Unlike the other Chinese fighters (J-8, J-9, J-11 and J-12), Shenyang J-13 was developed by the Shenyang Aircraft Co. as a private initiative. At the turn of 1971/72 the No. 601 Research Institute tasked SAC with holding a survey in 1972 in order to find out what kind of aircraft the Air Force and Navy wanted. The survey, which involved 12 PLAAF and PLANAF units, continued until late 1974. In early 1974 SAC also began probing the PLAAF leadership with a view to promoting their concept. As a result of this preparatory work a formal operational requirement for a fighter designated Shenyang J-13 was issued on 24th April 1976.
Apart from creating a multi-role combat aircraft able to compete with state-of-tlne-art foreign designs on the world weapons market, the designers at Shenyang apparently strove to get ahead of their competitors from Chengdu developing the J-9. Unfortunately they ran into the same technical problems as the competitors, the greatest problem being the lack of a suitable engine. Since the requirements to which the two fighters were being developed were basically identical, so were the proposed engines – the WS-6 was considered the first choice in June 1976, with the WS-9 (Rolls- Royce Spey 202) as an option. Later, the R29B-300 also came into consideration.
Large-scale research was done on the fighter’s layout, about 20 possible configurations being considered and more than 3,000 wind tunnel hours being logged from early 1973. Known configurations show a single-engined aircraft with shoulder-mounted wings and a conventional tail featuring either small lateral air intakes or a single large ventral intake; the latter gave rise to the nickname ‘Chinese F-16’ when information about the project leaked into the Internet much later. Anyway, the powerplant issue was never resolved and in May 1981 the government finally cancelled the J-13 programme.