Chengdu FT-5

Country of Origin: Russia and China.
Type: Tactical advanced trainer.
Powerplant: One 2700kg (5952lb) dry thrust Xian WP-5D turbojet.
Performance: Normal operating speed 775km/h (418kt). Max initial rate of climb 5315ft/min. Service ceiling 46,915ft. Range with max fuel 1230km (764nm). Endurance 2 hours 38 minutes w/ drop tanks.
Weights: Empty 4080kg (8995lb), max takeoff 6215kg (13,702lb).
Accommodations: Two in tandem.
Armament: One 23mm Type 23-1 cannon in a removable underfuselage pack.
Operators: Albania, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

History: The basic Chinese built Mig-17F was produced by the Shenyang Aircraft Factory, but later derivatives were developed by Chengdu. The first such development was the J-5A, which was basically a Chinese built Mig-17PF with Air Intercept radar in a larger, longer forward fuselage. Relatively few were produced and none were expoerted. The prototype flight was on 11 November 1964.

More successful was the JJ-5, a two-seat trainer derivative of the J-5. This had a slightly lengthened fuselage, and the nose intake and jetpipe were refined. Development began in 1965, when it was becoming clear that the Mig-15UTIs then in use lacked performance and had some unacceptable handling characteristics. The crescent wing of the Mig-17, with its reduced sweep on the outer wings, solved many of these problems, including the tendency to pitch up at high angles of attack and unpredictable handling at transonic speeds.

The JJ-5 first flew on 8 May 1966, and 1,061 had been built by 1986, when production ceased. It was powered by a Wopen WP-5D turbojet which remained an obvious copy of the Rolls-Royce Nene. It also included a reduction in the armament to a single Type 23-1 (23 mm) gun, carried in a removable belly pack, with the barrel to the starboard side of the nosewheel doors.

Ejection seats in both cockpits are nonadjustable for height and are only semiautomatic in operation from a trigger on the starboard armrest. Their safe use is not guaranteed below 850 ft. altitude at speeds up to 188 kt., or below as much as 6,500 ft. at higher speeds. Seat cushions serve for height adjustment, but rudder pedal position can be varied for differing leg lengths.

Most controls are duplicated in each cockpit, except that no air-start facility is provided in the rear. The same limitation applies to the front cockpit gyro gunsight, used for armament training in conjunction with the single 23-mm. Nudlemann-Rikhter cannon beneath the nose, and a dielectric antenna in a small radome above the big jet intake for radar ranging. Provision is also made for two additional weapons hard points outboard of the wing drop tanks.

Layout of the mostly metric instruments is somewhat haphazard, and numerous warning lights are scattered around with no concession to ergonomics. Despite differences in presentation, most of the instruments can be related to contemporary Western equivalents, although the airspeed indicator is peculiarly Russian in incorporating a second and thinner needle hidden behind the first to indicate true airspeed.

True airspeed is preferred as a datum for optimum range and endurance in preference to a Mach meter, not fitted to any Chinese fighters. These all have, however, a prominent white line painted precisely down the center of their instrument panels, to simplify accurate stick positioning as an aid to spin recovery.

The JJ-5 has been exported to a number of countries as the FT-5, most notably Pakistan, which uses the aircraft as its standard advanced jet trainer.

Interestingly, Mikoyan itself never designed a two-seat Mig-17 variant, since the Soviet airforces regarded the Mig-15UTI as being adequate for the training of Mig-17 and Mig-19 aircrew.

Service with PAF: Pakistan became the first customer for the FT-5, as it required a lead-in trainer to give the graduated pilots an introduction to the Chinese systems employed. These include the F-6, A-5C, F-7P, and now the newly inducted F-7PG fighters. FT-5 fit the new PAF requirements perfectly and was used to create the No 1 FCU based at Mianwali. The FT-5s were used to replace the ageing T-33 and F-86 aircraft.

Theoratically, the FT-5 could even be pushed into combat as it carries not only a 23mm gun equipped with a simple radar ranging gun sight, but also two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-air missiles. Over the years, the FT-5 has proved itself to be the safest aircraft in PAF history, and it has gained the reputation of a sturdy and most reliable trainer. However, it suffers from short component lives, including an engine time between overhaul of only 220 hr. Its limited fuel capacity, in addition, restricts its effective training sortie time to little more than about 45 minutes. These aircraft will eventually be replaced by a newly developed combat version of the K-8, which offers a more powerful engine and superior avionics for future advanced cambat training.

PAF Squadrons:
  • No. 1 Squadron