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In 1964, the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation's (SAC/Shenyang feiji zhizao gongsi/Shenfei) R&D center (the 601st institute) began a development program to design, manufacture, and test fly a new fighter. This was the F-8), whose baseline was the MIG-21. At that time, the R&D center's engineers (about 600 people) had studied and analyzed the F-7 for three years, and SAC had completed F-7 pre-production and flight testing. Because SAC lacked new fighter development experience, they planned to manufacture only two F-8 prototype aircraft -- one for flight tests and one for static tests. F-8 prototype number one's first flight was in June 1969. 

F-8 validation was completed in December 1979 -- 15 years after development began. The program continued through all of this because the government's investment in the program was high and China wanted to encourage the construction of the aeronautics industry, including the infrastructure for R&D, manufacturing, and flight testing. 

There are two variants of the basic F-8 -- a day fighter and an all-weather fighter. Some F-8s are also modified as reconnaissance aircraft. Reasons why the F-8 flight test evaluation phase lasted for a long time are listed below: 

- There was only one aircraft available for flight test for many years. 

- There were many design problems during flight tests. 

- The plan of the program changed frequently. 

- The support equipment for the aircraft had not been developed. 

- The most important influence was the Cultural Revolution. 


In 1980, the PLAAF established its modification requirements for the F-8, based on tactical and technical considerations. SAC incorporated these requirements into the F-8-2. Emphasis was put into the following three areas: 

- Change the nose intake into side inlets to allow for a larger radar antenna, resulting in an increased search and track capability 

*The written Chinese designator for the F-8 is Jian-8 or J-8. However, the spoken version is Qian-8.

 - Exchange the engine for a more powerful one 

- Upgrade the avionics (to include ECCM, a fire'control system, an automatic flight control system, etc.) to enhance combat efficiency

 - Increased maintainability

 From 1985 to May 1990, the Chinese F-8-2 development project actually consisted of two programs. One program was the integration of an American fire control system acquired through the "Peace Pearl" program. The second program involved the installation of a Chinese fire control system. Peace Pearl, which was a $502 million project funded solely by the PLAAF through a. United States foreign military sales (FMS) program, originally called for selling a fire control package to modernize 50 basic F-8-2 aircraft with a modified Westinghouse AN/APG 66 radar and fire control computer, a Litton LN-39 inertial navigation system and a head-up display. The program, which did not include any technology transfer, also included five spares.

 SAC's R&D center finished the basic F-8-2 design in 1983, and SAC finished the manufacturing preparations simultaneously. The primary structural modification took place in the front section of the fuselage. Based on SAC's experience with the F-8, they manufactured five prototype aircraft this time. 

F-8-2 prototype 0001's first flight was on 12 June 1984 (it uses bort number 840612). Design finalization flight testing was completed on 14 October 1987, and the PLAAF flew its first test flight at Yanliang in November. The F-8-2 incorporated 157 new or modified pieces of F-8 hardware/equipment to the F-8. This amounted to about one-third of all the equipment on the F-8. During the development process, 94 primary experiments were performed. 


In conjunction with various Ministry of Aero-Space Industry (MAS) research institutes, SAC has made several modifications to the basic F-8 fighter and to the F-8-2 still under development. Some of these modifications include the WP-13 engine, FDSX-02 and FDSX-03 electronic anti-skid brake system, KJ-12 autopilot, use of titanium alloy, new radome, FR225, and FDJ04A. The F-8-2 completed design finalization on 14 October 1987 and the PLAAF flew the aircraft for the first time at the Yanliang flight test center in November 1987. A January 1989 conference was held in Xian to evaluate F-8 fatigue testing, which should increase the service life of the F-8 by three times. The following paragraphs provide specific information on these topics. 

The wopen-13A11 (WP-13A11) engine completed national evaluation test flights for the design finalization at the Yanliang flight center by 24 September 1987. An F-8-2 flew over 100 sorties to test ten plus items. 

The MAS 609 institute developed the FDSX-02 and FDSX-03 electronic anti-skid brake system (dianzi fanghua shache xitong) and completed over 20 ground taxi tests in an F8 at SAC on 21 August 1987. Tests were conducted on an extremely wet and on a dry runway. During the final two tests on a dry surface without deploying the.drag chute at a speed of 287 km/hr, the braking distance was 30 percent less than with the mechanical (jixie) anti-skid brake system. The tests showed that by using the new system, the F-8 can use 9001000 meters of runway to stop without using its drag chute, or 600-700 meters with drag chute at a speed of 287 km/hr. 

SAC has incorporated into the F-8 64 secondary load bearing component frames (ci chengli goujian 64 kuang) using TC4 titanium alloy superplasticity/ diffusion bonding technology for the first time. This technology was developed by the MAS's Beijing Aeronautical Manufacturing Technology Research Institute/BAMTRI (Beijing hangkong gongyi yanjiusuo/301 suo) and supported by the 601 institute under SAC contract. Using this titanium alloy has decreased the amount of spare parts by 12 percent, reduced the structural weight by 8.8 Percent, and the patterns/molds (muju) by about 50 percent. Development of the 64 frames was completed in November 1986 and installed in an F-8 by the end of 1986. From then until 9 September 1987, the F-8 was tested at mach 2.2, At 20,000 meters, at a special large indicated air speed (teji da biaosu) of 1200 km/hr, and radar formation (leida biandui). These tests covered nine sorties and almost seven flying hours. 


The F-8-2 completed design finalization test flights on 14 October 1987. In November 1987, a PLAAF pilot from the PLAAF's test flight and training center (shifei xunlian zhongxin) at Cangzhou and a deputy regimental commander completed the first PLAAF test and verification flights for the F-8-2 at the Yanliang test flight center. They flew five sorties, covering two hours and 50 minutes, without any malfunctions. The tests included the use of KJ-12 autopilot (zidong jiashiyi) and reduced power horizontal tail (cha li pingwei). Tests were conducted at medium-low altitude for a full set of special (teji), cloud piercing (chuanyun), and instrument route flying (yibiao hangxian feixing). 

On 30 November 1987, the WP-13 passed design finalization technical evaluation at the Liyang Machinery Company. The next step was to seek approval from the State Council and Central Military Commission's Military Industry Products Finalization Commission (jungong chanpin dingxing weiyuanhui). The WP-13 began in 1978 as a joint venture between the Liyang Machinery Company and the Chengdu Engine Company. Everything was ready to begin small batch production requirements. 

On 12 December 1987, the F-8-2 radome, which was designed and produced by the MAS's Jinan Composite Material Component Factory (fuhe cailiao goujian chang), passed design finalization and achieved examination and approval. This ends China's long history of copying other countries' radomes. 

On 31 November 1987, MAS's 609 institute held a product design finalization conference for seven F-8-2 products. The Design Finalization Commission approved design finalization for four FR225 products, and reported three FDJ04 products to the Aviation Products Design Finalization Commission (hangkong chanpin sheji dingxing weiyuanhui) to approve design finalization. At that time, the 609 institute had already completed scheduling for design finalization for its full complement of 12 products. 

Between 1986 and 1987, the China Research Institute of Aero-Accessories/CRIAA (hangkong fujian yanjiusuo) in Xiangfan, Hubei province, developed 21 items for the F-8-2, F-8 all weather (quan tianhou) fighter, and SH-5, all of which passed design finalization. 

By 8 September 1988, the Beijing MRAF's factory representative office at .MAS's Qingyun Instruments Factory (Qingyun yiqi chang) developed automatic test instruments) for the KJ-12 autopilot. This test equipment then passed the PLAAF Aero-Engineering Department's technical evaluation (jishu jianding). The equipment can automatically test the KJ-12's fifteen signal channels (xinhao tongdao) and six functions (6 xiang gongneng) within 2 minutes and 50 seconds. 

MAS held an F-8 fighter full aircraft fatigue test evaluation (Jian 8 quanji pilao shiyan jianding) conference in Xian from 6-9 January 89, and over 30 people participated. MAS's 601 and 629 institutes were the primary organizations responsible for the tests. Technical preparations began in 1981, followed at various times by testing and program theoretical evaluation (shiyan fangan lunzheng), software tests (shiyan ruanjian), hardware development (yingjian de yanzhi), loading spectrum (zaihepu) evaluation, and installation debugging tests . (anzhuang tiaoshi shiyan). In October 1988, fatigue testing was completed for tripling the design life (sanbei sheji shoumingqi de pilao shiyan), and achieved the predicted results. SAC has already achieved the ability to make design and technical modifications to weak points discovered during fatigue testing, in order to increase the F-8-2 service life before production begins. 

Following the June 1989 events in Tiananmen Square, the United States suspended arms sales to China. Chinese technicians were allowed to resume work on the program a few months later. Although Beijing decided in May 1990 not to proceed beyond the development stage with the Peace Pearl program, China did continue with its domestic version. PLAAF and PLA naval aviation maintenance personnel conducted three month's training on the F-8-2 at SAC from April to June 1990. The visit of CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin to the F-8-2 production facility in late October 1990 virtually confirmed that the aircraft is destined to become part of the Navy and Air Force inventories in the near future.

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