This is the blog of China defense, where professional analysts and serious defense enthusiasts share findings on a rising military power.
The J-8I, the PLAAF's first operational indigenous fighter aircraft. It may not have been the prettiest around and it was obsolete pretty much by the time it became operational but an important milestone nonetheless.Now what's to be done with the J-8II? While the US has phased out its interceptor aircraft, Russia has just begun upgrading their existing MiG-31s to the MiG-31BM standard. The difference is that the US Navy has a dozen aircraft carriers while the PLANAF does have such a luxury. A High endurance, high speed, twin engine fighter has the ideal features for a long range, land based naval fighter aircraft which is something the US does not need but for example, Russia does need. The J-8II is still an important part of China's unique defense needs IMO, although the role is important, a replacement will be needed for the future.
Without a good pair of turbofan, it is rather difficult to increase J-8II's range. The way I see it, there are two options for PLAAF's J-8II fleet after product of J-10 and J-11 ramp-up.1. convert it into a poor man's JH-7, to replace the equally obsoleted Q-5 fleet.2. convert more of them into the T mode, a long range, high alt, fact recon jet.
For an engine, there are all these rumours that I can't really confirm about a 'WS-12' turbofan engine being used on practically all of the PLAAFs remaining turbojet engined aircraft but I'm not sure if it is internet fanboyism or infact, a real development but I heard rumours thats its already fitted with J-8Ts.As for turning them all more or less in J-8Gs, while the J-8II makes for a grea strike aircraft given its high speed, long legs, long radar and over all size, as a general attacker, why not simply make more JH-7As? The JH-7 is already the poor man's Su-30MKK nowadays afterall.I think the last option is the most reasonable, if theres one thing learned from Afghanistan and Iraq is highly detailed photographing and monitoring of things like major roadways can save lives on the ground.
There is one way to increase the J-8II's range...the same way it was done for the A-4 Skyhawk II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon...a conformal tank on the fuselage spine. It wouldn't necessarily detract from performance and it would open space under the wings for ordnance.Still, the tactical fast-mover recon role is what kept the F-4 Phantom viable for so long (and the J-8 is, in capabilities, very close to the last models of the Phantom as makes little odds).But if I were a bigwig in the PLANAF, I'd optimise the design for maritime interdiction strike, with other airframes converted to buddy tankers.
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