Xian JH-7 / FBC-1 Flying Leopard
In the early 1970s, China was looking for a fighter-bomber to replace the H-5 (Il-28) and Q-5. Initially, China looked abroad for joint solutions, but when these efforts fell through, a program was started to develop a domestic design. Requirements soon emerged from the PLAAF and PLANAF requesting separate configurations. The PLAAF wanted side-by-side seating, terrain-following radar, and an extensive ECM suite, while the PLANAF requested tandem seating, all-weather performance, and reconnaissance capabilities. The PLAAF variant would be dropped fairly early on and by the end of 1988, Xian had developed a two-seat design with a shoulder mounted wing, powered by two Rolls-Royce Spey engines. While it was equipped with a powerful radar capable of tracking both aircraft and ships, the original design lacked any significant air-to-air capabilities.
The aircraft was not without its teething issues. Flight testing was filled with major (often near catastrophic) malfunctions. The first flight ended early when violent vibrations shook off the majority of the cockpit instrumentation, and later tests ended when massive fuel leaks almost caused the aircraft to run out of fuel in flight. When the aircraft began operational evaluations, one aircraft lost its entire rudder in flight, making a successful emergency landing. Despite all of the issues, the PLAAF soon requested its own variant of the JH-7. Designated the JH-7A, the new aircraft was to have a stronger airframe and higher payload than the JH-7 and the capability to deploy various precision-guided weapons.
After extensive testing and redesigns, JH-7s began to enter service with the PLANAF and PLAAF in 2004. Over 200 have entered service, providing the Chinese with a fairly capable replacement to their MiG-19-derived Q-5s. JH-7As continue to be upgraded with systems such as a newly developed helmet-mounted sight. Meanwhile, the Chinese are working on a more extensive upgrade to the design, designated the JH-7B. The JH-7B is to feature upgraded avionics, a reduced frontal RCS, aerial refueling capabilities, and upgraded engines producing 15% more thrust. Plans called for the JH-7B to enter production in 2015.
China revealed a 20-year-old fighter/bomber at the Air Show China ‘98, held at Zhuhai. The aircraft, the FBC-1 Flying Leopard, is an export version of the JH-7 twin-seat strike fighter and actually flew in 1989, though its development programme dates back to the 1970s. This was the first time the aircraft has been flown in public. The aircraft was developed by the Xian Aircraft Design and Research Institute (ADRT) and is capable of Mach 1.7, and has a range of 890 nm.
FBC-1 Flying Leopard
Max speed: Mach 1.7
Range: 890 nm