Staff Writer (Updated: 5/19/2016):
Shenyang designed a new strike aircraft version of the F-6 in March of 1958. However, their facilities were largely committed to modernization of existing MiG-15s and serial production of the MiG-17 and MiG-19. Chinese authorities directed development of the new aircraft to Nanchang with Shenyang still playing a major role. Up to this point, Nanchang had held some experience in the production of MiG-19 variants but was mostly tied to light-class transport aircraft and piston-powered trainer aircraft.
Development proceeded in August of 1958 to which a prototype - designated as the Qiangjiji-5 - was begun. The design brought together engineers from both the Shenyang and Nanchang concerns with the MiG-19 selected as the starting point. The basic MiG-19 fuselage was reworked to include two side-mounted intake openings to aspirate the twin engine design. The nose intake of the original jet would be covered over in a nose cone assembly that would take in an advanced attack radar and avionics. The fuselage was now area-ruled to reduce inherent drag at transonic and supersonic speeds. The nose gear was revised to fold sideways under the cockpit floor. The wings were revised with less sweep than on the MiG-19 design while anti-flutter attachments were added to the horizontal tailplanes. The single vertical tail fin had its area expanded for improved stability. The Soviet-era fighter design now evolved into a decidedly Chinese product with the completed mockup built and sent to Beijing for review in October of 1958. The prototype was finally completed in 1960 and wind tunnel testing revealed several drawbacks that necessitated reworking of the diagram designs.
In 1961, economic hardship found the burgeoning program and official work on the new strike aircraft was halted. The 300-strong design team was disbanded and the project canceled for the near future. Despite this measure, 15 of the original team proceeded to work on the project during this period and forged ahead in attempting to develop the aircraft. In 1963, the program was reinstated and development picked up once again. On June 4th, 1965, the aircraft went airborne for the first time and successfully completed it maiden test flight. Additional evaluations forced the reworking of several key systems and production of two more flyable prototypes. The completed design finally entered serial production at the end of 1969. She was formally accepted into service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force in 1970 with deliveries forthcoming. Production has since been ongoing with roughly 1,300 examples delivered including those serving in the foreign forces of Bangladesh, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan and Sudan. Pakistan operated the type up until 2010. Export versions were designated as "A-5". The Q-5 received the NATO reporting name of "Fantan" once it was identified as a new Chinese offering.
While the Q-5's new nose cone assembly was intended to accept a new attack radar, the system was never fitted in main production models.
The base Q-5 was crewed by a single personnel. It retained much of the MiG-19s general shape with the exception of the new nose and relocated intakes and bared an uncanny resemblance to the American Republic F-105 Thunderchief. The fuselage was oblong when viewed in the forward profile and well-rounded along its edges. The cockpit sat aft of the nose assembly and featured thick framing under a two-piece canopy. Visibility was somewhat restricted due to the type's raised fuselage spine. The intakes straddled either side of the cockpit and aspirated the dual engine configuration fitted deep within the middle-to-aft fuselage. Wings were mid-mounted assemblies with high sweep along their leading and trailing edges and designed to hold much of the external weapons loads. Large boundary layer fencing along the wing top sides are consistent with Soviet-era jet designs. The empennage tapered off, fitting snuggly around the engine installation and capped by a large exhaust ring. The tail was characterized by its single large vertical tail fin as well as a pair of horizontal tail planes. Ventral strakes (shallower than on the MiG-19) were also noted along the aft-fuselage underside. The undercarriage was fully retractable and consisted of two main landing gear legs as well as a nose leg. All legs were single-wheeled with the main legs retracting into each wing underside toward the fuselage centerline while the nose leg retracted forwards under the cockpit floor. When at rest, the design held a pronounced "nose up" appearance. An ejection seat was afforded to the pilot and provided for safe ejection from the aircraft at any altitude and at any speed. Basic internal fuel stored consisted of three forward- and two rear-set fuel tanks, this augmented by external fuel tanks as well as the internal bomb bay converted for use as an internal fuel store.
Power for the Q-5 was supplied by way of a dual engine arrangement made up of 2 x Liming Wopen-6A (Wopen-6) afterburning turbojet installations. These engines were Chinese copies of the Soviet Mikulin RD-9BF turbojets rated at 5,732lbs of thrust, supplying the mount with a top speed of 752 miles per hour (Mach 1.12 at altitude) as well as an operational range equivalent to 1,200 miles - much less under a full combat load. Rate-of-climb was 20,300 feet per minute with a service ceiling of about 54,000 feet. Performance-wise, the Q-5 exhibited much of the low-level prowess of the MiG-19 before it, though - based on the fuselage edits and additions - suffered in high-altitude performance but this was to be expected. A brake parachute was initially installed at the tail fin to help with shorter landing sequences. This installation was eventually relocated to the tail fin base.
The Q-5 fitted a standard internal cannon arrangement made up of 2 x Norinco Type 23-2K cannon systems (replacing the MiG-19's original 30mm installations) with 100 rounds afforded to each gun, these buried at each leading edge wing roots. The original Q-5 production model sported six hardpoints as well as an internal weapons bay while later models saw up to ten hardpoints and the internal bomb bay given up for fuel. Two underwing positions were also plumbed for external fuel tanks and these became seemingly standard fixtures on all future Q-5 ordnance loads to help offset the aircraft's inherently short operational range when hauling a full combat payload. Beyond the standard cannon armament, the Q-5 could be outfitted with various air-to-air missiles (primarily for short-ranged self-defense), rocket pods (unguided types in various calibers) and drop bombs - initially these being only conventional types though, later, laser-guided versions were introduced. Naturally, the weapons delivery capabilities of the Q-5 evolved within time to accept more modern weapon types.
The initial production models were known simply as "Q-5" and fielded a total of six weapons hardpoints for the carrying of various munitions (including an internal bomb bay). The Q-5A model then followed in limited production quantities and brought about capabilities for a nuclear-tipped payload in a recessed fuselage fitting under the aircraft. In January of 1972, one such aircraft was used to drop a nuclear bomb during testing. A navalized version of the Q-5 was also developed and included a gun ranging radar system but, again, these saw only limited production.