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 5 August report by the state-owned Xinhua News Agency about the Aviadarts 2019 competition of the International Army Games (IAG) being held from 3 to 17 August.
The report stated that the aircraft types sent by the PLAAF to Russia to participate in the event include the new JH-7AII variant along with the J-10A fighter and the H-6K bombers, as well as the Il-76 and Y-9 transport aircraft. It also noted that the PLA Naval Air Force (PLANAF) was participating for the first time in the event by sending a JH-7A aircraft.
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. This reinforces comments made by Wei Dongxu, a Chinese military analyst quoted in the state-owned Global Times newspaper, that the changes made to the JH-7AII are likely to be primarily related to the aircraft’s avionics and radar.
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, and changes including the capability for in-flight refuelling, upgraded engines, and a new radar were anticipated.