Aviation Industries of China (AVIC) has unveiled the FBC-1 Flying Leopard fighter-bomber, an export version of the JH-7 twin-seat strike aircraft. The Leopard programme dates back to the mid-1970s.

The FBC-1 Flying Leopard fighter bomber had its maiden flight in 1989, but has remained in obscurity since. It was flown in public for the first time at Zhuhai, 10 years after being revealed as a model at the Farnborough air show.

The aircraft was developed by the Xian Aircraft Design and Research Institute (ADRI) for the Chinese air force and navy. It is manufactured by Xian Aircraft (XAC) and is now being redesigned for the export market, according to ADRI officials, although the manufacturer is reticent about the aircraft's target markets. The FBC-1 name applies only to the export version, it says.

XAC declines to reveal how many airframes it plans to produce or whether orders have been received from China's air force or navy. With China poised for licensed production of up to 200 Sukhoi Su-27SK fighters and Su-30MK strike aircraft, doubts remain over whether the JH-7 will come into Chinese service at all. The air force and navy remain "interested" in the aircraft, say sources close to the programme.

The FBC-1 is powered by two Xian Aero-Engine WP9 engines, a development of the Rolls-Royce Spey 202. The aircraft has a 28,475kg (62,720lb) maximum take-off weight and can carry a 6,500kg external load on seven pylons. It has a ferry range of 1,650km (890nm) and a maximum level speed of Mach 1.7. The all-metal airframe is stressed for 7g.

The manufacturer declines to specify the types of weapons it can carry, although the aircraft has been pictured with underwing anti-ship C-801 cruise missiles, and would also carry bombs and infrared guided air-to-air missiles.

ADRI claims that the domestic version's multi-mode, terrain-following radar and avionics are Chinese-produced, which would be a first for local manufacturers. The radar and systems on the export version would be customer-defined, says ADRI.

Source: Flight International