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From MiG-21 to J-7

The design of the MiG-21 started in the Soviet Union in 1953. It flew for the first time in 1955 and delivery to the military services began in 1958. This high altitude, high speed fighter came in more than 20 versions and in development, performance, quality, emergency escape systems, armaments, avionics and engine,etc. were greatly improved. Production in the Soviet Union lasted 25 years.

According to a license agreement signed in 1961 between the Chinese and the Soviet governments, the Soviet Union transferred to China the licence to produce the MiG-21F-13 fighter and its engine, and supply a complete set of technical data for production, complete aircraft and engine kits, some vendor-furnished-equipment and raw materials not available in China.

The Sino-Soviet split abruptly ended early Chinese participation in the MiG-21 development program, and from 28 July 1960 to 01 September 1960, the Soviets withdrew advisers from China, resulting in the project to stop in China. However, During the first phase of the crisis, the Soviet Union reversed some of its earlier positions in favor of China. Nikita Khrushchev wrote to Mao Zedong in February 1962 that Soviet Union was ready to transfer the MiG-21 technology to China. He asked the Chinese to send representatives to the Soviet Union to discuss the details. The Chinese viewed this as a Soviet gesture to make peace, and were obviously suspicious, but they were extremely eager to take up the Soviet offer for the aircraft. A delegation headed by Colonel General Liu Yalou, the commander-in-chief of PLAAF and a Soviet military academy graduate, was dispatched to Moscow immediately. The Chinese delegation was even allowed to have three days to visit the production facility of MiG-21, which was previously off limit to foreigners. The authorization was personally given by Nikita Khrushchev himself, and on 30 March 1962, the deal was signed.

However, given the political situation and relationship between the two countries, the Chinese were not optimistic about gaining the technology and thus were prepared for reverse engineering. Russian sources state that complet MiG-21s were sent to China, flown by Soviet pilots, and that China received MiG-21Fs in kits along with parts and technical documents. But as the Chinese had expected, when the Soviet delivered the kits, parts and documents to the Shenyang Aircraft Factory five months after the deal was signed, the technical documents provided by Soviets were discovered to be incomplete and some of parts could not be used.

The Defense Industry Office of the State Council made a quick decision and instructed the newly established CAE and its Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute to carry out a "thorough technical study" of the MiG-21. The prototype production of the J-7, the Chinese version of the MiG-21, started in the Shenyang Aircraft Factory in early 1964. The static test was completed in November, 1965. The result of the flight test conformed to the design requirement.

The aircraft designers were organized to systematically study the Soviet MiG-21 fighter. In May 1962 an instruction to arrange the study of the MiG-21 was jointly issued by CAE and MAI. Tang Yanjie, President of CAE, went to the Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute a couple of times to explain the far-reaching significance and to mobilize the technical and design personnel to work on a solid technical basis and to lay a solid foundation for the development of advanced fighters.

The first step of studying the MiG-21 was to find out key issues in the manufacturing techniques including its key technical problems and the key materials used. The second step was to understand its design philosophy, design methods and technical features through the license production and some necessary tests. The design team personnel were requested to know not only "what" but also "why".

During the study of the MiG-21 the Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute performed 39 tasks, e.g. verification of the Aircraft Stress Analysis, the Stress Analysis of the Nose Cone, the Wing Stress and Rigidity Analysis, the Aircraft Combat Performance Analysis and the verification of the Aerodynamic Characteristics, 3,300 runs in 27 subjects of the high speed and low speed wind tunnel tests and 64 kinds of test including intake test, aircraft resonance test, ground ejection test of the ejection seat and flight test. By these analyses and tests the design data were supplemented and verified, the Soviet design method was studied and mastered and the experience was accumulated.

The other way which was used to temper the design team and to improve its quality was to investigate and analyze the western aircraft so that the design art other than the Soviet's could be learned. A total of 5 fighters and high altitude reconnaissance aircraft were systematically analyzed and studied by the Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute. In the end some papers on the technology of these aircraft which could be used as a reference were prepared and partial drawings were drawn.

The later practice proved that the decision about the investigation to the MiG-21 in the 3 years period was right. It gave designers a chance to study and to practice. It gave the manufacture people a chance to familiarize and to master the manufacturing techniques for the prototype production. "Sharpening an axe would not delay the firewood cutting". The investigation to the MiG-21 naturally made a preparation for the later development of fighters.




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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:44:40 ZULU