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1:72 Chengdu J-7FS, PLAAF “21864 Red”, 15th Fighter Division, 44th Air Regiment; Yangning AB, 2004 (Whif/Matchbox kit conversion)

DISCLAIMER
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!

The Chinese J-7FS was a direct descendant of the J-7E. The Chengdu J-7 itself has a long heritage of development, even though it is originally a Soviet design, a license-built MiG-21F, which has its roots in the mid 50ies.

It took China long way to develop and produce a true supersonic fighter aircraft: in March, 1964, Shenyang Aircraft Factory began the first domestic production of the J-7 jet fighter. However, the mass production of the aircraft, which had been developed through Soviet help, license production and reverse-engineering, was severely hindered by an unexpected problem—the Cultural Revolution. This incident and its consequences resulted in poor initial quality and slow progress.

This, in turn, resulted in full scale production only coming about in the 1980s, by which time the J-7 design was showing its age. However, through the years the J-7 saw constant development and refinement in China, and the J-7FS was one of the many directions the simple, basic design went in order to imporve performance and to keep it up to date.

The J-7FS was designed in the late 90ies as a dedicated interceptor, and as a lighter option than the twin-engined J-8 fighter of indigenous design. Main task was to incorporate a true air-to-air radar with surveillance capabilities, since the J-7 only featured a rader-based range finder in the central shock cone of the air intake.

Fitting a more capable radar required a larger radome, which meant either a bigger central shock cone (as in the 2nd generation MiG-21 fighters) or a totally new nose and air intake arrangement. The accordingly modified J-7FS saw first daylight as a technology demonstration aircraft built by CAC. Its most prominent feature was a redesigned under-chin inlet, reminiscent of the F-8 or A-7 nose, which provided air for a WP-13IIS engine. Above the air intake, a fixed conical radome offered space for a bigger radar dish. “139 Red”, how the first aircraft was coded, first flew in June 1998, starting a 22-month test program. Two prototypes were built, but only the first aircraft was to fly – the second machine was only used for static tests.

"139 Red" soon saw major progress in design and equipment: it received a new double-delta wing which nearly doubled internal fuel capacity and improved performance, a modified fin, a more potent WP-13F turbojet engine, and a new 600 mm slot antenna planar array radar using coherent technology to achieve scan, look-down and shoot-down capabilities.
The revamped aircraft also received a sand/green camouflage paint scheme, less flashy than the original white/red livery. The new wing, which was also introduced on the J-7E, made the aircraft 45% more maneuverable than the MiG-21F-like J/F-7M, while the take-off and landing distance is reduced to 600 meters, in comparison to the 1.000 meter take-off distance and 900 meter landing distance of earlier versions of the J-7.

The production J-7FS which was ready for service in summer 2000 featured even more changes and novelties: the J-7FS incorporated HOTAS, which has since become standard on other late J-7 versions, too. This version is also the first of J-7 series to be later upgraded with helmet mounted sights (HMS). However, it is reported that the helmet mounted sight is not compatible with radars, and air-to-air missiles must be independently controlled by either HMS or radar, but not both.

The serial production radome now had an ogival shape with an even larger base diameter, and for additional avionics such as weapon management, global positioning and flight data recording systems, the production J-7FS featured a bulged spine, reminiscent of the 3rd generation MiG-21 (or the respective Chengdu J-7C, a reverse-engineered MiG-21MF). The aircraft was even able to carry medium range AAMs, e .g. the Chinese PL-11 missile, a license-built Selenia Aspide AAM from Italia, itself a modernized descendant of the venerable AIM-7 Sparrow. Another feature which set the FS version apart was the ventral, twin-barreled Type 23-III gun instead of the single-barelled 30mm cannon at the flank.

The role of the J-7FS in the People’s Liberation Army was to provide local air defense and tactical air superiority, even though it certainly was only a stop-gap until the introduction of the much more potent Chengdu J-10, which started to enter PLAAF service in 2005 after a long development time. With its more powerful radar the J-7FS was supposed to act as a kind of mini AWACS platform, guiding groups of less potent J-7Es to potential targets. It is known that the J-7FS’s new radar had a range greater than 50 km and could track up to eight targets simultaneously. The aircraft’s overall performance is expected to be similar to early F-16 variants.

The number of built specimen is uncertain, but it is supposed to be less than 100, probably even less than 50. It is rumored that the type had also been offered to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka around 2001, but was not bought.

General characteristics:
Crew: 1
Length: 14.885 m (Overall) (48 ft 10 in)
Wingspan: 8.32 m (27 ft 3½ in)
Height: 4.11 m (13 ft 5½ in)
Wing area: 24.88 m² (267.8 ft²)
Aspect ratio: 2.8:1
Empty weight: 5,292 kg (11.667 lb)
Loaded weight: 7,540 kg (16.620 lb)
Max. take-off weight: 9.100 kg (20.062 lb)

Powerplant:
1 × Guizhou Liyang WP-13F(C) afterburning turbojet with 44.1 kN (9.914 lb) dry thrust and 66.7 kN (14.650 lb) with afterburner:

Performance
Maximum speed: Mach 2.0, 2,200 km/h (1.189 knots, 1.375 mph)
Stall speed: 210 km/h (114 knots, 131 mph) IAS
Combat radius: 850 km (459 nmi, 528 mi) (air superiority, two AAMs and three drop tanks)
Ferry range: 2,200 km (1.187 nmi, 1.367 mi)
Service ceiling: 17,500 m (57.420 ft)
Rate of climb: 195 m/s (38.386 ft/min)

Armament:
1× twin-barreled Type 23-III 23mm (0.9") cannon with 250 rounds under the fuselage;
5× hardpoints (4× under-wing, 1× centerline under-fuselage) with a capacity of 2,000 kg maximum (up to 500 kg each); Ordnance primarily comprises air-to-air missiles, including PL-2, PL-5, PL-7, PL-8, PL-9 and PL-11 AAMs, but in a secondary CAS role various rocket pods an unguided bombs of up to 500kg caliber could be carried

The kit and its assembly:
This whif is based on the real world J-7FS, which actually flew but never made it beyond the technical demonstrator stage. However, I found the air intake design with its raked shape and the pointed radome interesting, and since I had a crappy Matchbox MiG-21MF with misprinted decals in store I decided to use that kit for a whif conversion. There’s even a resin kit of the first J-7FS (still with the standard delta wing, though, and horribly expensive) available, but I wanted to create a more advanced what-if model, if the type had somehow entered service.

The kit saw major modification all around the fuselage: the wing tips were clipped and scratch-built ends for the J-7E double delta wing shape attached. The shape is certainly not correct, but it’s IMHO the impression that counts. The MiG-21MF’s deep fin was replaced by a donation part from an F-16 – the 2nd J-7FS already featured a distinctive kink at the fin’s top which made it already look rather F-16ish, and the taller and more slender fin suits the MiG-21 well.

A brake parachute housing with a disctinctive, blunt end was added just above the jet exhaust, and some antennae and pitots were added in order to enhance the bleak Matchbox kit a little. The Type 23-III cannon was sculpted from a piece of sprue, just like the brake parachute housing.

The nose section/radome is the front half of an F-18 drop tank. An oval, tapered piece of styrene was implanted as the raked intake lip, trying to copy the look of the real thing according to the few pictures I had at hand. I also added a central splitter in the air intake, which houses the front wheel bay.

Some putty work was necessary to blend the new nose into the front fuselage, as well as the dorsal spine into the new fin, but that turned out to be easier than expected.

The jet exhaust originally is just a vertical "plate" in the MiG-21’s tail. I opened it and implanted a new cover inside of the fuselage, in a deeper position. For some more detail I also added a (simple) jet nozzle, IIRC it is a leftover part from a Matchbox Jaguar kit, probably 30 years old… Not much, but it defininitively enhances the rear view of the machine.

The original cockpit only consists of a bulky seat and the pilot figure, and the clear canopy is clear but horribly thick. Hence, I decided to keep the cockpit closed, but nevertheless I added a floor and some side panels, and used an Airfix pilot figure.

The missile ordnance comes from the scrap box, reflecting “modern” Chinese air-to-air weaponry: two PL-7 (Matra Magic AAMs from an Italeri NATO weapons kit) on the outer and two PL-11 (two Aspide missiles from the same set ) on the inner wing hardpoints. All wing hardpoints come from MiG-21F kits, one pair is from the Academy kit, the other from the vintage Hasegawa kit, both have the launch rails molded into the weapon pylon. The drop tank is a typical Chinese item – it resembles the Russian/soviet PTB-490 drop tank, but has a more blunt nose and smaller fins – it comes from a FC-1 kit from Trumpeter.

Paintings and markings:
Since it is an air superiority aircraft, I wanted an appropriate livery, but not the dull overall grey of contemporary PLAAF fighters. But I found some weird real life paint schemes which inspired the final camouflage.
Since the plane was not supposed to look too American through FS tones I rather used ‘other’ colors for a wraparound scheme. The basic tone is Testors 2123 (Russian Underside Blue), and from above a darker contrast color was added, Humbrol 230 (PRU Blue). Both tones have a greenish/teal hue, which complements each other well. Together they create a pretty distinctive look, though, esp. with the red and yellow insignia and codes. IMHO these colors suit the fighter well.

The kit received a light black ink wash and some dry painting with lighter blue-grey shades (Humbrol 87 and 128), but no weathering, since modern Chinese aircraft tend to look pretty clean and pristine.

The decals were puzzled together from the scrap box, IIRC the insignia originally they belong to a Il-28 Trumpeter kit. The 5 digit code comes from a Revell MiG-29 and the number itself is based on the information published in the 2010 book “Chinese Air Power” by Yefim Gordon und Dmitriy Komissarov, where the Chinese code system is explained – I hope that it is more or less authentic 😉

So, all in all a rather simple kit conversion, and certainly not a creative masterpiece. To be honest, the similarity with the real thing is just at first glance – but since it is whif world, I am fine with the outcome. ^^

Posted by dizzyfugu on 2012-11-25 20:19:15

Tagged: , matchbox , mig-21 , fishbed , chengdu , j-7 , j-7fs , kit , conversion , model , 1:72 , whif , what-if , plaaf , interceptor , PL-7 , PL-11 , dizzyfugu , modellbau , Air , regiment , yangning , grey , blue , superiority , aspide , matra , magic , pili , AAM , china , chinese


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