Chengdu (AVIC) J-7 / F-7 Interceptor / Strike Fighter Aircraft
The widely-exported Chengdu J-7 was nothing more than a Chinese license-production copy of the Soviet-era Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbed.
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After World War 2 (1939-1945), China and the Soviet Union were cooperating political powers. This naturally led to China being the recipient of modern technology developed by Soviet engineers. Ultimately, adoption of Soviet aircraft, tanks and small arms occurred and this allowed the Chinese to field Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 "Fagot" jet-powered fighters in the Korean War. In 1955, the Soviet government granted China license production of the MiG-17 jet fighter and these were produced locally in the hundreds. The intimate experience in producing advanced jet aircraft ultimately allowed a burgeoning Chinese aero industry to develop centering on ordnance, airframes and powerplants. Reverse engineering of military weapons would prove a certain Chinese-held talent over the decades - a trait that continues even today. Wholly-indigenous two-seat trainers were eventually designed, developed and produced, all in-house. License production of the MiG-19 then followed into the 1960s though this period was soon hampered by the Sino-Soviet Split of 1960-1989 which saw a deterioration of the political and military partnership.
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.