The Harbin H-5 is Chinese version of Soviet Ilyushin IL-28. In the early 1950s the PLAAF started taking delivery of the Ilyushin IL-28 tactical bomber (NATO reporting name Beagle). The aircraft, which first flew in July 1948, featured a rather curious combination of shoulder-mounted unswept wings and swept conventional tail surfaces; it was powered by two 2,700-kgp (5,950-lbst) Klimov VK-1 centrifugal-flow turbojets in area-ruled nacelles which adhered directly to the wing undersurface and accom¬modated the main gear units as well. The bomber had a crew of three – a pilot seated in a fighter-type cockpit, a navigator/bomb-aimer in the extensively glazed nose and a gunner operating the hydraulically powered twin-can- non tail barbette.
The IL-28 became the PLAAF’s first modern bomber and a valuable asset, seeing action during the First Taiwan Crisis of 1954-55. A repair facility for the type was set up in Harbin but no manufacturing licence for the type was obtained. Hence after the rift in Sino-Soviet relations China decided to build the IL-28 – without the benefit of a licence.
Production of the IL-28, which received the local designation H-5 (Hongzhaji – bomber), was logically assigned to the Harbin aircraft factory. Due to the exigencies of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ the preparations did not begin until 1963. To be perfectly honest, the Chinese did not adopt a simple copycat approach and altered the design considerably, changing 40% of the structure and systems. In particu¬lar, the wing panels and tail surfaces of the original Soviet bomber had a manufacturing break along the chord line. Each half of the subassembly consisted of several skin panels incorporating stringers and ribs; this allowed different panels to be manufactured simulta¬neously at different workstations while improving working conditions. In contrast, the Chinese dispensed with this manufacturing break and used a conventional wing design on the H-5; this saved some 110 kg (242 lb) of weight, albeit the manufacturing process became more difficult.
Changes were made to the armament – the original IL-K6 spherical tail turret with two Nudelman/Richter NR-23 cannons was replaced by a DK-7 turret of basically cylindri¬cal shape mounting two Afanas’yev/Makarov AM-23 cannons; the new installation brought about some changes to the fuselage structure. The new turret was borrowed from the Tupolev Tu-16 medium bomber (built in China as the H-6) for the sake of com¬monality The AM-23 had the same 23-mm calibre but a much higher rate of fire (1,300 versus 850 rounds per minute) and the ammu¬nition supply was more than doubled – from 225 to 500 rpg. Additionally, the Chinese ver¬sion had a different bomb-aiming radar with greater operational range, a different bomb sight with a wider field of view, and a different identification friend-or-foe system.
The different tail turret was the main exter¬nal identification feature of the Harbin H-5. Also, the cockpit canopy had a one-piece blown trans¬parency (without a lengthwise frame mem¬ber), a taxi light was added to the forward door of the nosewheel well and the starboard forward-firing cannon was deleted.
Manufacturing of jigs and tooling started in 1964. The first two airframes – the flying prototype and a static test airframe – were completed in 1966 and the Harbin H-5 prototype took to the air on 25th September 1966, flown by pilot Wang Wenying, navigator Zhang Huichang and radio operator Zeng Fannan. Full-scale production at Harbin com¬menced in April 1967. The VK-1 engines for the bomber were manufactured by the Shenyang Engine Factory (SEF) as the WP-5A.
Chinese-built Beagles were exported to Albania and Romania; the export version was designated B-5 (for bomber). The last of the Romanian examples remained active past 2000.