According to Nato’s codename, J-8 is also known as Finback. Developed from J-7, a reverse-engineered MiG-21, the J-8 had design lines similar to Soviet products.


China is increasingly showing its ambition to dominate all areas. In the field of military aviation, in addition to constantly producing the latest technology products to compete with the West and Russia, in the Chinese inventory, there are still the services of the imprints of the Soviet era, among which is Shenyang J-8.

Shenyang J-8 is remembered as the first Chinese product designed and manufactured domestically. It should be remembered that from the 1950s, Chinese military technology depended entirely on the generosity of the Soviet Union. After this relationship abruptly ceased in 1961, China was stuck in technological backwardness.

Shenyang J-8 review on Dung Tran Military channel

The Chinese attempted to create the J-8 with the idea of ​​confronting the US F-105 bombers and mid-range B-58 bombers. The J-8 development research plan was established by the Shenyang aircraft factory in May 1964 based on the first J-7 prototype. By July 1968, the first 2 J-8s were completed, in July 1969 officially tested. However, the Cultural Revolution disrupted the program. It took another 10 years until 1979, it was completely designed and officially put into operation in 1981.

According to Nato’s codename, J-8 is also known as Finback. Developed from J-7, a reverse-engineered MiG-21, the J-8 had design lines similar to Soviet products. It was a design blend between MiG-21 Fishbed and Sukhoi Su-15 Flagon.

Shenyang J-8 design

J-8 has a length of 21.39m (70 ft 2 in), a wingspan of 9.34m (30 ft 8 in), a height of 5.41m (17 ft 9 in), an empty weight of 10.4 tons (22,864 lb), a maximum take-off weight of 18.9 tons (41,621 lb).

Original Shenyang J-8

In the original J-8 versions, air intakes were placed at the nose, similar to the Mig-21 and tubular fuselage. From the J-8II version onwards, the design of the aircraft was quite different, with a new forward fuselage, intake ramps with splitter plates and nose structure more reminiscent of the F-4 Phantom II or Sukhoi Su-15 to house a new, more powerful radar.

The single cockpit is placed forward, behind the long nose, giving the pilot a relatively good vision. The wings are low monoplane arrangements with extremely sharp angles. The empennage is a traditional arrangement consisting of a vertical tail fin, two horizontal planes and two ventral fins. It is believed that the materials used on J-8 originated from Mig-21.


After many upgrades, the J-8 was equipped with two Guizhou WP-13B afterburning turbojet engines, producing 47.1 kN (10,580 lbf) of dry thrust each, and up to 68.6 kN (15,430 lbf) with afterburner. A deep upgraded version such as F-8IIM can reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.4, a combat range of 1,000km and a service ceiling of 18,000m.

Original Shenyang J-8 II
Shenyang J-8 II


In terms of armament, the aircraft was originally armed with cannons and seven hardpoints for missiles, bombs, rockets or fuel tanks. The original weapons layout of the J-8 was two 30 mm Type 30-1 cannons and four PL-2 domestic missiles. The next generations was equipped with PL-4A/B medium-range air-to-air missiles, guided by semi-active radar; PL-2 and PL-5 short-range air-to-air missiles, guided by infrared.

Attempts to produce PL-4Z that simulated the US AIM-7B Sparrow were unsuccessful, so the missile was scrapped. In fact, the quality of these missiles is on par with the K-5 missile on the Mig-17PM and inferior to the Atoll of Mig-21. The J-8 is only slightly better than the J-7 in terms of mechanical features and number of weapons, basically no difference in technology.

At the time of its launch, the J-8 was praised by China for its superior functionality over the Soviet Mig-21. But in reality, at that time, China’s aircraft manufacturing technology was too outdated, it was based on the J-7 design that was only on par with the Mig-19, so the J-8 later versions only reached the level of Mig-21.

Shenyang J-8II in flight

Upgraded J-8II model

The radar chosen for the J-8 was the Type 204 mono-pulse fire-control radar, a primitive ranging radar for daylight within-visual-range operations. On upgraded J-8II models, it was replaced by US avionics, APG-66 type radar system and ejection seat. The events at Tiananmen Square promoted this project.

Although developed in the 1980s of the last century, until now J-8II has always served actively in both the Chinese Air Force and the Navy. It remains one of the main Chinese fighters, there are about 300 J-8s in service. In addition to being an interceptor fighter, the J-8II can also carry out ground-attack missions. In more advanced variants, the J-8II can also carry highly accurate guided weapons.

For many years, China has succeeded in importing a variety of military intelligence from Russia. Today, the Chinese truly believe that, in many areas, their technology is advanced enough without the help of Russia. Self-developed fighter jets such as J-10, J-11 or J-20 are gradually replacing obsolete fighters. In the short term, the J-8 series will continue to serve under China’s air and naval forces, until it is completely replaced.

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