A fighter that was the backbone of the People’s Liberation Army of China Air Force (PLAAF) for many years, the Chengdu J-7 will be phased out this year, according to state-run China Central Television (CCTV).
The former 2nd generation fighter jet is a version of the Russian MiG-21 fighter that was produced under license in China.
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The process of decommissioning the J-7 in China began in 2018, but it was not yet known when the model would be permanently decommissioned in the country.
The number of aircraft of the type still in service with the PLAAF is also unknown. World Air Forces 2023 lists over 320 J-7s plus 30 fighters in the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force, but the data can be inaccurate.
According to CCTV, the remaining jets could be converted into drones to carry out new missions.
In service since the 60’s
The first flight of the J-7 took place on January 17, 1966, 10 years after the maiden flight of the MiG-21, which took off for the first time on February 15, 1956.
The Soviet fighter, developed by Mikoyan-Gurevich, was produced in series from 1959 until 1981, during which time it accumulated 10,655 aircraft assembled. The Chinese version, manufactured between 1965 and 2013, had more than 2,400 aircraft delivered.
In addition to China, the J-7 has also been exported to over a dozen countries, including Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan.
China is finally managing to replace the J-7 on account of progress in the production of more advanced combat aircraft such as the fourth-generation fighters J-10 and J-16, in addition to the Chengdu J-20, the first Chinese fifth-generation jet.