The aircraft for today is the Xian JH-7 Flounder which is also known by its other name the FBC-1 Flying Leopard. This I a fighter slash bomber jet which has a two-seat design with a twin-engine configuration which is currently in service of the PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) and PLANAF (People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force). The main contractors for this aircraft are the XAC (Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation) and the 603rd Aircraft Design Institute which is now known as First Aircraft Institute of AVICI-I.
The very first of the Xian JH-7 Flounder were delivered for service to the PLNAF back in the mid-1990s for evaluation and their service officially began in 2004.
In the current world of aviation among the many top military air forces, the one that is increasing its power by leaps and bounds is none other than the Chinese military. They were once tied by the forces of Soviet Union but after getting their own dominance in the world; they are looking into many of the military solutions at home. This has led to the development of their military-industrial complex which has expanded over the last few years.
The origin of the Xian JH-7 Flounder came after the PLANAF made the requirement for a new aircraft that could house the capabilities of a new fighter bomber jet. After their overseas inquires for a new aircraft fell to naught, China decided to tackle this problem by creating one at home. The resulting aircraft design was for the Xian JH-7 Flounder which was inspired by other European fighters of the same role.
The Xian JH-7 Flounder features a two-seat tandem configuration with both seats having ejection built into them for both pilots. The rear view is decreased due to the fuselage having an internal volume. The aircraft also features a two-engine configuration to provide the necessary power for such a mighty mount as well as increase its survivability even if one of the engines gave out. These engines aspirate through the small intakes that are made on either side of the fuselage that is aft to the cockpit.
As for the undercarriage of the Xian JH-7 Flounder, it is of tricycle configuration with two main landing gears and one rear landing gear. The ventral strakes are added under the aircraft’s tail to add to its stability.
First flight and entry into service:-
The initial production models for the Flounder were designated as JH-7 and by 1988 nearly 6 prototypes were manufactured. The program for the Xian JH-7 Flounder initially had plans for side by side seating arrangement for the air force aircraft model while the navy model would have the tandem seating configuration. However, the plans for the side by side seating arrangement were finally discarded.
These prototypes took their first flight in December of 1988 and were thus entered into the evaluation phase into the PLANAF where they were to be used for anti-ship roles. For that purpose, they were equipped with 2 of the YJ-82 missiles for air-to-surface strikes. The earlier models of the Xian JH-7 Flounder were powered by 2 of the Spey 202 series engines that were then replaced with the Chinese built engines.
After undergoing many years in the operational service, the Xian JH-7 Flounder was placed under many modernization and design improvement phases which were all completed on CAD software. The resultant aircraft was a slightly revised yet reinforced airframe which was also light. In addition to this, the armament carrying capacity of the aircraft also increased by placement of the 6 hardpoints. Avionics underwent updates to add the fly-by-wire controls while for navigation, her aircraft was equipped with the JL10A Shang Ying J-ban Doppler radar.
The official operational service for the Xian JH-7 Flounder with the PLANF started back in 2004.
For the standard armament configuration, the aircraft is fitted with a single 23 mm internal cannon of GSh-23L series. While the external hardpoints of the aircraft, they could be equipped to carry a total load of 20000 lbs which was used for equipping the aircraft with the following ordnance.
- Precision guided missiles
- Conventional drop bombs.
Over all the weaponry system of the Xian JH-7 Flounder was made better in its improvements phases for better delivery of the guided precision munitions. For special mission pods, the Xian JH-7 Flounder was also equipped to have 2 large LCD monitors.
A single Xian JH-7 Flounder is powered by twin Xian WS9 series afterburner turbofan engines. Each of these engines could create a dry thrust of nearly 12250 lbs and an afterburner thrust of 20000 lbs. under these powerful engines, the aircraft could muster a top speed of nearly 1120 mph with combat radius being 1100 miles at a service ceiling of 51180 feet.
Flying Leopard; the export variant:-
The export version of the Xian JH-7 Flounder is designated as FBC-1 Flying Leopard which stands for “Fighter Bomber China”. This aircraft is currently in service of PLANAF.
Total number of aircraft produced:-
The production of the Xian JH-7 Flounder was started back in 1977 with its first 6 prototypes. Including these prototypes and many other variants, the total number of Xian JH-7 Flounders produced reaches about 270.