIM)
Data from 
- Crew: 1
- Length: 21.52 m (70 ft 7 in)
- Wingspan: 9.34 m (30 ft 8 in)
- Height: 5.41 m (17 ft 9 in)
- Wing area: 42.2 m² (454 ft 3 in)
- Empty weight: 9,820 kg ()
- Loaded weight: 15,288 kg (33,704 lbf)
- Max. takeoff weight: 18,879 kg (41,621 lbf)
- Powerplant: 2 × WP-13B turbojets
- Dry thrust: 47.1 kN (10,582 lbf) each
- Thrust with afterburner: 68.7 kN (15,432 lbf) each
- Never exceed speed: Mach 2.2 limited
- Maximum speed: Greater than Mach > 2.4+ (est.)
- Combat radius: with 5 min Combat : 540 nm (1,000 km) (incl 5 min combat (Air to ground) : 486 nm (900 km))
- Rate of climb: 13,440 m/min( M 0.9, alt : 1,000 m (3,280 ft) (44,094 ft/min (M 0.9, alt : 1,000 m (3,280 ft))
- Wing loading: 447.4 kg/m² (MAX T-O Weight) (91.63 lb/ft² (MAX T-O Weight))
- Thrust/weight: 0.5; 0.91 with afterburner (MAX T-O Weight)
One centerline and 6 under-wing hardpoints for fuel, bombs, rockets or missiles: 4 PL-2 or PL-7 and one 800 litre drop tank, 2 PL-2 or PL-7 and 2 x 480 litre drop tanks and one 800 litre drop tank
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