F-8II / F-8B / F-8II Fighter
The F-8II series appear quite different from the original F-8, with a new forward fuselage, intakes and nose structure more reminiscent of the F-4 Phantom II or Sukhoi Su-15 to house a new, more powerful radar. F-8IIs are powered by Wopen-13A (WP-13A) engines.
It was hoped to equip the production F-8B with an American AN/APG-66(V) radar (to be dubbed the F-8C), but this proved politically impossible after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 so the indigenous Type 208A mono-pulse fire-control radar initially was used.
Although the Type 208A was an improvement over the original F-8I radar, the Type 208A did not have true beyond visual range capabilities (The detection range of the Type 208 was 40 km) nor look-down/shoot-up ground attack capabilities, thereby falling short of the PLAAFs initial requirements and the redesign of the airframe.
The F-8B was the early production batch of the new F-8II series. In addition to receiving a new radar, new engine and a completely redesigned noses, cockpit and intake, the F-8B also benefited from a new HUD, integrated inertial navigation system/Global positioning satellite system and TACN technology.
Later F-8Bs were equipped with the more robust KLJ-1 pulse-Doppler fire-control radar and radar warning receiver, theoretically giving the later batch BVR capabilities. At least 30 F-8Bs have been converted by the PLA Navy to F-8D standard, with an in-flight refuelling probe for use with Xian H-6DU tankers in addition to newly built F-8Ds. The most significant difference between the F-8B and F-8D is the use of the new Type-02 airframe that was heavier than the F-8B and featured uneven length wing fences. The heavier 'Type 02' airframe is able to carry a larger payload and can tolerate higher G-loadings. The new airframe also has a stiffer radome. A few minor differences between the later F-8B batches and the F-8D are the F-8Ds slightly improved avionics. The use of the KLJ-1 pulse-Doppler radar was used through the F-8Ds entire production run. The F-8B and F-8D both suffered from China's difficulty in developing a MRAAM. Although the Type 208A was theoretically capable of using semi-active radar homing missiles and the KLJ-1 was certainly capable; no such missile, semi-active or active, were available at the time. Both variants were only initially armed with SRAAMs such as the PL-2 and PL-5, and the more advanced infrared-homing PL-8 SRAAM.
An early attempt to remedy these technological shortcoming that were still presenting themselves after the redesign of the F-8 to the F-8II was the F-8C project which began short after the failure to obtain American cooperation for the F-8B so instead Shenyang turned to Israel and Russia. The F-8C was considered a 'radical' upgrade of the original F-8II with a new radar based on the Israeli Elta EL/M 2035 multi-mode pulse Doppler radar, digital fire-control system, a new ‘glass’ cockpit, in-flight refuelling probe and equipped with a new WP-14 Kunlun engine. These upgrades are said to 'bring the fighter into the same league as modern Russian and Western fighters such as Mikoyan MiG-29 and Dassault Mirage 2000-5'. The project was cancelled in the late 1990s after two prototypes were built in favour of further development of the Shenyang J-11 fighter (which is based on the Sukhoi Su-27).
The F-8IIM, first flown in 1996, is a further improved version. One major improvement over the F-8II is the capable Russian-made Zhuk-8II coherent pulse doppler radar, 100 of which have been delivered in the 1990s. Additionally, the F-8IIM carried new multifunction displays, integrated INS/GPS navigation system, new fire-control systems, new alternators and a new electronic countermeasures suite. The F-8IIM possessed true BVR capabilities with the use of the Vympel R-27 semi-active infrared seeker medium-ranged missile. New WP-13B turbojet engines were adopted as well. The F-8IIM has had no new orders from China or the export market, where it is offered as the F-8IIM. It was heavily marketed to Iran but ultimately was not exported anywhere. However the experience and technological achievements gained from the F-8C and F-8IIM projects were later applied by Shenyang Aircraft Company to the later F-8H/F variants.
It was also during this time that the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology certified the PL-11 in 2001 after successfully test firing five missiles from the F-8II. The PL-11 is a copy of the Italian Selenia Aspide semi-active radar homing medium ranged missile originally acquired in 1989 before Italy refused to cooperate further with the Chinese government in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square incident. This slowed down China's testing of the missile considerably, preventing the F-8B/D from carrying the missile when they were introduced in the 1990s, as the original plan had intended.
The F-8H configuration features the more powerful WP-13B turbojet engines, improved avionics and the improved Type 1471 Pulse Doppler fire control radar with look-down/shoot-down capability and a range of new operating modes. With the radar upgrade comes the ability to fire the PL-11 and the PL-12/SD-10 MRAAM which employs an Active Radar Homing (ARH) seeker. The F-8H also is equipped with IFR probe, INS/GPS, HOTAS, integrated ECM suite, with twin wing fences on each side of the wings that greatly increased handling ability. The F-8Ds heavier airframe is used but with modified wing fences. Production of the F-8H and the F-8D it had superseded has now ceased in favor of upgrading earlier F-8D aircraft to F-8H standards. It is uncertain if the older F-8B will be upgraded to F-8H standards gvien the difference in airframe. The F-8F is the most modern and capable F-8 variant currently in service and has been in production since 2003. The F-8H/F has inherited many of the improvements of the earlier F-8C and F-8IIM, and in some cases, has improved on them. The F-8F features a glass cockpit, a more powerful WP-13BII turbojet engine and enhanced Type 1492 radar for enhanced air-to-air capabilities with the PL-12 active-radar medium range missile, full air-to-ground and air-to-sea capabilities using the AS-17 'Krypton' anti-radar missile and a variety of Chinese designed precision guided laser and satellite guided bombs, making it the first true multi-role variant of the F-8 series. The F-8F also possesses all the avionic and electronic upgrades the F-8H received as well. The earlier F-8B/Ds can be easily distinguished from later F-8H/Fs by their dark green radomes compared to the later's black radomes. Introduction of the more powerful WP-14 Kunlun turbojet engine for the F-8 series is planned to go under way in the coming years. The F-8F also serves in the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force as well. A notable variant of the F-8F is the JZ-8F which has quietly been introduced into the PLAAF in the tactical reconnaissance role. Very little information has been released on the JZ-8F, other than the use of an internal camera compartment replacing the twin 23 mm cannon rather than a camera pod used by the older JZ-8.
In 1988, one F-8II airframe was converted into the F-8ACT an experimental fly-by-wire testbed for the J-10 program. The F-8ACT had a shorter fueslage and a pair of canards were affixed to the side of each intake and replaced older FBW technological demonstrators based on the older Shenyang J-6 and F-8I airframes. To date, no plans for a twin-seat F-8 design have been announced.
The F-8H was reported to be an improved variant developed from the F-8D fighter. The aircraft features a new KLJ-1(?) pulse-Doppler fire-control radar (with ‘look-down/shoot-down’ capability) which can be used to fire the PL-11 semi-active radar-homing medium-range air-to-air missile (MRAAM). Other improvements include modestly improved cockpit avionics, two wing fences on each wing (in contrast to one on previous variants) for better aerodynamic performance and the stiffened nose radome.
The H model was reportedly developed in the late 1990s and received its design certificate in 1999. The fighter has been serving with the PLAAF in a small number since 2002. The production of the F-8H may have stopped after the delivery of a small number, and been replaced by the more capable F-8F. Older F-8D fighters are also being upgraded to the F-8H standard.
The F-8F is an improved variant partially based on the technologies of the unsuccessful F-8C. The F model is regarded as the first true ‘multirole’ fighter and also the most capable variant in the F-8II family.
New features to the F-8F include a new fire-control radar (JL-10 or Type 1492?) capable of firing the PL-12 (SD-10) active radar-homing medium-range air-to-air missile (MRAAM), a ‘glass’ cockpit, and more powerful WP-13BII turbojets (each rated at ~7,000kg with afterburning). In addition, the aircraft features enhanced air-to-surface/ship strike capability. Like the F-8D variant, the F-8F could also be fitted with a fixed in-flight refuelling probe.
The F-8F is generally similar to the early variants of the F-8II family in appearance. The most recognisable features are two wing fences on each wing (in contrast to one on previous variants) and the stiffened nose radome. The new fire-control radar has a radio command transmitter to provide mid-course correction for the PL-12 MRAAM during the 'beyond-visual-range' (BVR) attack. If necessary, the radar could also guide Russian-made MRAAM such as R-27 (AA-10) and R-77 (AA-12). The radar also has enhanced air-to-ground and air-to-sea modes to fire a range of precision guided armaments including laser or satellite guided bombs, and the Russian Kh-31 anti-ship missile.
Although the F-8F has yet approached the capabilities of advanced fighter aircraft such as Su-27 or Su-30, it provides a relatively inexpensive supplement to PLAAF’s existing third-generation fighter fleet. The aircraft first flew in 2000 and the first successful test fire of the PL-12 MRAAM took place in spring 2004. The fighter entered PLAAF service in 2003, with the production possibly still continuing.
China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation claims F-8T is equipped with improved integrate avionic and various guided weapons. F-8T can carry out air-to-air BVR intercepting mission, air-to-ground precise attacking mission and stand-off attacking mission.
F-8T features: High altitude and supersonic interceptor with powerful BVR fire and forget missiles.
More reading: F-8M fighter, Chinese/Russia co-development