Production of the J-6 began with the base J-6 designation, this formed from the Soviet MiG-19S production model and appearing only after the J-6A entered production. The J-6A - following in line with the MiG-19P - proved of very low quality and, thusly production was stopped until the facilities were reworked to produce a more suitable end product - such help was supplied from engineers of the Soviet Union. A second J-6A batch, based highly on the MiG-19PF, was therefore delivered and these were formally accepted by the PLAAF. The export version of this mount was known as the "F-6A" and all were finished with an integrated intercepting radar facility as well as twin 30mm cannons for close-in work.
The J-6B production model followed the Soviet MiG-19PM design and was categorized as a dedicated interceptor. These had the capability to field a pair of PL-1 short-range air-to-air missile (copies of the Soviet "AA-1" missile series). However, production of this type was limited to just 19 examples so its reach was very limited. The J-6C then followed and was the first version fitting a 3 x 30mm cannon arrangement as opposed to the original's two. The J-6C was known in the export market as the "F-6C". A dedicated reconnaissance form of the J-6 was also developed, this incorporating a camera pack in place of the fuselage cannon fixture and marketed as the "JZ-6", exported as the "FR-6".
Several prototypes were known to be developed - these becoming the J-6I, J-6II and J-6III. The J-6I fitted a fixed shock cone onto the intake splitter assembly while the J-6II was similar in scope but its shock cone was adjustable. The J-6III incorporated a fixed radome assembly over the intake splitter plate that was to house an indigenous interception radar.
A two-seat trainer derivative of the J-6 fighter emerged as the "JJ-6". The type introduced a second cockpit (in tandem) with overriding redundant controls in a lengthened fuselage, less some fuel. The three-cannon arrangement was reworked to incorporate just a single fitting for armed gunnery training. The JJ-6 was exported as the "FT-6" to interested parties and local production was also served through the Tianjin concern. The JJ-6 airframe also served as a testbed for an indigenous ejection seat design. Similarly, the Xian BW-1 became a fly-by-wire developmental airframe to test out an indigenous Chinese flight system. The Guizhou concern delivered the J-6A model designation that held capabilities for the launching of a pair of PL-2 IR air-to-air missiles.
Operators of the J-6/F-6 (beyond China) became Albania, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, North Vietnam, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Vietnam. The F-6 proved acceptable to the budget conscious shopped looking for a modern fighter platform and the Chinese product did not disappoint. Pakistan enjoyed widespread use of the type and fielded it across no fewer than ten squadrons including a training group. Nearly all were retired by 2002 and replaced by the Chengdu F-7 series - the Chinese copy of the Soviet MiG-21 "Fishbed". Albania managed 82 F-6 platforms which was a considerable amount - all these having been retired as of 2005. To date, only Iran, Myanmar and North Korea still operate the F-6 export model.
J-6 fighters in Chinese service were formally removed from frontline service by 2005 with some modified for the miserable post-operational life of target drone. However, many of the two-seat trainer derivatives (over one hundred examples at least) were retained for jet pilot training. However, even these are continuing to see active replacement by the more capable and modern Hongdu JL-8 series.
In all, over 3,000 J-6/F-6 airframes were completed by Shenyang and others.