CHINA'S INDIGENOUSLY developed Jian Hong-7 strike aircraft is unlikely ever to enter service with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) naval air force, because of its relatively poor performance and outdated design, say Western military sources.

The tandem-seat JH-7, or B-7, has been under development by Xian Aircraft (XAC) since at least the mid-1980s, although no pictures have been seen in the West.

The aircraft was due to enter service in 1992-3, but has already been rejected by the PLA air force. Its development is understood to have been hampered by the lack of a suitable turbofan engine and modern Western-type avionics.

The first prototypes had twin licence-built Rolls-Royce Spey Mk.202s, although the intention was to later fit more powerful local or foreign-sourced engines.

"The JH-7 is basically a 1970s' aircraft, fitted with 70s' avionics," says one observer. The navy consequently has lost interest in the aircraft, and is now looking for a more modern solution to meet its land-based maritime-interdiction requirements.

Navy attention has turned to the Sukhoi Su-27, limited numbers of which are already in service with the air force. It hopes to acquire the aircraft, either as part of a second batch purchase directly from Russia or through a licence-assembly agreement with a Chinese manufacturer.

Source: Flight International