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Chengdu J-7 / F-7 Interceptor / Strike Fighter (1980)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 5/11/2013

The widely-exported Chengdu J-7 was nothing more than a Chinese license-production
copy of the Soviet-era Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbed.


After World War 2 (1939-1945), China and the Soviet Union were cooperating political
powers. This naturally led to China being the recipient of modern technology
developed by Soviet engineers. Ultimately, adoption of Soviet aircraft, tanks and small
arms occurred and this allowed the Chinese to field Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 "Fagot"
jet-powered fighters in the Korean War. In 1955, the Soviet government granted China
license production of the MiG-17 jet fighter and these were produced locally in the
hundreds. The intimate experience in producing advanced jet aircraft ultimately
allowed a burgeoning Chinese aero industry to develop centering on ordnance,
airframes and powerplants. Reverse engineering of military weapons would prove a
certain Chinese-held talent over the decades - a trait that continues even today.
Wholly-indigenous two-seat trainers were eventually designed, developed and
produced, all in-house. License production of the MiG-19 then followed into the 1960s
though this period was soon hampered by the Sino-Soviet Split of 1960-1989 which
saw a deterioration of the political and military partnership.
Despite the differences, relations seemingly thawed some during that span, enough to
open the door for the Soviet Union to introduce the Chinese to their new MiG-21
"Fishbed" interceptor. License production was granted in 1962 and the local concern
of Shenyang was charged with copying the MiG-21F-13 "Fishbed-C" and its
RD-11F-300 series engine. The Soviets assisted through personnel, aeronautical
agencies and kits, the latter intended for local Chinese assembly. Under the Chinese
initiative, the MiG-21F was bestowed the designation of "J-7" and its foreign export
counterpart would become the "F-7". The corresponding engine copy was the
localized "WP-7" offering. Initial engine trials occurred in October of 1965 and the

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prototype was finalized in November of that year. First flight of a Chinese F-7 was on
January 17th, 1966. The type proved a serviceable copy and serial production was
ordered though slow, beginning in June of 1967. Production, hampered by the arrival
of the "Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976), was then allocated to Chengdu facilities. The
Revolution undoubtedly hurt the J-7 in the early going as disruptions delayed full
operational status of the system until the early 1980s. From there, many kinks were
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apparent as the Chinese product proved subpar when compared to its Soviet version.
Issues were not resolved until 1985.
At its core, the F-7 can be considered a fair copy of the excellent and widely popular

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1960s-era MiG-21. The fuselage is of a largely tubular design with low-set delta-

This post-World War 2 SPAAG system did not

shaped main wings and well-swept tail planes. The aircraft relies on a single vertical

last long in Soviet service - the ZSU-37

tail fin. The cockpit is set well-forward in the design with a lightly framed canopy. There
is no traditional nosecone as the nose is left open to aspirate the single engine fitting.

The German Messerschmitt P.1106 became a

lost evolution of the P.1101 project during WW2

The undercarriage is wholly retractable and consists of two single-wheeled main legs
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Chinese production allowed Chengdu to sell their aircraft version to budget conscious
shoppers worldwide and many parties took the Chinese up on their offers. The type

A rare Boeing World War 2 fighter became the

proved exceedingly popular with elements in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia

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where a capable interceptor with added strike capabilities could finally be had at cost.

The German battlecruiser SMS Moltke survived

Further developments in the J-7 lines added to the type's effectiveness though it was

all of WW1 only to be scuttled by her crew

nearly always a decade or so behind the Western competition.

Initial production batch models were known simply as J-7 (export models were the
F-7) and appeared from Shengyang in 1966 through a 12-strong commitment. These
versions fielded only one 30mm NR-30 cannon and two underwing hardpoints allowed
for air-to-air ordnance to be fitted as normal. The J-7I was an improved J-7 now
handled by Chendgu and revealed in the 1970s. A variable intake was installed over
the fixed type of the original and 2 x 30mm guns completed the standard armament
installation. This then led to the improved J-7I("modified") with improved hydraulics (a
definitive problem area of earlier mounts). From there, the J-7 emerged in a plethora
of workable fighter, interception and strike mounts and these proved ever popular in
far-off places of the world. Albania and Tanzania became some of the first F-7
operators receiving their export-minded F-7A variants. Pakistan became a large
supporter of the F-7 line and a principle, recurring Chinese customer in other areas as
well. Egypt operated the F-7 in number as did North Korea and Bangladesh. Iraq
became a former operator after the US-led invasion in 2003, eighty of the type being
retired permanently. The improved J-7II was worked on beginning in 1975 and
featured a more maintenance-efficient, powerful engine. These saw service with both
Egypt and Iraq (as the F-7B) beginning in the 1980s.
The F-7M "Airguard" variant was an improved J-7II model intended for export sale and
fitted with Western-centric avionics for broader mass market appeal. Extra hardpoints
were added as were internal British and American systems. A more powerful engine
worked in concert with a new cranked delta wing design for improved performance
and handling. The J-III followed and this was largely based on the MiG-21MF, believed
by way of Egypt, and reverse-engineered by Chinese engineers for reproduction and
eventual resale. These new mounts offered an all-weather attack radar with in a new
radome assembly, a capability lacking in many earlier models. The local concern of

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Guizhou managed production of twin-seat trainer variants in the JJ-7 and FT-7 and
Other J-7/F-8 models exist (see variants listing below for a complete list). Many offer
only subtle changes to design (HUD support, in-cockpit MFD, HOTAS, etc...) and
functionality while others were heavy revisions or complete rewrites that never came
to pass. At any rate, the F-7 has more or less seen its best days behind it and, for all
intents and purposes, is an outclassed fighter mount by modern standards. However,
it has proven relatively inexpensive to procure in number and allowed many-a-nation
to provide its air services with a capable reach, particularly when a 1960's era fighter
was enough to subdue a weaker neighbor.
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Specifications for the

Chengdu J-7 / F-7

Interceptor / Strike Fighter
Focus Model: Chengdu J-7 / F-7
Country of Origin: China
Manufacturer: Shengyang / Chengdu - China
Initial Year of Service: 1980
Production: 2,450
Crew: 1
Length: 48.82ft (14.88m)
Width: 27.30ft (8.32m)

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Height: 13.48ft (4.11m)

Weight (Empty): 11,684lbs (5,300kg)
Weight (MTOW): 20,062lbs (9,100kg)
Powerplant: 1 x Liyang WP-13F turbojet engine with afterburner developing
14,550lbs of thrust.
Maximum Speed: 1,367mph (2,200kmh; 1,188kts)
Maximum Range: 1,367miles (2,200km)
Service Ceiling: 57,415ft (17,500m; 10.9miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 38,400 feet per minute (11,704m/min)
Hardpoints: 4
Armament Suite:
1 OR 2 x 30mm Type 30-1 internal cannons (depending on produciton model).
Air-to-air and air-to-surface external ordnance across two or four underwing
hardpoints. Munitions include air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground rocket pods and
conventional drop bombs.
J-7 - Base Series Designation; original production versions; 12 examples completed
by Shengyang; 1 x 30mm cannon.
J-7I - Improved J-7; production by Chengdu; 2 x 30mm cannons; 2 x underwing
J-7I (Modified) - Improved hydraulics system
J-7II - Improved J-7I model; 2 x 30mm cannons; WP-7B engine.
J-7IIA - Improved J-7II; outfitted with Western-centric avionics suite; HUD.
J-7IIM - Modernization to F-7M standard
J-7IIH - Improved J-7II; improved strike capability; MFD; support for PL-8 AA missile.
J-7IIK - Modernization to J-7MP standard
J-7III - MiG-21MF copy; JL-7 fire control radar; modern avionics; WP-13 engine.
J-7B - Revised canopy
J-7BS - 4 x underwing hardpoints
J-7E - Improved J-7II of late 1980s; double-delta wing assemblies; WF-13F engine;
Super Skyranger radar facility; HOTAS.
J-7EB - Acrobatic Mount for public displays
J-7EH - Maritime patrol variant with support for anti-ship ordnance.
J-7FS - Technology Demonstrator
J-7G - Improved J-7E; new KLJ-6E PD radar facility; improved engine performance;
helmet-mounted sights; 1 x 30mm cannon.
J-7G2 - Improved J-7G with advanced radar facility.
J-7GB - Acrobatic mount for public display
J-7M - Technology Demonstrator
J-7MF - Proposed modernized J-7FS; underfuselage intake; positional wing canards.
J-7MG - Proposed export model to Western-aligned customers; outfitted with Super
Skyranger adar; Martin-Baker ejection seat.

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J-7MP - Upgraded J-7MG models; AIM-9 Siewinder capability.

J-7PG - Outfitted with Italian radar facility
JJ-7 - Twin-seat trainer mount by Guizhou
JJ-7I - MiG-21US twin-seat trainer
JJ-7II - JJ-7I outfitted with Rockwell Collins avionics suite.
JL-9 (FTC-2000) - Modern twin-seat trainer based on JJ-7 by GAIC.
JZ-7 - J-7 reconnaissance mount
J-7 (Drone) - J-7I-based unmanned drones
F-7II - AExport J-7IIA
F-7IIN - Zimbabwe F-7M models
F-7III - Export J-7III
J-7IIIA - Improved F-7III for export
F-7A - Albania and Tanzania export models
F-7B - J-7II export model
F-7BG - Bangladesh export model
F-7BG1 - Upgraded Bangladesh export model
F-7BS - J-7BS export model
F-7D - J-7IIIA export model
F-7M "Airguard" - Improved J-7II for export; Western equipment and avionics.
F-7MB - Bangldesh export model
F-7MF - Proposed J-7MF export model with Italian radar.
F-7MG - J-7MG export model
F-7MP - J-7MP export model
F-7N - Iranian F-7MP export model
F-7P - Modernized Pakistani Air Force export model
F-7PG - Pakistani Air Force export model
F-7W - J-7 export model with HUD
FT-7 - JJ-7 export model
FT-7A - MiG-21U export conversion package
FT-7B - JJ-7II export trainer model
FT-7M - F-7M trainer for export
FT-7P - F-7MP/F-7P trainer for export
FT-7PG - FT-7 trainer for export
F-7S "Saber II" - Proposed Grumman revision of F-7M for Pakistani Air Force;
F-7 "Super-7" - British-originated upgrade program.
Albania; Bangladesh; China; Egypt; Iran; Iraq; Mozambique; Myanmar; Namibia;
Nigeria; North Korea; Pakistan; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Tanzania; Yemen; Zimbabwe

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