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J-7 / F-7 Airguard
Chengdu F-7 Pakistani Air Force (cropped).jpg
An upgraded Chengdu F-7PG of the Pakistan Air Force
Role Fighter aircraft
Manufacturer Chengdu Aircraft Corporation/Guizhou Aircraft Industry Corporation
First flight 17 January 1966
Status Operational
Primary users People's Liberation Army Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
Bangladesh Air Force
Korean People's Air Force
Produced 1965–2013
Number built 2,400+
Developed from Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21
Developed into Guizhou JL-9

The Chengdu J-7 (Chinese: 歼-7; third generation export version F-7; NATO reporting name: Fishcan[1]) is a People's Republic of China license-built version[2] of the Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21. Though production ceased in 2013, it continues to serve, mostly as an interceptor, in several air forces, including the People's Liberation Army Air Force.[3][4]

Design and development

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Soviet Union shared most of its conventional weapons technology with the People's Republic of China. The famous MiG-21, powered by a single engine and designed on a simple airframe, was inexpensive but fast, suiting the strategy of forming large groups of 'people's fighters' to overcome the technological advantages of Western aircraft. However, the Sino-Soviet split abruptly ended the initial cooperation; between 28 July 28 and 1 September 1960, the Soviet Union withdrew its advisers from China, resulting in the project being stopped in China.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev unexpectedly wrote to Mao Zedong in February 1962 to inform Mao that the Soviet Union was willing to transfer MiG-21 technology to China, and he asked the Chinese to promptly send their representatives to the Soviet Union to discuss arrangements. The Chinese viewed this offer as a Soviet gesture to make peace, while suspicious, they were nonetheless eager to take up the Soviet offer of an aircraft deal. A delegation headed by General Liu Yalou, the commander-in-chief of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and himself a Soviet military academy graduate, was dispatched to Moscow immediately; the Chinese delegation was given three days to visit the MiG-21's production facility, which was previously off-limits to foreigners. The visit's authorization was personally given by Nikita Khrushchev, and on 30 March 1962, the technology transfer deal was signed.[citation needed]

However, given the state of political relations between the two countries, the Chinese were not optimistic about gaining the technology, and prepared to reverse engineer it. Russian sources state that several complete MiG-21s were sent to China, flown by Soviet pilots, while MiG-21Fs in kit form was also sent along with parts and technical documents. As the Chinese had expected, following the delivery of kits, parts and documents to Shenyang Aircraft Factory five months after the deal was signed, it was discovered that some technical documents provided by the Soviets were incomplete and that several parts could not be used.[citation needed]

China set about to engineer the aircraft for local production; in doing so, they successfully solved 249 major issues and reproduced eight major technical documents that were not provided by the Soviet Union. One of the major flaws was with the Hydraulics systems, which grounded up to 70% of aircraft in some squadrons until upgrades were made. Another major modification was to the fuel storage, increasing the aircraft's stability. The MiG-21 carries most of its fuel in the forward fuselage, causing the center of gravity to shift and become unstable after about 45 minutes of operation. The J-7 has redesigned fuel tanks and significantly larger drop tanks in order to maintain a more stable center of gravity, and therefore better Longitudinal static stability. The cockpit was also revised to replace the Soviet ejection seat, which was deemed to be unacceptable. The forward opening canopy was replaced by a standard rear-hinged canopy, which was jettisoned prior to ejection. The re-engineering effort was largely successful, as the Chinese-built J-7 showed only minor differences in design and performance from the original MiG-21.[5]

In March 1964, Shenyang Aircraft Factory began domestic production of the J-7 fighter, which they successfully accomplished the next year. However, mass production efforts were severely hindered by an unexpected social and economic problem—the Cultural Revolution—that resulted in poor initial quality and slow progress, which, in turn, resulted in full-scale production only coming about in the 1980s, by which time the original aircraft design was showing its age.

In 1987, the J-7E was released, having a greatly improved wing, among other improvements. It was roughly 45% more maneuverable, and its takeoff and landing performance was greatly increased. It was also equipped with a helmet mounted sight, as well as being the first MiG-21 to be equipped with HOTAS and a multipurpose display. Many of the electronic components were British in origin, such as the gun sight and the multi purpose display. The aircraft is capable of using PL-8/Python 3 missiles with both the helmet mounted sight or the radar fire control, but the two are not connected. The pilot may use only one system at a time.[5]

In the mid 1980s, Pakistan requested an aircraft with greater radar capabilities. Both the standard radar and the British Marconi radar were plagued by ground clutter, but China did not have any experience with air to ground radar at the time. In 1984, Pakistan provided assistance by having their American-trained F-16 pilots provide training on proper ground attack radar operation, which enabled the Chinese to develop the J-7M. In the late 1980s, the J-7MP and J-7PG introduced significant upgrades to the radar system by converting to an Italian FIAR Grifo-7 radar, more than tripled the effective range of the radar, as well as greatly increased the maximum angle for target detection.[6]

The J-7 only reached its Soviet-designed capabilities in the mid 1980s. Being relatively affordable, it was widely exported as the F-7, often with Western systems incorporated, such as to Pakistan. There are over 20 different export variants of the J-7, some of which are equipped to use European weaponry, such as French R.550 Magic missiles. The Discovery Channel's Wings Over The Red Star series claims that the Chinese intercepted several Soviet MiG-21s en route to North Vietnam (during the Vietnam War), but these aircraft did not perform in a manner consistent with their original specifications, suggesting that the Chinese actually intercepted down-rated aircraft that were intended for export, rather than fully capable production aircraft. For this reason, the Chinese had to re-engineer the intercepted MiG-21 airframes in order to achieve their original capabilities. China later developed the Shenyang J-8 based both on the expertise gained by the program, and by utilizing the incomplete technical information acquired from the Soviet Ye-152 developmental jet.[7][8]

In May 2013, J-7 production has ceased after decades of manufacturing. The last 12 F-7BGIs were delivered to the Bangladesh Air Force.[citation needed]

Operational history

Most actions carried out by the F-7 export model have been air-to-ground missions. In air-to-air missions, there have rarely been any encounters resulting in dogfights.

A Nigerian F-7NI
A Nigerian F-7NI
Albanian Air Force Chengdu F-7A
Albanian Air Force Chengdu F-7A
Myanmar Air Force Chengdu F-7M
Myanmar Air Force Chengdu F-7M
Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force Chengdu J-7 landing at Mehrabad International Airport
Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force Chengdu J-7 landing at Mehrabad International Airport
Abandoned Iraqi FT-7in front of the Al Asad ATC Tower
Abandoned Iraqi FT-7in front of the Al Asad ATC Tower
A J-7I on display at the Chinese Aviation Museum. Note the underwing PL-2 missiles
A J-7I on display at the Chinese Aviation Museum. Note the underwing PL-2 missiles



Namibian AF ordered 12 Chengdu F-7NMs in August 2005. Chinese sources reported the delivery in November 2006. This is believed to be a variation of the F-7PG acquired by Pakistan with Grifo MG radar.[9]


In early 2008, Nigeria procured 12 F-7NI fighters and three FT-7NI trainers to replace the existing stock of MiG-21 aircraft. The first batch of F-7s arrived in December 2009.[10][verification needed] On September 20, 2018, one pilot was killed after two Nigerian F-7Ni fighter jets crashed into Katamkpe Hill, Abuja while taking part in the rehearsals for the aerial display to mark Nigeria's 58th Independence Anniversary celebrations.[11]


Sudanese F-7Bs were used in the Second Sudanese Civil War against ground targets.[citation needed]


Tanzanian Air Force F-7As served in the Uganda–Tanzania War against Uganda and Libya in 1979. Its appearance effectively brought a halt to bombing raids by Libyan Tupolev Tu-22s.[citation needed]


During Zimbabwe's involvement in the DRC, six or seven F-7s were deployed to the Lubumbashi IAP and then to a similar installation near Mbuji-Mayi. From there, AFZ F-7s flew dozens of combat air patrols in the following months, attempting in vain to intercept transport aircraft used to bring supplies and troops from Rwanda and Burundi to the Congo. In late October 1998, F-7s of the No.5 Squadron were used in an offensive in east-central Congo. This began with a series of air strikes that first targeted airfields in Gbadolite, Dongo and Gmena, and then rebel and Rwandan communications and depots in the Kisangani area on November 21.[12]



The stationing of F-7As in north of the country near the border successfully checked Yugoslav incursions into Albanian airspace.[13]

East and Southeast Asia


In the mid 1990s, the PLAAF began replacing its J-7Bs with the substantially redesigned and improved J-7E variant. The wings of the J-7E have been changed to a unique "double delta" design offering improved aerodynamics and increased fuel capacity, and the J-7E also features a more powerful engine and improved avionics. The newest version of the J-7, the J-7G, entered service with the PLAAF in 2003.[citation needed]

The role of the J-7 in the People's Liberation Army is to provide local air defence and tactical air superiority. Large numbers are to be employed to deter enemy air operations.[citation needed]


Myanmar purchased F-7Ms[when?] with plans to use them for interception.[citation needed]

Middle East


Relations between Egypt and Libya deteriorated after Egypt signed a peace accord with Israel. Egyptian Air Force MiG-21s shot down Libyan MiG-23s, and F-7Bs were deployed to the Egyptian-Libyan border along with MiG-21s to fend off possible further Libyan MiG-23 incursions into Egyptian airspace.[citation needed]


Although not in any known combat actions, it was in several movies portraying Iranian MiG-21s during the Iran–Iraq War. One tells the story of an Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force strike on the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak on 30 September 1980. Another "Attack on H3" tells the story of the 810 km-deep raids into the Iraqi heartland against Iraqi Air Force airfields on April 4, 1981, and other movies depicting the air combat in 1981 that resulted in the downing of around 70 Iraqi aircraft. However, unconfirmed reports claimed that during the later stages of the war, these aircraft were used for air-to-ground attacks. On 24 July 2007, an Iranian F-7 crashed in northern eastern Iran due to technical difficulties.[14] On 27 April 2016, another F7 crashed near Esfahan city; both pilots ejected safely.


F-7Bs paid for by Egypt arrived too late for the aerial combat in the early part of the Iran–Iraq War, but later participated mainly in air-to-ground sorties.[citation needed]

South Asia

Bangladesh Air Force Chengdu F-7BG
Bangladesh Air Force Chengdu F-7BG

The Bangladeshi Air Force currently operates FT-7MB Airguards, and F-7BG and F-7BGI interceptors.[15] The 16 F-7BGIs of Bangladesh Air Force entereted service in 2013. F-7BGI are believed to be the most advanced variant and last production model of F7/J7 fighters with limited BVR capability.[citation needed]


Pakistan is currently the largest non-Chinese F-7 operator, with ~120 F-7P and ~60 F-7PG. The Pakistan Air Force is to replace its entire fleet of F-7 with the JF-17 multirole fighter. All F-7P are planned to be retired and replaced with JF-17 Thunder aircraft by 2020.[citation needed]

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Air Force used three F-7BS and for ground attack missions against the LTTE and three FT-7 trainers. Due to the lack of endurance and payload, SLAF sometimes uses their F-7s for pilot training purposes.[16]

Early in 2008 the air force received six more advanced F-7Gs, to use primarily as interceptors. All The F-7G's, F-7BS's and FT-7s are flown by the No 5 Jet Squadron.[citation needed]

Sri Lankan officials reported that on 9 September 2008, three Sri Lankan Air Force F-7s were scrambled after two rebel-flown Zlín-143 were detected by ground radar. Two were sent to bomb two rebel airstrips at Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi areas. The government reported the third intercepted one Zlin-143 resulting in one LTTE Zlín-143 shot down by the chasing F-7G using an air-to-air missile while the rebel-flown light aircraft was returning to its base at Mullaitivu after a bombing run against Vavuniya base.[17][18]



Chengdu J-7 Operators 2010 (former operators in red)
Chengdu J-7 Operators 2010 (former operators in red)


  • Bangladesh Air Force: 12 × F-7BG interceptors and 4 × FT-7BG two-seater fighters delivered in 2007. Additional 16 advanced F-7 BGI fighters delivered in 2012.[19] Earlier deliveries of 16 F-7MB and 8 FT-7MB trainer aircraft now retired from service.[20]
  • Namibian Air Force: 6 × F-7NM and 2 × FT-7NM in active service. A total of 12 F/FT-7NM aircraft were delivered between 2006–2008.[24]
 North Korea
 Sri Lanka
  • Tanzanian Air Force: Originally having had 11 × F-7 in service,[32] Tanzania replaced them with 12 new J-7's (single-seat) under the designation J-7G and 2 dual-seat aircraft designated F-7TN in 2011. Originally ordered in 2009, the deliveries were completed and the aircraft are now fully operational at the air bases in Dar es Salaam and Mwanza. The new aircraft are equipped with a KLJ-6E Falcon radar, thought to be developed from the Selex Galileo Grifo 7 radar. The J-7G's primary weapon is the Chinese PL-7A short-range infrared air-to-air missile.[33]


 United States of America

Specifications (J-7MG)

A J-7I seen from above at the Beijing Military Museum. Note the delta wing and distinctive PLAAF markings
A J-7I seen from above at the Beijing Military Museum. Note the delta wing and distinctive PLAAF markings
A Sri Lanka Air Force Chengdu F-7GS and stores on static display
A Sri Lanka Air Force Chengdu F-7GS and stores on static display

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004[39]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 14.884 m (48 ft 10 in) (Overall)
  • Wingspan: 8.32 m (27 ft 4 in)
  • Height: 4.11 m (13 ft 6 in)
  • Wing area: 24.88 m2 (267.8 sq ft)
  • Aspect ratio: 2.8
  • Airfoil: root: TsAGI S-12 (4.2%) ; tip: TsAGI S-12 (5%)[40]
  • Empty weight: 5,292 kg (11,667 lb)
  • Gross weight: 7,540 kg (16,623 lb) with 2x PL-2 or PL-7 air-to-air missiles
  • Max takeoff weight: 9,100 kg (20,062 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Liyang Wopen-13F afterburning turbojet, 44.1 kN (9,900 lbf) thrust dry, 64.7 kN (14,500 lbf) with afterburner


  • Maximum speed: 2,200 km/h (1,400 mph, 1,200 kn) IAS
  • Maximum speed: Mach 2
  • Stall speed: 210 km/h (130 mph, 110 kn) IAS
  • Combat range: 850 km (530 mi, 460 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 2,200 km (1,400 mi, 1,200 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 17,500 m (57,400 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 195 m/s (38,400 ft/min)


  • Guns: 2× 30 mm Type 30-1 cannon, 60 rounds per gun
  • Hardpoints: 5 in total – 4× under-wing, 1× centreline under-fuselage with a capacity of 2,000 kg maximum (up to 500 kg each)[41],
  • Rockets: 55 mm rocket pod (12 rounds), 90 mm rocket pod (7 rounds)
  • Missiles: ** Air-to-air missiles: PL-2, PL-5, PL-7, PL-8, PL-9, K-13, Magic R.550, AIM-9
  • Bombs: 50 kg to 500 kg unguided bombs


  • FIAR Grifo-7 mk.II radar

Accidents and incidents

See also

Related development


  1. ^ "CHINA EQUIPMENT" (PDF). Office of Naval Intelligence. United States Office of Naval Intelligence. Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 June 2018. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  2. ^ J7, Sino Defence, archived from the original on 2006-07-16.
  3. ^ Medeiros 2005, p. 162.
  4. ^ "China's Expert Fighter Designer Knows Jets, Avoids America's Mistakes". International Relations and Security Network. Archived from the original on 2 October 2015. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
  5. ^ a b Civil Airworthiness Certification: Former Military High-Performance Aircraft
  6. ^ Civil Airworthiness Certification: Former Military High-Performance Aircraft P.2-59 to 2–62
  7. ^ "Global Aircraft -- J-7 Fishbed". Archived from the original on 2016-08-06. Retrieved 2016-06-14.
  8. ^ Civil Airworthiness Certification: Former Military High-Performance Aircraft. By Miguel Vasconcelos, United States Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration. pp. 2-51.
  9. ^ Transfers of major conventional weapons. 1950 to 2011. Archived 16 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  10. ^ Jane's Defence Weekly; 21 January 2009, Vol. 46 Issue 3, p16-16
  11. ^ Brown, Daniel (29 September 2018). "1 pilot killed after 2 Nigerian F-7Ni fighter jets reportedly collide in midair". Business Insider.
  12. ^ "Zaire/DR Congo since 1980". Archived from the original on 11 September 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-10-06. Retrieved 2011-04-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "People's Daily Online – Iranian military plane crashes in northeastern province:report". Archived from the original on 23 May 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  15. ^ Pike, John. "Bangladesh – Air Force Modernization". Archived from the original on 2016-12-26. Retrieved 2017-08-07.
  16. ^ "The MIG27 affair – Fighter Pilots reveal what the "defence analysts" forgot to tell, Sri Lanka Ministry of Defence". Archived from the original on August 25, 2007.
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  32. ^ Flight International 14–20 December 2010, p. 48.
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External links

This page was last edited on 21 September 2020, at 19:37
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