Nanchang J-12

A competing design to Shenyang under the light fighter pro­gramme was offered by the Nanchang Aircraft Factory. The aircraft was designated Nanchang J-12. Lu Xiaopeng, Vice-Director of the factory’s design department, was the project chief.

The Nanchang J-12 resembled a scaled-down version of the North American F-100 Super Sabre with some typical MiG features incorporated. The moderately swept wings were low-set, featur­ing a kinked trailing edge and a single tall boundary layer fence on each side at two- thirds span; the tail unit comprised a sharply swept trapezoidal fin (plus a ventral fin) and low-set moderately swept stabilators. The aft- hinged canopy with a wraparound windshield was faired into a shallow fuselage spine. The single 4,050-kgp (8,930-lbst) WP-6B non- afterburning turbojet housed in the rear fuse­lage breathed through a circular nose intake similar to that of the MiG-19 but having sharp lips. The nose gear unit retracted forward, the main units inward into the fuselage (the land­ing gear was similar to that of the J-6). The armament consisted of two 30-mm cannons buried in the wing roots.

In contrast with the Shenyang J-11, the normal take­off weight was a mere 4,550 kg (10,030 lb). This was due to the aircraft’s small dimensions and to the large-scale use of titanium alloy, chemical milling and honeycomb structures. Thus, the Nanchang J-12 was not just a light fighter but a bantam fighter.

The work proceeded at a remarkably fast pace. Development began in July 1969; the concept was finalised in August 1969 and pro­totype manufacturing started at the end of the year. Serialled ’01 Red’, the first prototype made its maiden flight on 26th December 1970; it was followed by the second prototype (’02 Red’) and a static test article.

The tests ran surprisingly smoothly and the results were generally encouraging; the air­craft was more agile than the J-6. On 10th September 1973 the Nanchang J-12 was demonstrated to senior Chinese politicians and military offi­cials at Nan Yuan airbase near Beijing.

The original version was 10.644 m (34 ft 11 in) long less pitotand 3.706 m (12 ft 1 in) high, with a wing span of 7.192 m (23 ft 7 in) and a wing area of 16 sq m (172 sq ft). The empty weight was 3,172 kg (6,993 lb) and the maximum TOW was 5,295 kg (11,673 lb). Maximum level speed at 11,000 m (36,090 ft) was 1,472 km/h (914 mph), the service ceiling was 16,870 m (55,350 ft), the maximum rate of climb was 180 m/sec (3,540 ft/min) and the maximum range on internal fuel was estimat­ed as 1,167 km (725 miles). The take-off run was 450 m (1,480 ft).

The customer was dissatisfied with the fight­er’s performance, demanding improvements. Hence the Nanchang Aircraft Factory under- took a redesign of the Nanchang J-12. Occasionally referred to as the J-12 I or J-12A, the revised fighter had an area-ruled fuselage and a new air intake featuring a fixed shock cone similar to that of the J-7; this increased the overall length less pitot to 10.665 m (34 ft 11 in). The pitot boom on top of the nose was relocated to a ventral position, folding upward to avoid ground damage (likewise in the manner of the J-7). Provisions were made for carrying two PL-2 AAMs.

Again, three Nanchang J-12s were built in the new configuration, including ‘145 Red’ and ‘7112 Red’. The ‘second maiden flight’ took place in July 1975; by January 1977 the J-12 I had logged 61 hours 12 minutes in 135 test flights. A top speed of Mach 1.386 and a service ceil­ing of 17,410 m (57,120 ft) were reached. Yet it was clear that the lightly armed Nanchang J-12 with its relatively low performance would be unable to offer serious opposition to contemporary strike aircraft. Therefore in February 1978 the government finally pulled the plug on the pro­gramme.

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