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J-9 (Jian-9 Fighter aircraft 9)

The J-9 designation was apparently initially applied to an unbuilt single engine development of the J-8 aircraft that was cancelled in development around 1979. Nikolai Cherikov ["The Shenyang F-9 Combat Aircraft" Interavia, vol. 31, Dec. 1976, pp. 1160-1162] reported that China began the development of its own combat aircraft, designated the F-9, after the final break with the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1960s. The design of the F-9 was largely based on that of the Soviet MiG-19, which had been constructed in China under license. The F-9 was to be given an all-weather capability. Various modifications were made to improve aircraft performance and enhance its operational life. The development of the F-9 from the MiG-19 was viewed as an interim solution.

The F-9 FANTAN designation was at one time applied to the Q-5 FANTAN attack aircraft. Should the FC-1 enter PLAAF service, it might carry the J-9 designation.

The J-9, built by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, never entered production. The single engine, delta canard design was cancelled in 1980, but the aerodynamic research in the program paved the way for the J-10 and J-20. The J-9 project was transferred from Shenyang to Chengdu in 1969. The design dates from the 1970s, and it could have been an impressive aircraft, for the time, had the required technology been available. The J-9's performance requirements were focused on beating the F-4 Phantom II in combat, which had emerged as the primary American fighter aircraft in Vietnam. It was intended to carry the the PL-4, the PLAAF's version of the Sparrow, which had an SARH and IR versions. This missile was cancelled in 1985 due to technical issues. Development of the J-9 was halted in 1980 in the wake of the inability to develop the high-performance engine needed for the aircraft. The Shenyang J-8 Finback and its developments ended up filling the role intended for the J-9 design. While the J-9 remained unbuilt, it laid the ground for Chengdu's later development of the J-10 fighter, which was also a canard delta planform.

Following early aerial combat over Vietnam in 1962-63, the PLAAF recognized that the range and performance at higher altitude of the J-6 and J-7 fighters [MiG-19 and MiG-21] were inadequate to counter American fighters. In October 1964 the development of a new fighter was initiated. Concept studies were initially based on evaluation of simulated dogfights using the J-7, which had a low combat radius, poor intercept speed, inadequate fire control radar, and dated aerodynamic characteristics.

The 601 Bureau in Shenyang began work on improving the J-7, with two possible development paths pursued in parallel:

  1. The use of the J-7 as basis for an advanced twin-engined jet fighter. The general layout of the standard J-7 was to be retained without major changes. It would be powered by two improved versions of the WP-7 turbojet with thrust of 43-44 kN (4.4 klbst) each. This approach eventually led to the Shenyang J-8.
  2. The development of a new single-engined fighter using a new turbofan engine (which was to be designed by the 606 Bureau) in the thrust class of 83-121 kN (8.5-12.4 klbst) with a new air intake configured to accommodate a suitable radar. The primary challenge with the second approach was China's lack of experience with a modern turbofan engine. Consequently, many engineers associated with this approach feared the development of the engine would hold back the development of the fighter, whichw as in fact what happened.

The initial goal of this two-fold development program was a an air superiority fighter in the 10-ton weight class with an operating altitude of 22,000 meters, a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 with a range of 1.600 km, in order to keep up with the performance of the American F-4 Phantom II. These goals were later expanded to "2 x 25" - Mach 2.5 at 25.000 meters.

The 601 Institute at Shenyang submitted four drafts during 1965, each of them with a different aerodynamic layout, such as wing configurations, leading-edge angles and the arrangement of the air intakes (ventral or lateral):

  1. 50 delta wing (sweep wing)
  2. 55 delta wing (sweep wing) with tailplane
  3. 50 double delta wing
  4. 57 delta-wing

The initial concept was known as "draft A" ( J-9A) with the four different configurations. The J-9A-IV was similar in appearance to the later improved J-8B (J-8II) with a leading-edge angle of 55. Further wind-tunnel tests in the fourth quarter of 1966 and early 1967 led to the conclusion that the agility of the new fighter was deficcient, as these configurations were unstable at certain airspeeds. This led to the concept designated "draft B" (J-9B), or configuration V, with a full delta configuration J-9B-V. But this also produced problems with lift at certain airspeeds and complicated the placement of lift control devices. The J-9B-V was tailless delta, similar to the contemporary Mirage III, with a leading-edge angle of 60 and a wing surface of 62 m2.

By this time the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution impacted the program, and the development and construction of the J-9 Project was completely stopped by March 1968. After a further conference it was decided to resume work on the J-9B-V in 1969, with the goal to achieve the first flight to 20th anniversary of the People's Republic of China on 01 October 1969. Supporting that decision were conclusions drawn from the Vietnam War and combat experience in the Middle East, which placed new demands on the PLA Air Force.

In order to make it possible for Shenyang to concentrate parallel on the further development and manufacturing of the J-8 it was decided to shift responsibility for production from Plant 112 to Plant 132 Chengdu Aviation Company. The Ministry of Defense once again changed the performance requirements to: "good agility" / combat radius 900-1000 km / maximum weight 13 tons / load factor of +9 g / service ceiling of 25,000 meters and maximum speed of Mach 2.5 (the "double-25-requirement") and later to the "double-26-requirement": Mach 2.6 at 26,000 m.

This required a return to the draft J-9B-V again and development further to the draft J-9B2 or now called J-9B-VI. It was decided to continue the development of the "new" J-9 as a delta-canard with either one ventral or two lateral air intakes. Possibly this study with the single ventral air intake formed the basis of the subsequent Chengdu J-10A.

As had happened so often since the start of the program, this design was abandoned as the requirements were much too ambitious and the continuing problems with the planned WS-9 turbofan couldn't be resolved. On 18 February 1975 the "Central Military Committee" formulated a resolution for a development program consisting of a test series of 5 machines with a first flight around 1980/81, leading to the start of mass production in 1983. At the beginning 1976 the final layout of the J-9 in the version J-9B-VI was specified briefly: delta-canard-layout with a 60 leading edge sweep, 50m2 wing area, canard wings with 55 leading edge sweep and each 2,85m2 area, as well as two lateral air intakes. The inlets would be equipped with variable inlets providing a Type-910 turbofan engine with a thrust of 12.4 klbst with afterburner. One Type-205 multi-mode radar with a maximum search range of 60-70 km and a pursuit range of 45-52 km for the new PL-4 medium-range missile was intended.

In 1978 the priority of the J-9 program was scaled back once again. Some sources assume that still unresolved technical problems existed, others suggested that the parallel development of the improved J-7III (= J-7C/D) and the Shenyang J-8B promised better chances of success and earlier in service dates. The result was in any case that the development of the Chengdu J-9 finally ended at the end of 1980.

In the development of military aircraft, the choice of the engine is the key to the success of the machine. In the aviation development process around the world, too often engines clip the wings of combat aircraft. Because of the performanc of the new domestic AL-31 advanced turbofan enginee, use on the J-10 fighter, the flight performance is better than the earlier models.






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