The Q-5 is China’s premier military aircraft, bringing together nearly all of the quintessence of the country’s aviation manufacturing industry during the Cold War.

In the early 1950s, the Chinese Air Force received Soviet aid with the first supersonic twin-engine jet fighters, the MiG-19. And most importantly, China has been transferred technology by the Soviet Union to produce this aircraft in China with the name Shenyang J-6, since 1958. In August 1958, the PLA requested the development of a jet attack aircraft, for the air support role. The Q-5 attack-bomber was born based on the design of the MiG-19 with the air intakes moved from the nose to the sides, to make room for the radar.

The swept wing of the MiG-19 was replaced by a new design, with a larger area. The Q-5 shared the J-6’s Liming Wopen WP-6A turbofan engine (a copy of the Tumansky RD-9); however the engine durability is very poor, only about 100 hours of operation. The program was started in 1958, but the complicated developments in China were complicated and unstable, causing the aircraft’s development to be delayed. In 1964, the program was resumed, the first flight took place on June 10, 1965; Mass production began in 1969, and service in the PLA began in 1970.

Nanchang Q-5
Nanchang Q-5

The Q-5 could reach a maximum speed of Mach 1, with a combat radius of 450-700km. Compared to the shape, the Q-5 was the smallest attack aircraft of the same type of the socialist countries at that time. The Q-5’s main armament consists of two 23mm cannons and ten hardpoints for unguided bombs and rockets. Like other attack aircraft such as the A-4 Skyhawk, the Q-5 can also carry heat-seeking air-to-air missiles.

China has produced about 1,300 Q-5 and A-5 aircraft. They have been in service with the Chinese Army for nearly 50 years until 2017. The export A-5s are still in service with the air forces of countries such as North Korea, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sudan and Bangladesh. In fact, the Q-5 was an attack aircraft far inferior to the performance of the American Skyhawk, developed in the 1950s. China later attempted to upgrade the Q-5 with Western technology, such as engines, avionics or laser rangefinders.

Although it is an attack aircraft, the ability to carry weapons of Q-5 is very limited (maximum 2 tons); but with its increased fuel capacity, the Q-5’s flight efficiency has been increased by 70% compared to the J-6, the range is 26% and the combat radius is 35%; Not a small improvement.

The Q-5 did not see much combat, but it has tasted fire with the Sudanese air force in Darfur and with Myanmar rebels in counter-insurgency operations. If China entered a war with the United States or the Soviet Union in the Cold War, then surely the Q-5 would easily be the “prey” of the army air defense system or the front-line fighter of the US and the Soviet Union.


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