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JH-7 [Jianhong Fighter-Bomber] [FB-7] / FBC-1

As the first fighter-type bomber of the Chinese Air Force and Navy, the JH-7 series bomber has been in service for decades. This bomber is a fighter-bomber jointly developed by China Xifei Industrial Group and 603 Research Institute in the 1970s. According to relevant information, this bomber began its research and development in 1973 and was first publicly displayed at the Zhuhai Air Show in 1998.

The JH-7 Fighter-Bomber, Chinese nickname Feibao, has a foreign trade model of FBC-1, and the NATO codename of Flounder. Designed in the 1980s, it was the first twin-engine, two-seat, supersonic, all-weather sniper bomber [the Chinese term that is the counterpart of the Western fighter-bomber] designed and developed in China. It was designed and developed by China Aviation Industry Xi'an Aircraft Industry (Group) Co., Ltd. (code: 172 Factory) in cooperation with Aviation 603 Research Institute. It is mainly used for deep attack and ground target attacks. It can be used for supersonic flight.

The NATO codename of Flounder is a fish that live on the bottom of the ocean. When a flounder is first born, it looks like a normal fish with one eye on each side of its head. As it grows up, one eye gradually moves over its head to the other side. That way when the flounder is lying on the bottom, it can see with both eyes. The bottom side of the flounder is white while the topside is dark. This is a special adaptation called counter shading. It makes it harder for predators (animals that eat other animals) to see the flounder when it is swimming. Flounder can also change color to match the background. This is called camouflage. Flounder have tiny sacks of pigments (colors) in their skin. These sacks are called chromatophores. Making the sacks smaller and larger allows the flounder to change color. To flounder is to wobble around like a fish out of water, to move awkwardly or to be in an awkward or difficult situation.

The development of the plane began as early as 1974 after a battle against Vietnam in the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The incident prompted Beijing to decide to develop a supersonic all-weather aircraft that could be used by both the navy and air force. Development was slow, however, since a suitable engine for the aircraft could not be found and other countries were unwilling to sell advanced engines to the country.

The JH-7 began research and development in 1973, and the first test flight was successful in 1988. At the 1998 China International Aerospace Exhibition (Zhuhai Air Show), the aircraft made its debut publicly. The aircraft was then mainly equipped with Chinese naval aviation. Based on the JH-7, the JH-7A has slightly improved the aerodynamic shape. With new materials and equipped with new radar and avionics systems, the combat effectiveness has been greatly improved. The JH-7A is deployed with naval aviation and air force aviation.

The JH-7 “Flying Leopard” was developed during the most intensive development of military-technical cooperation with the West. In appearance, layout and armament base version of the aircraft is similar to the Anglo-French SEPECAT Jaguar. The first test model of the plane flew in December 1988. . On the approach, with gear down, the JH-7A has an unmistakable resemblance to an Anglo-French two-seat SEPECAT Jaguar strike fighter, the resemblance not being so strong from other angles. The Jaguar was obviously seen as a model of the sort of aircraft the Chinese wanted to build, though it would be absurd to call the Flying Leopard a "copy" of the Jaguar in any significant way. It could be thought of as a "Jaguar on steroids", the JH-7A having an empty weight about twice that of the Jaguar.

Xian Aircraft Industry Company [XAIC], based in Shaanxi Province, produced the JH-7 Jianhong-7 [Jian=fighter hong=bomber] Flying Panther supersonic fighter-bombers for the Chinese Navy at the modest rate of two aircraft per month. Due to its unreliable engines, the JH-7 was rejected by the PLAAF in favor of Su-27SK. It was first revealed publicly September 1988 as model at Farnborough International air show, with the first of two prototypes having been rolled out during previous month. The first flight came in late 1988 or early 1989.

Service entry was originally scheduled for 1992-93, but introduction in significant numbers seems to have been delayed. Having nonetheless entered the Chinese Navy's air arm inventory in the early 1990s, according to some reports as few as a dozen [and probably no more than two dozen] pre-production JH-7s are in service with PLA Naval Aviation, with additional JH-7 production awaiting the availability of a suitable Chinese engine.

This twin-engine, two-seat, swept-back high mounted wing supersonic fighter-bomber has a configuration similar to the British "Tornado" attack plane. The plane is designed to have the same role and configuration class as the Russian Sukhoi Su-24 'Fencer'. It has high mounted wings with compound sweepback, dog tooth leading edges and marked anhedral; twin turbofans, with lateral air intakes; all swept tail surface, comprising large main fin, single small ventral fin and low set all moving tailplane; small overwing fence at approximately two third span. Quarterchord sweep angles approximately 45 degrees on wings and fins, 55 degrees on tailplane. Armament including twin-barrel 23mm gun in nose; two stores pylons under each wing, plus rail for close-range air-to-air missile at each wingtip. Typical underwing load for maritime attack includes two C-801 sea-skimming anti-ship missiles and two drop tanks.

The JH-7 is mainly used for anti-ship and long-range strikes against the ground. However, what is unexpected is that with the rapid increase in the training intensity of the Chinese navy and air force in the new century, in actual low-altitude, ultra-low-altitude raid drill, the wear on this machine increased.

After abandoning the JH-7, the Chinese Air Force decided to import Su-30MKK multi-role fighters from Russia in the mid-1990s to fill the gap in modern ground precision strike capabilities. By the beginning of the 21st century, it had received nearly 40 The Navy also introduced 24 Su-30MK2s, but they are more in charge of air defense operations than sea attacks.

This type of fighter jet far exceeds the single-function JH-7 in terms of platform performance and combat capability. Although the Chinese Navy recognizes the performance of the JH-7, it is impossible for XAC to rely solely on the needs of the navy to ensure the continued development of the JH-7, because the navy has a limited number of equipment. Moreover, fighter-bombers such as the JH-7 basically stopped developing internationally in the mid-1980s, and were replaced by multi-role fighters with better performance and greater combat capabilities.

However, for the Chinese Air Force and naval aviation forces, there is still a large market for this type of aircraft that emphasizes ground (sea) attack capabilities. From the perspective of the operational needs of the navy and air force after the transformation, it will require at least 500 aircraft. Relying on the introduction of Su-30MKK/MK2 is obviously difficult to meet such a huge demand.

Of the 270 JH-7s built, approximately 215 to 240 JH-7s were still in service as of 2-21 and were evenly distributed to the Navy and Air Force. These fighters often fly abroad to conduct joint exercises with Russia. Since 1991, 12 JH-7s have been lost in accidents, including one crashing into a fireball at the Shanghai Air Show in 2011, and two in 2019. On March 12, one JH-7A accident occurred during a low-altitude training flight over Hainan Island. According to reports, Lieutenant Colonel Ren Yangtao delayed the ejection in order to avoid crashing into densely populated residential areas. He and a passenger in the back seat were killed when the plane hit the water tower. On 18 May 2021, the second JH-7A crashed in Shandong Province, but this time both crew members were ejected safely.

Fighter bombers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy Aviation Forces held training exercises to practice setting up maritime blockades by airdropping sea mines, a tactic that can effectively deter and slow hostile warships, analysts said on 12 July 2021. The Navy Aviation Forces of the PLA Northern Theater Command organized a series of exercises above an undisclosed sea area in the Bohai Sea featuring JH-7 fighter bombers, China Central Television (CCTV) reported. In the drills, several JH-7 fighter bombers flew and maneuvered at a sea-skimming altitude to avoid detection by radars, penetrated hostile air defenses and dropped sea mines in the designated areas, before their returning to base for resupply of munitions and fuel, the report said.

Laying sea mines with fighter bombers is a very effective and efficient way to form a blockade that covers a large maritime area, which will deter or at least slow hostile warships in this particular direction. It takes much longer for the enemy to sweep the mines than for the warplanes to lay them by airdropping. This tactic would come in handy in a possible scenario where foreign forces intervene in the Taiwan question. By temporarily blocking the reinforcing warships from countries like the US, using rapidly deployed sea mines far from the main battlefield, the PLA will gain vital opportunities and time to land amphibious assault troops on the island.

Although the "Flying Leopard" looks a bit outdated compared with China's Su-30MKK "Flanker-G" (Flanker-G) maritime strike fighter and other modern attack aircraft, it can fly quickly into an incident range and launch powerful long-range weapons. This means it still poses a threat. With the increasing frequency of confrontation between Chinese aircraft and naval vessels of other countries in the Pacific region, aircraft such as the JH-7 seem to have a place in China's security strategy.

Therefore, China will continue to modernize its powerful maritime attack aircraft, or decommission them ahead of time, in order to transfer resources to more modern designs, such as the J-16 Red Eagle, the upcoming H-20 stealth bomber, Even the rumored JH-XX area stealth bomber will be very interesting. The latest update indicates that China may still see the use of Flying Leopard.

Page last modified: 02-10-2021 18:05:28 ZULU