In the mid-1950s Soviet fighter aviation entered the supersonic era with the MiG-19 (NATO reporting name Farmer). Taking the line of development begun with the MiG-15 and MiG-17 further, the aircraft had sharply swept mid-set wings, swept tail surfaces (conventional ones this time) and a nose air intake. The powerplant was a pair of Mikulin AM-9B (RD-9B) afterburning turbojets located side by side in the rear fuselage.
China decided it should follow suit; hence licence manufacturing rights for the type were obtained in 1957. It may be said that Chinese licence production turned the MiG-19 into a champion of longevity among fighters – the type was produced for 32 years (1954-1986). As a result, the Farmer’s production run beyond the Great Wall more than doubled that in the fighter’s country of origin. True to type, the Chinese brought out into a number of indigenous versions, including one different enough to qualify as a separate type – the Q-5 attack aircraft. Moreover, they succeeded in doing what their Soviet colleagues had failed to do – improving the MiG-19’s poor reliability record (though not overnight).
Shenyang J-6A (Dongfeng-1 03, Type 59A, Jianjiji-6 Jia) interceptor
The above-mentioned licensing agreement of 1957 covered the production of the MiG-19P Farmer-B all-weather interceptor and the RD-9B engine. This was soon followed by a supplementary agreement concerning the MiG-19PM and then in late 1959, shortly before the break between Moscow and Beijing, by a third agreement for the MiG-19S day fighter.
The Bureau of Aircraft Industry tasked the Shenyang Aircraft Factory with building the aircraft. The RD-9B turbojet was to be manufactured as the WP-6 – originally by the Liming factory, also located at Shenyang; later, engine production was transferred to Chengdu.
In early 1958 the Shenyang factory started gearing up to build the MiG-19P. This version had an RP-5 Izumrood-2 radar (the same model as fitted to late-production MiG-17PFs) with a detection range of 12 km (7.46 miles) and was armed with two 30-mm (1.18 calibre) NR-30 cannons in the wing roots. The interceptor initially received the local designation Dongfeng-103 or Type 59A but was redesignated Jianjiji-6 Jia, aka J-6A, in 1964.
Five MiG-19Ps were delivered as CKD kits in March 1958 for starting production. Assembly of these kits began straightaway but took some time; the first MiG-19P assembled at Shenyang made its maiden flight on 17th December 1958 at the hands of Wang Youhuai. In April 1959 it was certificated by the State Certification Commission.
However, back in May 1958 Mao Zedong’s government had launched the notorious plan of accelerated industrial development called the ‘Great Leap Forward’. As mentioned earlier, the plan backfired dismally and the industry was effectively disorganised. Also, at first the Chinese authorities decided they could set up J-6 production without Soviet help and ordered the tooling to be manufactured locally. This turned out to be a big mistake.
Full-scale production began in April 1959. However, trying to crank out as many fighters as possible, the factory let quality standards slip. The same held true for early-production WP-6 turbojets – this engine turned out to be far more complicated to build than the WP-5 previously produced by Liming; only in late 1960 did the quality improve perceptibly.
As a result, most of the aircraft completed in 1959 and 1960 were deemed substandard and not accepted by the PLAAF. Eventually production had to be halted, all the jigs were thrown away and new ones made – with Soviet assistance this time.
The Shenyang factory resumed production in 1961 with new jigs. Unlike the aircraft built in 1958-60, which were armed with NR-30s, the ‘new-production’ J-6As had Type 23-2 cannons (a Chinese derivative of the NR-23) just as had been the case with the baseline J-6. However, the interceptor turned out to be a bit too complicated to build for this plant and production was transferred to the smaller factory in Nanchang in Jiangxi Province which was trying to transition from propeller-driven aircraft to jets. Yet this factory, too, managed to complete only seven J-6As in two years.
Shenyang J-6 (Dongfeng-1 02, Type 59, F-6) tactical fighter (product 47)
Despite the designation with no suffix letter, the radar-less J-6 day fighter (initially called Dongfeng-103 or Type 59) actually appeared later than the J-6A. The J-6 was roughly equivalent to the MiG-19S Farmer-C (to be precise, the late-production version with a slightly longer fin fillet), but they were not identical twins. Outwardly the Chinese version differed from the Soviet original in having the pylons (used for carrying unguided rocket pods) mounted at the wing leading edge rather than aft of the mainwheel wells, an emergency pitot head located to starboard rather than to port and only two cooling air scoops under each all-movable tailplane instead of four.
The first J-6 took to the air on 30th September 1959 with test pilot Wu Keming at the controls. However, the day fighter version initially suffered from the same quality problems as the interceptor, and the result was the same. By the end of 1960 production had ground to a halt and the Shenyang factory airfield was choked with J-6s and J-6As undeliverable due to poor manufacturing quality.
Production of entirely Chinese-built J-6s meeting the quality standards finally began in December 1963, though some sources claim the first ‘new-production’ J-6 flew on 23rd September 1963. Again, most of these ‘new-production’ J-6s were armed with Type 23-2 long-barrelled cannons; some had the short-barrelled version of the same weapon. A few retained the Type 30-1 (NR-30) cannons, albeit in modified form with large muzzle brakes. Finally, some of the avionics and flight instruments were different (Chinese derivatives of the original Soviet ones).
Export J-6s bore the designation F-6, while the WP-6 engines were designated TJ-6 for export.
Production was mostly in batches of 40 aircraft, though some batches are known to contain up to 60. There were two construction number systems. One is straightforward – e. g., #6-6631 (that is, J-6, batch 66, 31 st aircraft in batch); the # represents a hieroglyph standing for Jianjiji. The other system is a little more complicated – e. g., 47-1825; the first two digits are an in-house product code or a code denoting the factory. The second system appears to apply to export aircraft and has been noted on some F-6s delivered to Pakistan.
Shenyang (Guizhou) J-6A missile upgrade
In 1974 the Guizhou aircraft factory (now GAIGC) upgraded the J-6A interceptor with two PL-2 infrared-homing air-to-air missiles carried on pylons outboard of the drop tanks. The PL-2 was a licence-built version of the K-13A, itself a reverse-engineered AIM-9 Sidewinder, with different avionics; PL stood for Pi Li (Thunderbolt), which was a generic codename for air-to-air missiles. The prototype conversion made its maiden flight on 21 st December 1975.
Nanchang J-6B (Jianjiji-6 Vi, Dongfeng-1 OS, Type 59B) interceptor
The plans to produce the J-6A in Nanchang came to nothing. This factory concentrated instead on the more capable MiG-19PM interceptor (NATO reporting name Farmer-D) armed with RS-2-US (K-5M) beam-riding AAMs. The licence-built Farmer-D was initially known as the Dongfeng-105 and Type 59B but redesignated Jianjiji-6 Yi or J-6B in 1964.
Once again, production started with five CKD kits supplied by the Soviet Union in March 1958; the first ‘kit-built’ aircraft took to the air on 28th September 1959 with Wang Youhuai at the controls. On 28th November it was cleared for PLAAF service by the State Certification Commission.
Building the J-6B was no small task, especially given the complications of the ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the difficult transition from piston-engined aircraft to jets. The Nanchang factory built only 19 J-6Bs, whereupon the programme was mothballed.
A second try was made in 1974, possibly using the 12 Soviet-built MiG-19PMs acquired from Albania in 1965 as pattern aircraft. Tests of the ‘reborn’ J-6B were completed in 1976 and the interceptor entered limited production next year. The RS-2-US AAM was built under licence at Zhuzhou as the PL-1.
The J-6B differed from the Soviet-built MiG-19PM in having the brake parachute relocated to a bullet fairing at the base of the fin in the manner of the J-6C day fighter (see below). One of the development aircraft seriailed ‘14121 Red’ was unusual in retaining two Type 23-2 cannons in the wing roots which were deleted on most aircraft. This particular example is now preserved at the PLAAF Museum in Datangshan (now Xiaotangshan) near Beijing.
Shenyang J-6C (Jianjiji-6 Bing, F-6C) tactical fighter (product 55)
The design bureau of the Shenyang factory soon set about making modifications to the basic J-6. The brake parachute was relocated from its ventral compartment to a prominent bullet-shaped fairing at the base of the fin (thus the space below the rudder was put to good use at last). The reason for this modification was that the original brake parachute caused the aircraft to pitch down sharply. This meant it could only be deployed safely when the nosewheel was firmly on the ground. Conversely, a parachute located above the thrust line caused the fighter to pitch up, increasing drag; hence it could be deployed immediately after touchdown, reducing the landing run dramatically.
Less obvious changes were made to the flaps and airbrakes to increase their efficiency. The standard WP-6 engines gave place to WP-6As – a locally-developed version of the RD-9BF-811 rated at 3,000 kgp (6,614 Ibst) dry and 3,752 kgp (8,267 Ibst) reheat. New hydraulic systems were installed and more powerfu I control su rface actuators fitted.
Designated Jianjiji-6 Bing or J-6C, the aircraft entered flight test on 6th August 1969; the prototype was probably white overall and serialled ‘112 Red’. The J-6C was built in quantity, equipping more than 40 PLAAF and Naval Air Arm (PLANAF) units. The export designation was F-6C; judging by the construction numbers of some Pakistani aircraft, the inhouse product code at Shenyang was 55-.
Like the original J-6, most J-6Cs were armed with three Type 23-2 cannons. Some aircraft, however, had Type 30-1 cannons with large muzzle brakes; moreover, Egyptian F-6Cs fitted with the heavy cannons featured nonstandard trapezoidal blast panels.
Pakistani F-6s and F-6Cs were upgraded after delivery, including the integration of AIM-9BL Sidewinder AAMs, Western avionics and the fitment of Martin-Baker PKD10 (Mk. 10L) zero-zero ejection seats. The standard Chinese ejection seats developed from the Soviet KK-1 could not be used safely below 260 m (853 ft) and 350 kmh (188 kts).
Shenyang JZ-6 (FR-6) tactical reconnaissance aircraft
In 1966 the Shenyang design bureau began development of a tactical reconnaissance version of the J-6 equivalent to the MiG-19R. The aircraft was optimised for lowmediumaltitude photo reconnaissance (PHOTINT) in visual meteorological conditions. A battery of four oblique cameras and one vertical camera was installed in the forward fuselage, necessitating removal of the nose cannon; the vertical camera was enclosed by a shallow fairing. Two of the oblique cameras had rectangular ports, while the others had circular ports. The cameras were mounted on a pallet which could be winched down for reloading. The armament consisted of two Type 23-2 cannons with 100 rpg.
Designated JZ-6 (Jianjiji Zhenchaji – reconnaissance fighter), the aircraft entered limited production in 1967. The export designation was FR-6 (fighterreconnaissance) but it is not known if any were actually exported. A similar reconnaissance version of the improved J-6C was developed later; no separate designation (JZ-6C etc.) has been quoted.
Two production JZ-6s were modified for high-altitude PHOTINT in 1971. There are reasons to believe these aircraft were converted from late-model JZ-6s built to J-6C standard – or possibly ‘basic’ (non-reconnaissance) J-6Cs. This version had a canoe fairing with camera ports stretching all the way from the nose gear unit to the ventral airbrake. It made its first flight on 2nd April 1971 with Liu Jianfan at the controls.
Five years later another aircraft was converted into a more versatile reconnaissance platform suitable for both high-altitude and low-altitude missions. In addition to the usual cameras this aircraft was equipped with an infra-red scanner.
Shenyang J-6 I
The designation J-6 I has been quoted as a parallel designation of the J-6A, but this is now known to be incorrect. The real J-6 I was probably the result of an attempt to improve the performance of the basic J-6. The fuselage ahead of the cockpit was redesigned, being slightly ‘fatter’ (rather in the manner of the MiG-19PPM), and a small non-adjustable shock cone was added to the intake splitter plate, rather in the nature of the tracking antenna radome on the MiG-19PPM. This was purely an aerodynamic improvement, not housing any form of radar. The aircraft was armed with two Type 23-2 wing cannons and one Type 30-1 cannon in the nose.
Apparently the modified intake was not working as it should, and the aircraft became a stepping stone in the development of the J-6 II described below. The J-6 I prototype (unidentifiable as the serial has been obliterated) was relegated to the PlAAF Museum in Datangshan. Originally stored with a damaged lower intake lip and a short shock cone (probably non-authentic and hastily replaced after being struck by a vehicle), it was later repaired as ‘2996 Red’ and given a longer and more pointed shock cone.
Shenyang J-6 II tactical fighter
In the mid-1960s the basic J-6’s top speed of 1,450 kmh (901 mph) was considered inadequate. The engineers at the Shenyang aircraft factory set to work refining the fighter, and the result was known as the J-6 II.
The aircraft was evolved from the J-6 I prototype. The main recognition feature was again a fairly large and very pointed shock cone in the air intake. This immediately led to speculations that the J-6 II was equipped with a fire control radar but, in fact, the cone was again a purely aerodynamic refinement intended to improve operating conditions for the engines. Unlike the J-6 I, the cone was adjustable and four spring-loaded blow-in doors were added on each side of the nose immediately aft of the air intake lip. Also, the intake splitter was cut back drastically, resulting in a very concave leading edge with the upper and lower halves set at about 30° to the vertical. Finally, the armament was reduced to two cannons under the nose – one Type 30-1 on the starboard side and one Type 23-2 on the port side).
The J-6 II prototype (‘40404 Red’?) made its first flight on 25th March 1969. This aircraft is now on display at the Datangshan museum together with a second example, ‘40403 Red’.
Shenyang J-6 III (J-6 Xin?) tactical fighter
This was a further development of the J-6 II. This aircraft has often been referred to as the J-6 Xin (‘new J-6’), but some sources dismiss this designation as inaccurate.
As compared to the J-6 II, the wing span was reduced and the wing chord increased to compensate for this; flap and aileron area was increased accordingly. Launch rails for PL-2 AAMs were fitted to the wingtips – for the first time on a Chinese fighter. The two independent hydraulic systems were replaced by a simpler and lighter common system. The J-6 III was powered by uprated WP-6A engines. The armament consisted of three Type 30-1 cannons without muzzle brakes. Finally, the brake parachute was installed at the base of the fin, as on the J-6BC.
Typically of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ period, the work progressed quickly. The prototype (‘11323 Red’?) entered flight test on 6th August 1969. Tests showed that the J-6 III was faster and more agile than the basic Farmer-C at medium altitude; the exact top speed attained is not known but may be surmised as around 1,600-1,800 kmh (994-1,118 mph).
The aircraft was promptly put into production without certification and several hundred were built. However, this decision was premature; the J-6 III became an operational nightmare. All the aircraft had to be returned to the manufacturer for modifications. Over a fouryear period, Shenyang made numerous – costly – improvements (in particular, the air intake design was revised and the original hydraulic system which was more reliable, was reinstated. Still, the J-6 III never came up to scratch.
Guizhou J-6 IV interceptor
In 1974 the Guizhou Aircraft Factory made an attempt to improve the production J-6 II (J-6B) all-weather interceptor. The resulting aircraft was known as the J-6 IV. The shape of the nose was altered significantly in order to improve the fighter’s aerodynamics. The air intake had a sharp lip (the structure was redesigned to maximise inlet duct cross-section). The upper ‘fat lip’ tracking antenna radome was likewise sharpened and extended forward, while the standard centrebody radome of the J-6 II having a double curvature gave way to a perfectly conical blunt radome. A flatter low-drag canopy was also fitted.
Much attention was given to improving the aircraft’s field performance; the engineers had benefited from Vietnam War experience where Vietnamese fighters often had to operate from short ‘ambush strips’. Hence provisions were made for jet-assisted take-off (JATO) bottles, disc brakes were fitted to the mainwheels and the brake parachute container was moved to the base of the fin ala J-6C. Finally, the engine starting system was improved, as was the radar homing and warning system.
In addition to two long-barrelled Type 23-2 cannons the J-6 IV was armed with two PL-2 AAMs carried on pylons outboard of the drop tanks. Chinese sources indicate that a new, indigenous radar was fitted. Painted white overall and serialled ‘20158 Red’, the J-6 IV prototype (cn #6-4702) made its first flight on 24th September 1970; this aircraft is now preserved at the Datangshan museum. After a protracted period of tests type entered small-scale production and became operational with the PLAAF in 1977; production continued at Guizhou until the early 1980s.