Attack Aircraft I

Q-5L Fantan

This major upgrade of Q-5C (dubbed Q-5L) finally fulfilled PLAAF's requirement to deliver PGMs (mainly LGBs). The aircraft features a laser spot tracker (similar to American AN/AAS-35V Pave Penny) underneath its nose and a strengthened belly pylon for the laser designator pod (K/PZS-01H). Its cockpit has also been modernized featuring HUD and MFDs. The aircraft is capable of flying night missions as well. However, due to the limited payload it can deliver, at most two 500kg LS-500J LGBs (comparable to Russian KAB-500L) and one designator pod are carried. Q-5L prototype first flew on April 8, 2005 and it only saw limited service with PLAAF (S/N 10x6x) with no additional Q-5Cs being upgraded. A similar upgrade was conducted on Q-5D (as Q-5N) but it did not entered the service. The aircraft was one time modified with a belly conformal fuel tank in order to extend its range but the design was not adopted due to the extra drag during the flight. Q-5L can also extend its range by carrying two large (1,140L) drop tanks. Some have a new dorsal communication antenna was installed aft the cockpit. It is still unclear which type of aircraft will eventually replace the aging Q-5L as light attack aircraft might not have a spot in the future of PLAAF. The latest image (November 2014) suggested a new 250kg LGB (GB3/TG250?) featuring a proportional navigation seeker has been tested onboard a Q-5L.
- Last Updated 10/24/15

JH-7 Flounder/Flying Leopard

This tandem-seat fighter bomber in the same of class of Tornado and Su-24 (max TO weight 28,500kg, weapon load 6,500kg, max speed Mach 1.7, ferry range 3,650km, combat radius 1,650km) entered limited service with PLA naval aviation in 1994, replacing old Il-28 torpedo bombers. Designed by Xian Aircraft Design Institute (603 Institute) and built by Xian Aircraft Company (XAC), the JH-7 prototype first flew in December 1988. However it did not complete the development until late 1996 after successfully test-firing YJ-81 ASM (after the loss of one prototype and two test pilots due to engine failure). Its standard mission is anti-ship, where it carries up to 4 YJ-81/YJ-83K AShMs under the wing plus two wingtip PL-5B AAMs and a twin 23mm cannon (200 rounds) for self-defense. It can also carry rocket pods or up to 20 250kg free-fall bombs for ground attack mission. The naval JH-7 can also carry aerial mines for mine laying missions. The aircraft is equipped with a complete set of avionics which initially suffered a high malfunction rate. Its onboard system consists of Type 232H Eagle Eye multi-role radar, triplex digital-analog autopilot, 8145 air-data computer, WG-5A radio altimeter, 210 Doppler navigational system and HZX-1B "stabilizing" system; EW suite includes RW1045 RWR, 960-2 noise jamming system, and 914-4G passive jamming system. JH-7 was first revealed on TV during the naval exercise in October 1995. However due to its 1970's design as well as two underpowered Rolls-Royce Spey MK202/WS-9 turbofans (20,515lb with afterburning), it was rejected by PLAAF who is in favor of Su-30MKK and has become the first dedicated maritime attack aircraft for PLA Naval Aviation. All pre-production JH-7s (around 18, S/N 81x6x) are believed to be stationed at Dachang Airbase near Shanghai. Nonetheless, engineers at 603 Institute are still making various improvements on JH-7 which include the new JL-10A PD radar, one-piece windshield, two additional underwing hardpoints, new databus and INS/GPS. The result is the upgraded JH-7A (see below), capable of delivering a variety of PGMs and stand-off missiles. Its export version is dubbed FBC-1 (Fighter/Bomber Export-1), which was unveiled at Zhuhai International Airshow in November 1998, but has yet to attract any foreign customers. Between 2002 and 2004 PLAN received the last batch of about 20 improved JH-7s (02 Batch? S/N 82x6x), where are powered by additional second-hand Sprey MK202 turbofan engines supplied by Rolls-Royce. These JH-7s have upgraded avionics including the new JL-10A (with enhanced AA & AG modes and compatible with YJ-83K AShM) multi-mode PD radar replacing the old Type 232H. In late 2007 JH-7 was first seen carrying large ECM pods under the wings without any weapons. They are part of a new frequency jamming system and consist of one receiver pod and four different transmitter pods, each covering different frequencies. Therefore the aircraft could provide an electronic shield for other JH-7s within the formation similar to American EF-111 (though limited in terms of capability). Recent images indicated that all early batch of JH-7s have been upgraded with the JL-10A PD fire-control radar as well as a new datalink antenna behind the cockpit.
- Last Updated 4/1/16

JH-7A Flounder/Flying Leopard

A PLAAF JH-7A was photographed while it was approaching for landing. The first batch of JH-7A entered the service with PLAAF (S/N 30x9x, 11x6x, 20x2x, 31x9x, 72x1x, 78x6x, 73x7x?) in late 2004. Unlike the naval JH-7A (S/N 83x9x, 82x5x, 82x7x) which first entered the service earlier in 2004, it wears a medium-blue color scheme and has the serial number painted under the side of cockpit. First revealed as a full-scale mockup, this improved variant of JH-7 was seen carrying a full range of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapon load, reflecting its enhanced capability of launching precision strikes using anti-radiation missiles and LGBs. The precision strike capability is believed to be a major requirement JH-7A has to meet in order to attract orders from PLAAF. This capability is thought to be achieved by the JL-10A/AG (K/LKK10?) multi-mode PD radar integrated into a new fire-control system, plus an improved "stabilizing" system (analog FBW) giving the aircraft a true terrain-following capability. The aircraft also features a one-piece windshield and a tandem glass cockpit (front/rear) and HOTAS. It also has new wings and horizontal stabilizers made of composite materials and have the 1950 style wing fences removed. As the result, a few hundred kilograms of weight has been eliminated. The engines are the indigenous WS-9 Qinling turbofans (certified in July 2003) replacing the original R&R Spey MK202s. The aircraft has a total of 11 hardpoints, 6 underwing, 2 wingtip, 2 under the engine intakes and 1 under the fuselage. Currently PLAAF JH-7As are equipped with PL-8 AAM, LS-500J LGB, KD-88/KD-88A TV/IIR guided ASM and YJ-91 ARM. A datalink pod can be carried underneath the engine intake for KD-88 ASM. Similarly a laser designation pod (K/JDC01) can be carried to paint targets for LS-500J LGBs. It can also carry two large ECM pods similar to those being carried by JH-7. In addition to ECM missions, the aircraft can also fly ELINT/SIGINT missions carrying two receiver pods. The naval JH-7A can also drop  250kg aerial mines (MKC-03-500?) as well. 5 prototypes were built (#811-815), with the first JH-7A prototype taking off on July 1, 2002. Since 2009 most JH-7As have been upgraded with a new UHF/VHF antenna behind the cockpit. In 2014 JH-7A started to carry KG600 ECM pod for self-defence. The latest image (November 2016) suggested that it started to the bigger and more powerful KG800 ECM pod, which can provide the electronic protection for the attacking formation. Its export version is called JH-7E but is unlikely to attract any foreign customer due to its obsolete design. JH-7A is expected to be replaced by J-16.
- Last Updated 2/18/17

H-6G Badger

H-6G (H/JH6G?) was first "leaked" in a promotional video by AVIC I at the 2002 Zhuhai Airshow. This variant is capable of carrying 4 YJ-83K AShMs under its wings, the same type being carried by the JH-7/7A strike aircraft. However H-6G has a considerably longer range (~6,000km) than JH-7/7A but at a lower speed. Other improvements include MAWS sensors on both sides of the nose and tailcone, RWR antennas on top of the tailcone and the vertical tailfin as well as a new dorsal UHF/VHF antenna as well as chaff/flare launchers for better self-protection. The observation windows in the rear fuselage were also removed. At least one prototype was used for testing at CFTE (#089), which was seen carrying two ELINT pods similar to the ones onboard JH-7/JH-7A. Currently H-6G is in service with PLA Naval Aviation (S/N 81x1x, 81x2x, 82x3x) replacing the old H-6D. H-6G has been flying long-range sea strike training missions over the East China Sea facing Japan. Recent images (September 2013) suggested that some H-6Gs have been modified to carry the new YJ-12 supersonic long range anti-ship cruise missile (up to 2) under a stretched pylon. A few (S/N 81x1x) were seen having two small windows installed underneath the rear fuselage which could house cameras for SAR purpose. The latest image (August 2015) indicated some have been upgraded with a new ECM antenna aft the cabin (S/N 81x1x). H-6G was speculated to be replaced by the more powerful H-6K carrying 6 YJ-12 AShMs.
- Last Updated 8/20/16

H-6H Badger

A pair of PLAAF H-6H (K/JH6H) stand-off missile carriers each carrying two KD-63 LACMs are shown here. This variant (S/N 40x7x, 18x9x, 20x1x) is thought to have been be derived from H-6D AshM carrier featuring a large chin mounted surface search radar and a pair of large underwing pylons. All WWII style self-defense guns throughout the aircraft were removed except the tailguns were retained on some which were converted from old H-6Fs. The aircraft also adopts a new light gray color scheme. A green fairing is seen underneath the rear fuselage behind the bomb bay doors, which was thought as the datalink antenna for the KD-63 stand-off missile. KD-63 LACM has a cruise speed of Mach 0.9 and a max range of 200km using INS/GPS mid-course and TV terminal guidance, while carrying a 500kg warhead. This has made it the first generation Chinese stand-off LACM. H-6H first flew in December 1998, first fired KD-63 successfully in November 2002. The TV-guided KD-63 has been replaced by the IIR-guided KD-63B LACM for better all-weather performance. Recent images (May 2014) indicated that some H-6Hs (H-6HG? S/N 20x1x) have been upgraded with RWR antennas installed on the vertical tailfin, as well as chaff/flare dispensers on the side of rear fuselage. Others had VLOC antennas installed on the vertical tailfin. The new mission of long-range missile attack would extend the life of this 50 year old design well into the 21st century.
- Last Updated 12/29/16

H-6M Badger

A PLAAF H-6M (K/JH6M?) cruise missile carrier was seen here carrying a KD-20 ALCM under its left wing. First entering service in 2007, this new variant (S/N 40x7x) were converted from the older H-6F, as its twin 23mm tailguns are retained. Similar to the naval H-6G, H-6M was modified with a large chin mounted surface search radar and two pairs of underwing pylons. Other noticeable features are the much improved self-protecting measures including UV band MAWS sensors on the nose and above the rear gunner compartment, RWR antennas on the vertical tailfin tip, and chaff/flare dispensers along the side of rear fuselage. Its cockpit was also upgraded with some analog displays replaced by color MFDs. The KD-20 ALCM is carried underneath the large inner pylon while a KG600 ECM pod is carried underneath the smaller outer pylon. A small pylon underneath the fuselage behind the bomb bay could be the place to carry additional datalink pod (for guiding the KD-63 ALCM?). The same type of ALCM is also carried by H-6K (see below). H-6M is speculated to be a low-cost, stop-gap solution until the more advanced H-6K enters PLAAF service. A recent video (February 2015) suggested that two KD-63 ALCMs could also be carried in place of KD-20. The latest image (July 2016) indicated that a dorsal SATCOM antenna has been installed on some H-6Ms.
- Last Updated 7/28/16

H-6K Badger/God of War

An H-6K (BC-1, K/JH6K?) cruise missile carrier was taking off with two KD-20 ALCMs under its wings. The development of this new variant officially started in May 2003. The #001 prototype first flew on January 5, 2007 at XAC. Two prototypes were produced (861 & 862). Its major improvement is to replace two fuel-thirsty WP-8/AM-3 turbojet engines with Russian D-30KP-2 turbofan engines (TO thrust 12,000kg, similar to the engine used by Il-76MD in service with PLAAF), resulting in a greater range (combat radius ~3,500km) and a higher cruise speed. Around 55 D-30KP-2 engines were imported from Russia between 2009-2011. As the result the engine compartment was completely redesigned and appears longer. It is believed that D-30KP-2 is being reverse-engineered as WS-18 by the Chengdu Engine Corporation. Other improvements include a redesigned solid nose housing a large ground scanning radar developed by the 38th Institute (PESA? might have SAR and TF/TA capabilities) and a chin mounted EO turret containing FLIR, CCD TV camera and a laser designator for night/poor weather missions. The aircraft also has nose mounted ECM antennas, nose and tail MAWS sensors (RKG963A), RWR/ECM antennas on top of the vertical tailfin, a SATCOM antenna on the top of rear fuselage, a datalink antenna underneath the rear fuselage, solid tail cone housing electronics with the tail gunner compartment removed, 6 underwing missile pylons and use of composite materials to reduce weight. Its cockpit has been completely redesigned featuring 6 color MFDs. The aircraft now has 3-member crew located in the forward cabin (two pilots+navigator/WSO), each equipped with a new ejection seat (HTY-6F) to improve survivability. The crew can also get into/out of the cabin quickly through a side door. Its internal bomb bay is retained. Therefore the aircraft still maintains its conventional bombing capability for low intensity conflict/anti-terrorism missions. A total of 6 KD-20/DF-10K long-range cruise missiles may be carried by H-6K, which are the air-launched version of DF-10 cruise missile (range ~1,500km, similar to Russian Kh-55). Besides KD-20, it can carry the older KD-63/KD-63B LACM (up to 4). In that case the aircraft would carry a datalink pod under a small pylon underneath the rear fuselage. The aircraft can also carry up to 36 250kg unguided bombs under the 6 large pylons for carpet bombing. H-6K is capable of flying strategic missions with these long-range cruise missiles (armed with nuclear warheads, even though so far there is no such evidence). It also has the potential to be converted into ASW aircraft or tanker in the future. The first batch of H-6Ks (~20) entered the service with PLAAF 8th Division (S/N 11x9x) in early 2011 facing Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Japan and American military base at Guam. The second batch of H-6Ks entered the service with PLAAF 10th Division (S/N 20x1x) in mid-2013 facing Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Guam. The third batch entered the service with PLAAF 8th Division (S/N 10x9x) in summer 2015. Currently H-6K is in production and is thought to be a stop-gap measure until the new H-20 stealth bomber enters the service in the next decade. The latest images (January 2017) indicated that the forth batch is entering PLAAF 36th Division (S/N 40x7x) facing India. Since 2016 H-6K has been flying long-range cruise-missile attack training missions over the West Pacific Ocean as well as the South China Sea, escorted by Su-30MKKsIt was rumored that PLAN is also interested in H-6K armed with 6 YJ-12 AShMs to replace its own H-6G fleet but this has not been confirmed. A recent satellite image (May 2015) indicated that one H-6K (H-6KD?) was carrying additional ECM pods underneath the outer wings. The latest rumor (February 2017) suggested that an AShBM carrier is being developed based on H-6K which is equipped with a nose-mounted inflight refueling probe. The large missile is carried externally underneath the fuselage and might be a DF-21D AShBM variant.
- Last Updated 1/17/17

Su-30MKK/MK2 Flanker

In late 1999 a $1.85 billion contract was signed by Chinese and Russian military leaders to purchase 38 Su-30MKK fighter bombers for PLAAF, with the first 10 delivered by KNAAPO on December 20, 2000, and the second 10 delivered on August 21, 2001 (S/N 11x4x). The rest of the batch were delivered by the end of 2001. More advanced and powerful than JH-7A, Su-30MKK has become the first fighter bomber operated by PLAAF capable of carrying a wide range of Russian-made precision-guided air-to-surface weapons including TV guided missiles (Kh-29T & Kh-59ME), anti-radiation missiles (Kh-31P), TV guided bombs (KAB-500KR & KAB-1500KR). In addition it can also carry Sorbtsiya ECM pods at wingtips and APK-9 datalink pod for Kh-59ME underneath its engine air intake. Its maximum weapon load is 8 ton. Its range can be extended up to 5,200km by in-flight refueling, using the newly acquired Il-78 as the tanker. As the result, it is expected to replace some roles of H-6 medium bomber to launch strikes against high value targets deep inside the enemy territory. The aircraft features Su-35 style tailfins with square tips and twin nose wheels. It also features a glass cockpit (front/back), an NIIP N001VE fire-control radar (range 100km, engage 2 aerial targets simultaneously, plus multiple AG modes) capable of firing R-77E active radar homing AAM. Consequently Su-30MKK can fulfill the role as a long-range interceptor. In addition, the older R-27 semi-active radar homing AAM can also been carried. It was rumored that Su-30MKK can be used as a mini-airborne command post to direct up to 16 of the same type via datalink to engage the enemy aircraft. Unlike Su-30MKI acquired by IAF, it lacks canard foreplanes, AL-31FP thrust-vectoring engine (Su-30MKK still uses AL-31F) and N-011M phased-array radar, however its delivery schedule is two and half years faster (in full standard). The acquisition of this F-15E class fighter bomber by PLAAF would inevitably tip the military balance in the North East Asia. In July 2001 China ordered the 2nd batch of 38 Su-30MKKs worth $1.5 billion during Chinese President's visit to Moscow. Some of them were delivered to PLAAF 18th Division Stationed at Changsha Airbase (S/N 20x9x), others went to the PLAAF Flight Test Training Base (S/N 78x3x). In January 2003 China ordered 24 Su-30MK2s (featuring an upgraded N001VEP radar able to fire Kh-31A AShM to attack two targets simultaneously) for the PLAN. All were delivered to the PLA Naval Aviation 4th Division (S/N 81x4x) by the end of August 2004. They have been used mainly as long-range interceptors carrying R-73 & R-77 AAMs over the East China Sea facing Japan and South Korea, as the two pilot crew are perfectly suitable for this type of mission. Unfortunately one was lost in March 2004 due to pilot error. The aircraft was later replaced. Su-30MKK is expected to be superseded by the indigenous J-16 currently under development (see below). Recent images (September 2012) indicated at least 5 Su-30MKKs (S/N 20x9x) are wearing a new "tropical" camouflage (pink, yellow and green) similar to Vietnamese Su-30MKV. These are believed to serve as "blue force"/aggressors for dissimilar air combat training. Recent images (April 2015) indicated that at least one Su-30MKK has been upgraded to carry the indigenous KG600 ECM pod. It is likely that more Chinese made weapons (e.g. PL-12 AAM, LS-500J LGB and KD-88 ASM) will become compatible with the aircraft. The latest image (October 2015) indicated that the fire control system onboard the naval Su-30MK2 has been upgraded locally and the aircraft is now able to carry the indigenous PL-12 active radar homing AAM replacing the original R-77. Its cockpit has been upgraded as well with a small display (for GPS/Beido?) installed next to the HUD. There was a rumor that the radar could be similar to Type 1493 onboard J-11B but this has not been confirmed. It would be interesting to see to what extent this domestic weapon upgrade would continue onboard Su-30MKK/MK2 and whether the import of Russian missiles would eventually stop or not. The latest images (August & September 2016) indicated that Su-30MKK has been flying long-range escort missions with H-6K over the West Pacific Ocean as well as the South China Sea, supported by the Il-78 tanker and the KJ-2000 AWACS.
- Last Updated 10/24/16

J-16 Flanker

One of the first batch of J-16s in service with PLAAF is shown here. It was first rumored in August 2010 that 601/SAC are developing a 3.5 generation heavy multi-role fighter bomber for PLAAF based on J-11BS. The aircraft can be viewed as an upgraded and indigenized version of Su-30MKK (see above) based on its mission and capability, and is comparable to American F-15E. First flight was rumored to have taken place in late 2011. Several prototypes were built. Like Su-30MKK, J-16 features a retractable IFR probe on the port side of the nose to increase its range. As the result the IRST/LR systm was offset from the center to the starboard side. The tanker is believed to be the newly acquired Il-78 from Ukraine. The aircraft also has twin nose wheels due to increase of the TO weight. J-16 also has tandem seats with a WSO sitting in the backseat. Its major improvement is an ASEA fire-control radar inside a gray radome with dedicated air-to-ground and air-to-sea modes. As the result the nose tip pitot tube was removed. Like J-11BS, it is also powered by two WS-10 turbofans. J-16 is capable of carrying a variety of indigenous guided weapons, such as PL-10, PL-12 AAM, KD-88 ASM, LS-500J LGB, 500kg standoff submunition dispenser (TL500/GB6? similar to American AGM-154 JSOW) and possibly wind corrected munition dispenser (WCMD) similar to American CBU-103/104. Recently (November 2016) the aircraft was seen carrying a large LRAAM (PL-15?) against enemy AWACS and tankers. However it is still unclear if J-16 is capable of carrying even bigger weapons, such as the 1,000kg TG-1000 "bunker buster" LGB. The aircraft may also carry a new targeting pod (YINGS-III?) underneath the engine intake similar to American AN/AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pod. Compared to JH-7A, J-16 is expected to have a more powerful radar (AESA from 607 Institute), a greater weapon load (8t) and a longer range (4,000km). Since spring 2013 at least two J-16 prototypes (1601 & 1603) have been undergoing tests at CFTE, including carrying a new PL-10 AAM. It was rumored in October 2013 that the first batch of production J-16s (01 batch/161x) was preparing to enter the limited service with PLAAF. A recent image (August 2015) indicated that the first batch of J-16s have entered the service with PLAAF Dingxin Flight Test & Training Base (78x7x?). There was a rumor that PLAN is also in favor of J-16 over JH-7B but this has not been confirmed. It was rumored in September 2016 that an improved AESA radar has been fitted onborad J-16 (02 batch?) replacing the original one which caused the delay of achieving FOC. The latest image (November 2016) indicated the 02 batch is currently in production at SAC.
- Last Updated 1/14/17

J-16D Flanker

J-16D is an EW Wild Weasel variant of J-16 (J-16D?) in the same class of American EA-18G. The aircraft features a pair of large wingtip ESM/ELINT pods similar to the AN/ALQ-218 tactical jamming receiver onboard EA-18G. It also has multiple antennas mounted on its fuselage including one on the side of engine intake, one behind the cockpit, one underneath the cockpit plus a rectangular dielectric panel behind the radome. A shorter radome on the nose suggests it might be equipped with a new AESA radar with integrated EW modes similar to AN/APG-79. Additional EW pods are expected to be carried under the wings. As a dedicated EW aircraft, J-16D can fly fast and maneuverably enough to escort the fighter/fighter bomber formation and clear the pathway for the air strike with YJ-91 as well as the new generation of ARMs (e.g. LD-10, CM-102). However, its windshield IRST/LR system and the starboard 30mm gun appear to have been removed to create room for extra electronics. As the result J-16D might rely solely on medium-range AAMs (e.g. PL-12/PL-15) for self-defence and would avoid engagement in any WVR dogfight. Some of its technology could be applied towards the J-15S EW aircraft which is also under development at SAC. J-16D flew for the first time on December 18, 2015 at SAC. The latest image (February 2017) suggested that the 2nd prototype has flown at SAC.
- Last Updated 2/20/17