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Q-6 [Qiang-6 Attack-6]

According to Chinese Military Aviation, "The latest rumor (November 2010) claimed that a new single seat light attack aircraft based on L-15 LIFT is being developed at Hongdu as Q-6." Subsequently, nothing more was heard of this rumor.

Nanchang Q-6 [first instance]

The Q-6 (A-6) attack aircraft was intended to replace the Q-5 attack aircraft in frontline aviation. The Q-6 is one of the unfulfilled projects strike aircraft of the people's Republic of China. It was designed by Nanchang Aircraft Factory [later changed to Hongdu Aviation Industry Group]. The project was under development for quite some time, but never reached the stage of creating prototypes.The project was cancelled for two reason, the first is that the swing-wing was too complicated to be imitated simply by few samples, and the other reason was economic.

Work on the Q-6, together with the JH-7, began after the PLAN's conflict with the South Vietnamese Navy over the Xisha Island. China failed to provide air support to its troops. At the beginning of 1974, the Xisha naval battle broke out. During the battle, the Chinese Navy used two submarines and two minesweepers to fight against the three destroyers and one frigate of the South Vietnamese Navy , with a small resistance to the weak and strong, and achieved the results of the four ships. Although the Xisha naval battle ended with the victory of China, it revealed that the Navys inability to obtain effective air support during combat cannot be ignored. At that time, the various types of fighters equipped by the Chinese Air Force and Naval Air: J-5, J-6 and J-7 lacked ground attack capability; the Q-5 range as an attack aircraft was too short, and the bomb load was too small to adapt to the ever-changing requirements of high-intensity modern combat. The H-5 and H-6 as heavy bombers were too slow and lacked sufficient self-defense ability to meet the fire support needs of surface ship formations.

Therefore, there was a lack of an advanced support fighter. The Chinese Air Force and the Naval Air Force proposed their respective new aircraft design specifications to the Three Machines Department shortly after the end of the Xisha naval battle. Both the PLAN and the PLAAF felt that they needed a more advanced close air support aircraft, which was better equipped than the Q-5, has a longer range and was useful under all weather at day and night. The plane was also to be able to attack maritime targets.

Due to the weakness of China's aviation industry at that time, it was impossible to develop two new types of support fighters equipped with air and navy at the same time. Therefore, the Third Ministry of Machinery decided to adopt the "one machine and two types" approach and determined the new aircraft according to the requirements of the military. The Central Military Commission (CMC) decided, that multirole model for the PLAAF and the PLA-NA should be developed and produced for both services. The sea and air force wpould use the same type of aircraft, equipped with different types of weapons and airborne equipment to meet the needs of the sea and air force.

The Third Machine Department attached great importance to this new type of aircraft, and quickly convened its designers in Beijing in June 1976 to ask them to propose a design plan in the shortest possible time. In 1976 a requirement was sent out to all China's major aircraft manufacturers, of which Shenyang, Xian and Nanchang had quite different proposals. In June 1976, leading engineers were summoned to Beijing for the meeting, to accelerate the development of new aircraft. Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Factory responded with the Q-6, while Xian Aircraft Manufacturing Factory with concepts which later led to the JH-7, while Shenyang Aircraft Manufacturing Factory proposed a ground attack variant of their J-8 (which was rejected, but later developed into the J-8B). Nanchang and Xian began research and development on their aircraft, which were quite different in layout and main focus of mission.

In the 1970s China had acquired from Egypt two MiG-21M, two MiG-23MS, two MiG-23BN, two MiG-23U, and 10 AS-5 ground missiles. This made possible Chinese reverse engineering of components, in particular, avionics, and the R-29 turbojet engine.

The Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Plant decided to develop a single-single-seat supersonic attack machine as a common follow-up machine for the Q-5 and J-6 on the basis of the MiG-23MC. The Q-6 project was developed starting in June 1976, led by Nanchang Aircraft Factory chief designer Lu Xiaopeng [the Chief Designer of the Q-5]. Nanchang Aircraft Factory was China's only aircraft manufacturer with experience in manufacturing strike and ground attack fighters. Work began on the Q-6 with a design study using the aerodynamics and structure of Mikoyan MiG-23. For refining the design and specifications, Lu Xiaopeng also visited a number of Chinese air force and naval officers, and listened to their views as to Chinese requirements. In February 1979, the final design was presented to National Defense Science and Technology Commission of the CMC.

At the time the Chinese regarded the Soviet Union as the greatest enemy, changes in Soviet weapons and equipment led the Chinese military needs to change. The Soviet Union deployed along the Sino-Soviet border surface to air missiles like the S-300 and the modified 9M38. The Siberian Military District had a dense air defense network, which posed a serious threat to China. It was believed that the Q-6 was more vulnerable to Soviet air defense forces than the JH-7.

Because the Q-6 could not meet operational requirements, this led to a complete redesign, which could not be addressed by the Q-6 as it was planned to enter service in its original form. As a result the PLA-NA and the PLAAF turned their attention to the competing design from Xian which later became the JH-7. Because at this time the JH-7 design and development work far exceeded the Q-6, the Air Force and Navy were fully attentive to Xi'an's large-scale attack bombers. When comparing the two, each had its own advantages: the JH-7 structure was simpler, had a more compact aerodynamic design, a larger load of bombs, and larger combat radius; while the Q-6 was more mobile, and offered a lower unit price.

During this period, the Q-6 did not escape the fate of many other key models of development - such as J-9 and Y-10. The factors that led to the collapse of the Q-6 program were diverse, such as the unreliability of the engine, the variable swept-wing technology, the composite material used for the attack was delayed, and so on.

Although the turbofan 6 engine adopted by the Q- 6 reached the performance design index in October 1980, the maximum thrust was 71 kN, the maximum afterburning thrust was 122 kN, and the thrust-to-weight ratio reached 5.93. The improved turbofan 6 engine was added. The force thrust reached 138 kN and the thrust-to-weight ratio reached 7. However, due to material and process problems, the turbofan 6 engine has been unable to be produced, which directly led to problems in the production of the Q-6 fighter.

In addition, the development of the strong 6 has not been able to solve the problem of the control system of the variable swept wing, plus the structure is overweight, especially the variable swept wing structure is overweight 12%, directly affecting the bomb load, the bomb load and the combat radius. This made the development plan of the Q- 6 encounter various technical problems.

The most important thing is the change in military equipment needs. By the mid-to-late 1980s, the military believed that the variable swept wing layout was not the mainstream of future combat aircraft. The Q-6, after this blow, is destined to the final fate.

Nanchang continued to develop variable-geometry wings and, ultimately, under the leadership of Lu Xiaopeng. After eight years of hard work they achieved a breakthrough. Nanchang introduced a new design. It seems that Nanchang tried to propose another new indigenous design, also powered by a single WS-6 turbofan and fitted with a shoulder variable-geometry wing, a chin air intake [as shown by a wind tunnel model, which looks like the front section of an F-16 mated to the aft section of a MiG-23/27]. Studies had shown that side air intakes are ineffective and Q-6 became the first Chinese project with ventral inlet. It is not clear that any pictures, models or concept drawings show how the real Q-6 might have looked. The intake under the cockpit in the model looks smaller than a single side intake of the MiG-23/27. Not only is the intake much to small; the next problem is how to mate that new front fuselage onto the MiG-23's aft fuselage.

But again the project was abandoned in the end. Despite China's aviation industry great achievements, the program came too late, and therefore could not escape the fate of being abandoned. With the JH-7's successful flight tests in late 1988 and early 1989, the Q-6 development work was concluded.




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