Perceiving threats in the maritime domain, in East and South China Seas, China continues to upgrade its supersonic fighter-bomber fleet.
A new variant of the Xian JH-7 fighter-bomber is in service with the China People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), according to a report by the state-owned Xinhua News Agency about the Aviadarts 2019 competition of the International Army Games (IAG) that was held from 3 to 17 August.
Photographs of the PLAAF aircraft provided by the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) show no obvious distinguishing features between the JH-7A and the new variant JH-7AII.
Internet sources have subsequently suggested that the modifications have focused on changes made to the platform’s mission computer, power supplies, and the post-processing capabilities of the radar, aimed at improving the integration of electronic countermeasure (ECM) pods.
The JH-7A is a two-seat, twin-engine aircraft that entered service with the PLANAF and the PLAAF in 2004. The original JH-7 first flew in 1988. A key role of this aircraft type, which is capable of carrying four anti-ship missiles along with other external stores, is maritime strike. Photographs of the JH-7A, of which more than 200 units are believed to be in PLA service, commonly show the platform fitted with ECM pods.
Images of a prototype JH-7B appeared around 2013; changes including an in-flight refuelling probe, upgraded engines, and a new radar were anticipated. However, this variant was not developed further and the JH-7AII does not seem to have incorporated these changes.
Additional reporting by Andrew Tate