The aircraft that was to become the J-12 ("Jianjiji-12") began as a requirement by the Chinese Air Force (PLAAF) in 1969 for a planned successor to the aging line of Soviet-originated Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 single-seat, jet-powered fighters. The service sought a compact, lightweight form to be powered by turbojet engines and capable of short-field operations while being economical to mass produce. The Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Company (NAMC) (with a design brought along by Lu Xiao-Pcheng) squared off against a submission by the Shenyang company and emerged the declared winner. Three prototypes were eventually completed in the early-going and a first-flight followed on December 26th, 1970.
The Soviet design influence on the J-12 was readily apparent as the new aircraft held a general resemblance to the Soviet MiG-21 "Fishbed" fighter introduced back in 1959. The cockpit was set aft of a nose-mounted circular intake (as in the MiG-21) though "true" swept wing mainplanes were used (unlike the MiG-21's delta planform) and these mounted low along the fuselage sides. The tail unit incorporated a single vertical fin and low-mounted horizontal planes with all of these surfaces swept as well. As in the MiG-21, the J-12 featured a raised fuselage spine which restricted views to the rear of the aircraft some.
Power was from a single Wopen WP-6Z turbojet engine offering 5,512lb thrust on dry and 9,000lb thrust with reheat. The unit was the most recent incarnation at the time of the original WP-6, itself based on the Soviet Tumansky R-9BF-811 series turbojet.
Installed armament included cannons as fixed, standard weapons for close-in work and support for Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs) across three available hardpoints. The cannon armament was made up of a 30mm system fitted to the portside wing root and paired with a 23mm system mounted in the starboard wingroot. Two hardpoints were featured under the wings, one per wing, and a single hardpoint was found under the fuselage.
As with any ambitious program, particularly those related to combat warplanes, the J-12 was not an immediate success as overall performance was lacking so this led to series of progressive modifications of the base design - the armament fit moved further aft, the intake revised, a lightening of the fuselage, split flaps added, etc. From this work then emerged an aircraft which took to the skies for the first time during July 1975 and resulted in a further six aircraft constructed to a pre-series standard.
The project would eventually count nine J-12 aircraft to its name made up of three prototypes and six pre-series examples.
With the arrival of the competing (and superior) Chengdu J-7 (a local Chinese version of the Soviet MiG-21), development on the J-12 was ended in January of 1977. The completed aircraft collectively accounted for over 60 hours in the air across 135 flights. As finalized, the J-12 featured a maximum speed of 810 miles per hour, a range (combat) out to 430 miles and a service ceiling up to 55,675 feet. Rate-of-climb was 35,533 feet-per-minute.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
33.8 ft (10.30 m)
23.6 ft (7.20 m)
12.3 ft (3.75 m)
7,000 lb (3,175 kg)
9,998 lb (4,535 kg)
+2,998 lb (+1,360 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Nanchang J-12 (Jianjiji-12) production variant)
1 x Wopen WP-6Z afterburning turbojet engine developing 5,515lb of thrust dry and 9,000lb of thrust with reheat.
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