Said to be the lightest supersonic fighter in the world, the J-12 (Jianjiji-12) designation was initially applied to a lightweight STOL fighter aircraft built at NAMC (Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Company). The J-12 fighter was the first jet fighter designed and produced by Chinese technology all by itself. It was said to be the first fighter of China to actually fly that did not follow a design of USSR, which was the initial basis of earlier Chinese jet fighter developing projects. The J-12 light aircraft depended on China's technical force to carry on the complete design and the manufacture of a jet fighter aircraft. It got rid of the former Soviet Union series airplane's design patterns, maintained independence and kept the initiative for China to lay a good foundation to develop fighter aircraft. But because J-12 had a series of fatal weakness, it never entered service.
The convening of the enlarged Political Bureau meeting of the Central Committee of the Party in May 1966 and the 11th Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee in August 1966 marked the launching of the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" on a full scale. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution placed China's Air Force under the influence of political thinking. In April 1967, after the Cultural Revolution had been underway for nearly a year, the PLA Air Force started the "Small Fighter" project, which was greatly effected by the political thoughts and leader's preaching. The project emphasized that the new fighter should be smaller, lighter and more agile. According to the spirit of that time the development of "airborne guerrilla warfare" was the center of the design concept. This was based on the theory of "Air bushfighting" and required an agile, short distance takeoff and landing, easy maintenance and low cost small fighter. Following the June 1967 Six-Day War in the Mid-East, in which Soviet-designed aircraft showed poorly, the PLAAF sought a replacement for the J-6 (MiG-19 Farmer). Improvements were sought in low altitude performance, short takeoff and landing run and simplicity.
The Shenyang Aircraft Factory proposed the J-11. In 1969 Nanchang Airplane Company took the job, and denominated it "J-12" the next year in 1970. Nanchang interpreted the PLAAF requirement as an ultra-lightweight fighter, and responded with a four-ton design with a nose intake for its single WP-6 afterburning turbojet. Resembling something of a scaled down cross between a MiG-19 and a MiG-21 [other sources say it resembled a scaled-up MiG-15/17, but pictures deny this claim] it was in competition with the J-7 and J-8, though with a less robust weapon system.
The J-12 project only took 17 months for detailed design, wind tunnel tests and the production of three prototypes. A team under the leadership of renowned aviation designer Lu Xiao-Peng initiated design of a lightweight single-seat air superiority fighter at NAMC powered by a single WP-6 (Chinese-built Tumansky RD-9BF-811) with a maximum rating of 3454kg. The first of three prototypes flew on 26 December 1970 [other sources reportly 26 December 1969 less plausibly].
The takeoff weight of the J-12 is 4,450 kg, and the fuselage weight was just 3,100kg, are both the record lightest of jet fighters in the world. Due to the body is so small, the thrust of the engine is quite large, and so the agility also was relatively good. But the weight and size are just the death-wounds of the J-12, too. There was limited space of weapons, which included one 23mm gun and one 30mm gun, both of which were internal. And it could carry two infrared-guided air-to-air short range missles. This might be the weakest scheme of jet fighters. Because of the limited weight and air intake design, the avionic electronic suites were cut down. There was no radar in the plane, which damaged the effectiveness of the fighter. Another problem is that there was not enough space for fuel so that J-12`s range was very poor. These all caused the death of the J-12.
Though J-12 has all these problems, considering the situation and the technology at that time, Nanchang Airplane Company used many new technique and made some great achievement in certain areas of the fighter. This is the good side of the J-12 project. Equiped with the turbojet 6 Type B jet engines, thrust augmentation thrust force 39.72 kilo Newton (4,050 kiloponds), the entire machine thrust ratio may reach 0.91. The J-12 high performance was mainly based on the great thrust ratio obtained depending on the structural weight. The J-12 maximum level speed at 11,000 meters altitudes was over Mach 1.5, surpassing the J-6. The service ceiling was 17,410 meters. The J-12 upper air cruising speed was Mach 0.95, although it could not do supersonic cruise, it can approach the speed of sound in cruise.
Participating test flight's pilots declared their approval of its nimble characteristic. Its splendid evasion ability made the profound impression on people. Because it was dexterous, the J-12 fighter aircraft was outstanding in certain performance metrics. For example, the sea-level altitude maximum climb rate was 180 meters/seconds.
But at the same time as the initial test flight of the J-12, the American F-14 fighter aircraft target was 200 meters/second in the same year. The F-5E, which aimed at the Mig-21, was designed for 160 meters/second specially. The J-12 at 5,000 meter altitude had the smallest turn circle radii of 1,140 meters. But the low-altitude maneuver performanceof the J-6 was 1,200 meters; The US improved the turning performance F-5E to 1,080 meters, and for this reason installed the new trailing edge flap system before this machine wing. The J-12 at 5,000 meters altitudes could accelerates from the Mach 0.9 to Mach 1.2 is 65 seconds. But the J-6 needed 85 seconds; US's F-5A is 140 seconds. The J-12 performance levels were quite advanced.
The-12 ground maneuver performance featured short takeoff and landing capabilities. Its takeoff run distance was 500 meters, the landing run distance was 510 meters. A subsonic speed fighter aircraft comparable to the J-12, the J-5 had a takeoff run distance of 590 meters, and a landing run distance of 825 meters. The J-12 could achieve shorter rolling distances than the J-5, and had anti-dust device to enable take off and landing on a short dirt strip.
In September 1973 Nanchang Airplane Company made the performance report to the central leadership. At that time the J-12 made a great air show for the leaders of the PLA. Marshal Ye Jianying called the J-12 "Air Li Xiangyang" after the show [Li Xiangyang was a famous guerilla captain in a Chinese movie]. The Marshal hoped that J-12 would be to heroism as was Li Xiangyang, and the J-12 did so in the maneuverability area. The pilots of the J-12 all admired this.
After three years of test flights beginning in 1970, Nanchang made a series of revisions to the design to cope with problems including poor engine performance. Indifferent results achieved during flight testing led to the J-12 being subjected to considerable redesign. The structure was simplified and lightened, area ruling was applied to the fuselage, the air intake was redesigned, the gun armament was moved aft and simple split flaps supplanted an arrangement of slats and triple-slotted flaps.
This extensively revised J-12 prototype flew in July 1975, achieving a maximum speed of Mach 1.386 (surpassing the J-6) and showing sprightly acceleration, a takeoff run of less than 500 metres and a ceiling of 17,300 metres (also superior to the J-6). Six pre-production aircraft were built, carrying an armament of one 23mm and one 30mm cannon and had provision for up to 3 AAMs. A total of 61 hrs 12 min of flight testing were accumulated in 135 test flights by January 1977.
In 1975, when Comrade Zhou Enlai was seriously ill, Comrade Deng Xiaoping, with the support of Comrade Mao Zedong, took charge of the day-to-day work of the Central Committee. He convened an enlarged meeting of the Military Commission of the Central Committee and several other important meetings with a view to solving problems in industry, agriculture, transport and science and technology, and began to straighten out work in many fields so that the situation took an obvious turn. As soon as Comrade Mao Zedong passed away in September 1976, the counter-revolutionary Jiang Qing clique stepped up its plot to seize supreme Party and state leadership. Early in October of the same year, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, executing the will of the Party and the people, resolutely smashed the clique and brought the catastrophic "cultural revolution" to an end.
In 1978 the PLAAF decided the J-12 was not suitable for the demands of modern air warfare and stopped development. Further development was discontinued owing to the superior characteristics of the MiG-21F-13, licence-built as the J-7, which was already with the People's Republic of China Air Force.
In the early 1980s, the army proposed to the naval air force the J-12 actings as "the island carrier vehicle", using this model's characteristic "short" take-off distance. After making some compatible modifications, it could be puts at the national defense border area islands, undertakings air defense for the nation which the mainland based fighter plane had insufficient rangee to take on. To the early 1990s, the domestic proof development carrier-borne aircraft, in view of J-12 airplanes lightly small, the short distance taking off and landing characteristic, the army always the recommend strongly the J-12 as the carrier-borne aircraft.
There are two different design of the J-12, one contains a cone shaped centerbody in the air intake, with the pitot speed pipe at the bottom of the edge of air intake. Another design has no centerbody and the pitot pipe is on the top of the air intake. Of the six prototypes produced two are retained in the Chinese Aviation Museum collection. The symbol of China Aviation Museum, one J-12 welcomes visitors at the PLAAF Museum at Datangshan. The second prototype of the J-12 on display in the tunnel at the China Aviation Museum.
Shenyang J-12 Stealth Fighter
After entering the "95" plan, there appeared overseas aircraft like the F-22, JSF and other advanced fighter aircraft. Lu Zongshi [NFI] proposed taking the F-22 as the operational goal for new air superiority fighter plane research. The designation J-12 was given to the airplane's essential features: improvement in body structure, vectored thrust, phased-array radar, air refueling installment, double redundancy fire control computers, the 1553B main bus, stealth material and the coating, medium-range active radar guided missile and so on. This heavy fourth generation machine tentative plan was based on too many immature technologies - for example, long range phased-array radar - that Russia was unable to achieve.
In 1998 the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) reported that an advanced F-22-class twin-engine stealth fighter designated as J-12 was under development at Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC). In 2002, Jane's Defence Weekly reported that Shenyang Aircraft Corporation had been selected to head research and development of a new fighter. In 2003 an online photo showed a wind tunnel test fighter mockup some claimed as linked to the J-12 project. Reports suggested that the fighter would be fitted with an internal weapon bay and possibly active phased array radar.
Besides carrying on with the improvement of the J-8 series and the licensed production of the Su-27, the Shenyang Aircraft Company (SAC) 601 Institute was reported to be engaged in preliminary research for the "No. 12" project for the development of the Chinese Air Force's main fighter aircraft for the 21st century. Also known as the "XXJ," this fifth generation PLAAF fighter, was projected in 2003 to enter service in the 2013-2015 timeframe. The aircraft is projected to have a crew of two, is anticipated to be in same class as US F-22 fighter, probably based on significant Russian technical assistance.
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