Staff Writer (Updated: 9/26/2016):
Despite the differences, relations seemingly thawed some during that span, enough to open the door for the Soviet Union to introduce the Chinese to their new MiG-21 "Fishbed" interceptor. License production was granted in 1962 and the local concern of Shenyang was charged with copying the MiG-21F-13 "Fishbed-C" and its RD-11F-300 series engine. The Soviets assisted through personnel, aeronautical agencies and kits, the latter intended for local Chinese assembly. Under the Chinese initiative, the MiG-21F was bestowed the designation of "J-7" and its foreign export counterpart would become the "F-7". The corresponding engine copy was the localized "WP-7" offering. Initial engine trials occurred in October of 1965 and the prototype was finalized in November of that year. First flight of a Chinese F-7 was on January 17th, 1966. The type proved a serviceable copy and serial production was ordered though slow, beginning in June of 1967. Production, hampered by the arrival of the "Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976), was then allocated to Chengdu facilities. The Revolution undoubtedly hurt the J-7 in the early going as disruptions delayed full operational status of the system until the early 1980s. From there, many kinks were apparent as the Chinese product proved subpar when compared to its Soviet version. Issues were not resolved until 1985.
At its core, the F-7 can be considered a fair copy of the excellent and widely popular 1960s-era MiG-21. The fuselage is of a largely tubular design with low-set delta-shaped main wings and well-swept tail planes. The aircraft relies on a single vertical tail fin. The cockpit is set well-forward in the design with a lightly framed canopy. There is no traditional nosecone as the nose is left open to aspirate the single engine fitting. The undercarriage is wholly retractable and consists of two single-wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled nose leg.