Revealed today in the latest instalment of the DCS World Weekend News, Deka Ironworks who have become well known for their work on the JF-17, are working now on a J-8II interceptor for DCS World. We have details about the jet and I have thoughts about its reception. Let’s get to it!
Introducing the Finback
Deka Ironworks are wrapping up their work on the JF-17 and that left the door open to a new project. For a long time now we’ve known that the team was intent on an encore performance after the warm reception that the JF-17 earned and on a few occasions there was the suggestion that they could be doing anything from the Q-5 to the Su-30MKK (at one point there was even some rumours that it might be their next project). The team had maintained that they did want to do something a little more analogue for their next project after the almost entirely all-glass cockpit JF-17. It looks like they found their answer in the J-8II.
In the West, the Shenyang J-8 isn’t going to be anywhere near the top of anyone’s list when it comes to most recognizable fighter interceptors but then neither was the JF-17. DCS World fans now know that jet well and I suspect we’ll get to know this one too. So I start this post off with a tiny bit of history.
To understand what it is that’s been announced we have to look back… to the MiG-21. Warm relations between China and the Soviet Union in the 1950s and early 60s enabled free flowing technology transfers for aircraft such as the MiG-19 which was produced in China as the Shenyang J-6. Similar arrangements were made for the MiG-21 although rising tensions between the two countries lead to delays in the process. Nonetheless, China ended up producing the J-7 with aircraft manufacturer Chengdu creating a MiG-21 variant with several indigenous modifications.
By the mid 1960s it became clear that high altitude interception capabilities were needed at that the J-7 wasn’t up to the task. Multiple prototypes were prepared for next generation interceptors and the low-risk design of the J-8, itself based on the J-7 and MiG-21F, was selected.
Development was slowed by the Cultural Revolution in China and it wasn’t until 1979 when the design was finalized. That too was short lived as yet another redesign happened adding side intakes and more modern fire control radar and avionics created the J-8II (or sometimes J-8B). NATO reporting name ‘Finback.’
Fun fact: The side intakes on the J-8II were inspired by a MiG-23 that the Chinese were able to examine and those intakes were, in-turn, inspired by those on the F-4 Phantom.
The version for DCS World
The version that Deka Ironworks has announced is based on replicating the J-8II although they’ve had to choose a very specific version that has caused some discussion around the community. The upgraded J-8II or J-8PP is based on the “Peace Pearl” project that came about during a thaw in US relations. Grumman was tapped to help add western avionics to the aircraft and two prototypes were prepared. Relations worsened after the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre and follow-on versions of the jet returned to using Chinese avionics.
Here are the features as listed by the DCS World Weekend News update:
- AN/APG-66V-PRC-F8 radar with NAM, STT, ACM, GM, and AGR modes
- AWG-27 for loadout management
- Fire Control Computer from Westinghouse
- LN-39 INS
- HUD from GEC
- Head Down Display from Honeywell
- Air Data Computer (CPU-140/A) from GEC
- Radar Warning Receiver SPJ/IFF
- 2 x WP-13B turbojet engines
- Air-to-Air missiles: Aspide/PL-11, PL-8 and PL-5
- Unguided weapons: 250kg GP bombs and 57mm/90mm rockets
The DCS: J-8II will include a flyable J-8PP and an AI J-8F.
Work has apparently been underway for a year and a half now so its far enough along that the team are going to start talking about it.
Thoughts on the announcement
There’s already been plenty of discussion around the DCS World community on the announcement.
Much of the controversy is over the avionics package. As we can see, based on the features above, this is an aircraft that is going to have mostly Western components such as the AN/APG-66V which is essentially the same radar fitted to the F-16A series. There’s also a fire control computer from Westinghouse and a head down display from Honeywell.
Although its not stated anywhere in the update, it doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out that many of the Chinese components are likely more shrouded in mystery (even within China) and that the only way forward to doing this aircraft was through this unique combination. I think I called it a bit of a unicorn and that’s probably accurate. Two prototypes were worked on and so this isn’t entirely a “fantasy” airplane but by the same token its not exactly what you would have found on Chinese airbases in the 1990s through to the present day.
Real world issues, of course, make doing any aircraft in a simulator a challenge when dealing with aircraft that are still in service in countries that tend to be less open. This is how Deka Ironworks appears to have found a solution in this instance thanks to a unique quirk of history. If that’s what it takes to bring forward a unique and interesting airframe to DCS World, I’m not going to get too worried about it.
This is a developer that have done a good job with their work on the JF-17 launching almost feature complete and bringing forward additional capabilities over time including an overhaul of the cockpit textures recently. Also similar to the JF-17, this is a jet that is lesser known in my part of the world and thus doesn’t command the immediate “must have” attitude that we see with something like the F-4 Phantom. Of course, it likely is capturing the attention of China based DCS World players in a way that it may not be capturing us. We saw this too with the JF-17 that later developed its own fan following and affectionate nickname of “Jeff.” It’s possible something similar will happen here.
13 Comments Add yours
Cool looking jet with a neat background story.
Should be a great addition to the burgeoning Cold War scene.
Given the challenges faced when developing “RedFor” aircraft, I’m not at all phased by the Grumman “loophole”.
Deka does great work, and I’ll be happy to support them with this one, too.
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Looks like a copy of the Flagon, from the sixties. Nor really on my list, but as DCS is no doubt sold in China, it’ll do well
I think the similarities with the Su-15 are more a result of their ancestors that were also similar (Su-9/Su-11 and MiG-21/J-7). Those all had a tailed delta wing and shock inlet cone, the Sukhois were a bit bigger but the J-8A was an enlarged J-7. There’s 20 years between the Su-15 and the J-8II so I doubt there’s any other relation.
if i remember right its developed from mig-21, like mig-15 to mig-17 – the original J-8 (to me) with the nose inlet looks badass like a beefed up mig-21. J8II though has a ‘nose cone’. cant imagine though this is the most maneuverable plane.
I may have mentioned the brief development history of the jet in my article 🙂
Yes it was based on the Chinese license build of the MiG-21F, called the J-7, but then heavily modified to create the original J-8 and then modified again for the J-8II. I don’t think its supposed to be very manoeuvrable either. Very much an interceptor.
Well, darn it. That is very interesting and all power to their elbow. I’m always a sucker for the less well-know kit out there.
Nor sure of sales volume, but certainly an unusual choice.
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I think I was a bit worried for them with the JF-17 but it sounds like it sold well and it has a solid following. I can see this one getting in on things too.
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I will certainly buy this module to support further development of non western aircrafts. I found interesting the latest trend in DCS with the inclusion of unicorns, I can hope, now, to see someday a RAH-66 Comanche within DCS
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Comanche would be interesting. Bit surprised that a Lynx has not surfaced.
I was in the back of one many years ago. Funny story…
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Much of that aircraft is still classified.
One trivia I never saw mentioned in the western world is that this is the aircraft in which a PLAAF pilot named Wang Hai sacrificed himself to ram a U.S. Navy EP3 invading China’s air space in 2001 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hainan_Island_incident. So this aircraft and the number 81192 indeed has a special meaning to Chinese fans out there.
Sorry, I made a mistake. His name was Wang Wei.