The close ties held between the communist Soviet Union and communist China benefitted the latter militarily during the early Cold War period. One of the advanced developments to fall to the Chinese was the jet-powered, swept-wing Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 "Fresco" fighter. This aircraft was eventually produced locally in Chinese factories in the "Fresco-A" and "Fresco-C" guises, both day fighters limited in their tactical value. A first-flight of the latter occurred on July 19th, 1956 and entered service from Shenyang that year as the "Dongfeng-101" (developmental designation of "Type 56"). Like its Soviet counterpart, the Dongfeng-101 was also known to NATO as the "Fresco".
It was not until 1961 that the MiG-17PF form became available to the Chinese and a local version of this dedicated interceptor model was worked on by Shenyang as well. The Sino-Soviet Split (1960-1989) soured relations between the two nations considerably to the point that the MiG-17PF project was slowed for it was not until 1964 that the first PF-model flew. That same year, the line was redesignated to become the "J-5" and the MiG-17PF became the "J-5A" in service. Export models were therefore known as the "F-5" and fellow concern Chengdu managed production of the two-seat trainer form in the "JJ-5" (export designation of "FT-5"). First examples of the trainers became available in 1968.
Externally, the fighter retained the same form and function as the MiG-17 of Soviet origin. The fuselage was tubular with the bifurcated intake located at the nose and the exhaust port under the tail fin. The pilot say under a heavily framed canopy with adequate views ahead of midships. The wing mainplanes were mid-mounted along the fuselage sides and swept rearwards. Boundary layer fences were prominent. Under each wing could be slung a jettisonable fuel tank for extended range. The tail unit incorporated the horizontal planes high up the length of the single vertical tail fin. The undercarriage was wheeled and wholly retractable with the main legs found under the wing elements and the nose leg under the nose section. The cannon armament was installed in the nose above and below the intake.
As built, the J-5 sported a length of 11.5 meters, a wingspan of 9.6 meters and a height of 3.8 meters. Empty weight was 4,080kg against an MTOW of 6,215kg. Power was from a single Wopen WP-5 (the Soviet Klimov VK-1) turbojet engine of 5,730lb thrust with afterburner capability (7,452lb of thrust). Maximum speed reached 1,050kph with a range out to 1,230 kilometers and a service ceiling of 47,000 feet. Rate-of-climb was 5,315 feet-per-minute.
Installed armament became 1 x 37mm Type 37 autocannon with 2 x 23mm Type 23-1 autocannons. The JJ-5 was outfitted with 1 x 23mm cannons and the J-5A carried three.
Total production of J-5 fighters (including export units) was 767 and the trainer stock added another 1,061 before the end with production of the latter running into 1986. In all, 1,828 were produced with operators in Albania, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, North Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Somalia, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe despite the design being obsolete by 1970s/1980s standards. The United States even acquired several J-5 fighters directly from China for use as mobile threats in testing at Kirkland AFB.
In Chinese service, the J-5 was directly succeeded by the more-capable "J-7" (detailed elsewhere on this site) provided by Chengdu. Some 2,400 of this type were produced and sold to many of the same operators.