Development of the Q-5 attack jet suffered major obstacles. The Q-5 kinetically had major problems in quality control, as the materials utilized were inappropriate for the aircraft. As a result, much of the equipment for the Q-5 could was subpar or could not be developed. A second obstacle occurred in the early 1960s when the Chinese economy took a negative turn, delaying the Q-5's development. Although the prototype program was cancelled 1961, it was kept alive by small team and resumed officially 1963. Thirdly, a loading mishap destroyed the test aircraft's airframe before it could be tested in 1963.
The last item of the static test-applying load on to a suspended full size airframe was carrying out on October 26, 1963 after 32 load cases had already been tested. When the applied load increased to 85 per cent of the ultimate load, a sudden thundering sound came out and the fuselage unexpectedly broke into fore and aft sections. The test failured. After inspection it was found that a cable of 16 mm in diameter was improperly replaced with 2 cables of 8 mm diameČter and the break of the smaller cable caused the damage of the fuselage unexpectedly. The improper replacement of the cable ruined the full size airframe static test.
Facing the two halves of the airframe all the people participating the test very sad. The on site Air Force leaders Cao Lihuai and Chang Qiankun and the president of CAE Tang Yanjie hoped that the comrades in the factory could seriously sum up their experience and draw lessons from the accident but should not be disappointed. Sun Zhiyuan, Minister of the MAI, specifically came to the factory and stood by the damaged airframe to hear 3 hours briefing by Lu Xiaopeng. At a meeting attended by all cadres of the factory on the second day Sun Zhiyuan spoke highly of the painstaking work put by the staff and workers of the factory for the Q-5 development. He announced firmly that the Q-5 aircraft would have its bright future and the development of the Q-5 should be continued. He asked all the participants of the Q-5 development program to work in a down-to-earth manner, to test carefully and put the work on to a reliable and firm base. The Minister's speech deeply moved every one attending the meeting. They were determined to retrieve the loss by their own careful work. The Air Force submitted a report to Luo Ruiqing, chief of the General Staff, showing their support to the Q-5 program and the report was approved. The Nanchang Aircraft Factory resumed the suspended full size airframe static test and the test showed that aircraft strength was in conformity with the specification.
In January 1964 the Q-5 experimental work was comprehensively restored, and it was decided to first produce two prototypes. On 30 June 1964, the air force gave the central government the report that requested continued development of the Q-5 airplanes to strengthen the air force with the ground attack capability. Only then could the Q-5 airplane development be "reactivated".
At last came the repayment for the painstaking labor. On June 4, 1965 it was drizzling when the Chinese made Q-5 aircraft piloted by Tuo Fengming lifted off the ground and flew into sky, which declared the success of its first flight. At the end of the same year the Aero Products Certification Committee affirmed the basic structure and performance of the aircraft, at the same time pointed out some shortcomings which had to be improved and awarded its preliminary certification.
After the test, additional improvements were made regarding its hydraulic components, maneuverability, control, aircraft safety, and landing system. Additional improvements were made in its weapons, such as the addition of air-to-ground rockets. Preliminary design certificate was awarded and pre-production batch authorized late 1965. Further modifications were found necessary, leading to flight test of two much modified prototypes from October 1969.
Ye Jianying, Vice Chairman of the Military Commission of CCCPC, watched the flying demonstration of the Q-5 in Beijing on March 10, 1966. He said: "This aircraft was designed by ourselves. It is a good aircraft. You have succeeded. Now the problem is how to improve it so that it can better play its role. The task of the improvement is also yours." During the later 2 years a series of improvements to the hydraulic system, wheel brake, fire control system, armament, fuel supply system, etc. were made and some new airborne equipment were incorporated by the Nanchang Aircraft Factory. Two prototype aircraft with these improvements made their first flights in October 1969.
Their flight test showed:
- The main deficiencies of the original prototype aircraft were made up and various operational performances were improved;
- The aircraft controllability and manoeuvrability were remarkably improved;
- The aircraft could fly at supersonic speed at medium altitude and at near-sonic speed at low altitude;
- The landing gear could be normally retracted and extended when the flying speed was less than 500 km / h;
- The landing run distance was reduced from 1,312 m to 1,000 m.
- The aircraft pitch down phenomenon occured when the air brakes were extended at high flying speed was eliminated; and
- The reliability of the emergent control was improved.
In November 1968 the Q-5 was officially approved for production. The Sino-Soviet hostility was a big reason for the Q-5 to enter service. At that time the Soviet Union had deployed troops in the Sino-Soviet frontier, and the Chinese army had an urgent need for a massive buildup to cope with the formidable Soviet tank formations. Series production was approved by the Chinese government at the end of 1969, with deliveries beginning 1970.
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