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J-8 (Jian-8 Fighter aircraft 8) Development

The Shenyang Aircraft Factory began their preparation of the J-8 prototype production in the second half of the year 1965. Under the leadership of Gao Fangqi, first vice director and chief engineer, Luo Shida, vice chief technologist, presided over the formulation of a general technological production scheme for the J-8, which had made use of the Soviet and English advanced experience. This scheme used a new technological coordinating method in which the lofting on a transparent plastic sheet was used as a base in combination with the optical instruments, assembly jigs, line drawing and hole drilling stands, partial gauges and partial male molds. In later practice the assembly of 114,000 and more parts, 1,200 and more standard parts and 100 and more sub-assemblies, the mating of the fore and aft fuselages and of fuselage and wing and the installment of engines and fuel tanks succeeded almost all in their first times. This new method significantly reduced tooling and sped up the prototype production of the J-8.

While the development of the J-8 was going on smoothly Gao Fangqi died of illness. Then Liu Hongzhi, director of the Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute, was appointed first vice director and chief engineer of the Shenyang Aircraft Factory in charge of the on-site-design and prototype production of the J-8.

After Liu Hongzhi was forced to stop his work in November,1966 because of the unfair treatment he received during the "Great Cultural Revolution" , a J-8 Development Command headed by Wang Xin, vice director of the factory, was jointly established by. the factory and the institute. Afterwards, the people of the factory and the people of the institute cooperated well in a harmonic work atmosphere.

In 1967 under the impact of the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution", especially its "January Windstorm", violence and the "Seizure of Power", the production process in the factory was severely disturbed and manufacturing work on the production lines almost stopped. But most engineers and workers still went to work at the risk of their lives. The development of the J-8 was carried on even in July and August, the months when the severest violence took place.

The final assembly of first two J-8s were completed in July 1968. The J-8 flew for the first time on July 5, 1969. At half past nine o'clock in the morning Cao Lihuai, on site' chief director for the flight test and the vice commander of the Air Force, gave the clearance for flight. The pilot Yin Yuhuan flew the J-8 and passed over the airfield twice. As soon as he made a safe landing the people in the field broke into deafening cheers. They hailed the success of the first flight of the first high altitude and high speed fighter designed and produced in China.

From the conceptual definition through its first flight, the stages of general layout, technical design, mockup review, prototype production and static test were experienced and a total of four years and ten months were spent. This speed of development was comparatively high. The follows were considered to be the reasons of the speed:

  • The J-8 development program was launched on a solid technical basis and its moderate operational requirement was in conformity with the actual situation in China. The J-8 design was based on the three years study of the MiG-21 design and on the investigation of foreign aircraft technologies. The selected design configuration for the J-8 was not only advanced but also similar to the previous MiG aircraft which had been put into production in China. In addition it was basically suited to the industry and technology conditions in China.
  • Right technical decisions were made. The detailed feasibility study had always been completed before any technical decisions were made. This was true especially to the selections of the engine, the intake configuration and the ejection escape system. The selected engine WP7A was derived from the WP7 but incorporated with a high temperature turbine. Its first batch were successfully produced as early as in 1968 due to the joint efforts of the MAI, the China Academy of Science and the Ministry of Metallurgical Industry. The success with the engine ensured the successful first flight of the J-8.
  • Every positive factor and the wisdom of the masses were brought into full play. During the process of prototype production two three-in-one combinations, i.e. the combination of the R&D teams, manufacturers and operators and the combination of leading cadres, workers and engineers, were put into practice. All the people worked in full cooperation and with unity of purpose, so that various technical problems in the development of the J-8 were solved rapidly and satisfactorily.
  • Powerful leadership was exercised. The MAI asked all its people to give green lights to the J-8 development program. All Ministries and provinces in China worked in full cooperation. The relevant departments established a Flight Test Leading Group, the MAI and the CAE set up a Joint Flight Test Command and the Shenyang Aircraft Factory and the Shenyang Aircraft Design Institute set up an On-Site Flight Test Directing Office. They worked on site and helped to solve 23 key technical problems which otherwise would adversely affect the first flight of the J-8. Cao Lihuai played an important role at the critical moment when he was responsible for the flight test of the J-8.

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