Category Archives: People’s Republic of China

Shangdeng No. 1

PRC flag People’s Republic of China (1958)
Helicopter / Bus / Boat Hybrid – None Built

Perhaps the only known photo of the original Shangdeng No.1 model. (中国飞机全书: 第3卷)

Shangdeng No.1 was an overambitious design undertaken by the Chinese Shanghai Bulb Factory in 1958 to produce a multipurpose vehicle which could serve as a helicopter, a bus and a boat for the National Day celebrations. Vastly unknown both inside and outside of China, the Shangdeng No.1 can be considered one of the People’s Republic of China’s more obscure designs of the 1950s. Quietly canceled after the conclusion of National Day, the Shanghai Bulb Factory would never fulfill their promise of completing the design and preparing it for mass production. This could be attributed to a plethora of reasons, but information is scarce.

History

On October 1st 1958, the People’s Republic of China celebrated the ninth anniversary of the founding of the nation. As their personal way of celebrating this national holiday, representatives of the Shanghai Bulb Factory unveiled a model of a hybrid design as a gift to the government. Unorthodox and, some may rightfully argue, ridiculous in concept, this design (dubbed the “Shangdeng No.1” / “上灯” 1号) was meant to have served as a versatile multipurpose vehicle capable of acting as a helicopter, a boat and a small bus. Upon presenting this model to the government, they proclaimed that design and manufacturing work would be completed in 1959 thus allowing for mass production. However, this would never happen, as work on the project ceased shortly after the model was presented and the conclusion of National Day.

The reason for the cancellation is unknown, but one could speculate a number of reasons. First and foremost, the Shanghai Bulb Factory specialized in the production of lightbulbs, therefore they completely lacked any expertise, experience, qualified personnel and machinery required to design and in turn produce such a conceptually complicated vehicle. A second possible reason why the project was canceled was due to Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” campaign, which would have the entire country struggle to industrialize and collectivize. The Shangdeng No.1 could have been deemed as useless and thus canceled by the government so that the factory could focus its resources to fulfill government mandated quotas of lightbulb production. Lastly, the Shanghai Bulb Factory could have had no intention of developing the Shangdeng No.1 in the first place, and the model presented could have been just a demonstration to show off Chinese ingenuity and to boost the morale of the Chinese people in a small show of fanciful propaganda. These, however, are just theories to speculate on why the Shangdeng No.1 was canceled. Only one photo is known to exist of the Shangdeng No.1’s scale model presented during National Day.

In conclusion, the Shangdeng No.1 was an overambitious design concept explored by the Shanghai Bulb Factory which resulted in the presentation of a scale model on the ninth National Day of the People’s Republic of China. Absurd in concept, the Shanghai Bulb Factory would have had no possible way of delivering on their promise to produce such a vehicle as they certainly had little to no experience on vehicle design and machinery intended for light bulb production could only produce so little. The fact that a light bulb factory conceptualized this vehicle is quite interesting though, and, to their credit, an intended helicopter/bus/boat hybrid design would most certainly have raised a few eyebrows in the country and in the Western world, assuming that the design was feasible and successful.

As details on this project are so scarce, it has led to some debate on the legacy of the design. A popular claim by numerous online sources is that, after the project was canceled, documents on the Shangdeng No.1 was transferred to the American Boeing firm, and that the Shangdeng’s tandem rotor design served as the inspiration of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter. This claim is unrealistic and vacuous, as the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America had no formal relations until the late 1960s / early 1970s, nearly a decade after the Chinook was serviced. Therefore, the concept of a Chinese light bulb factory transferring documents to and influencing a world-renowned aviation corporation would be extremely illogical and, frankly, impossible. The United States of America was also no stranger to tandem bladed helicopters designs, as numerous helicopters (eg. Piasecki HRP Rescuer, Piasecki H-21, etc) formerly and currently in service had these designs prior to the conceptualization of the Shangdeng.

Design

The design of the Shangdeng No.1 resembles a rectangular box with rounded edges. A tandem rotor blade configuration was used, and the conceptual power plant of the Shangdeng would have been an unspecified radial engine model capable of producing up to 450 hp, connected to both the front and the rear rotors. The cockpit located at the front of the helicopter would have allowed space for two pilots. Four passengers (or the weight equivalent in cargo) could have been held in the compartment located behind the cockpit. Windows were planned to be installed in the fuselage as can seen in the scale model. Relatively speaking, the Shangdeng’s dimensions are quiet small for a tandem rotor helicopter design. The Shangdeng was only 6 ft 7 in (2.00 m) tall, which would have likely made the interior compartment quite cramped.

Four static wheels were mounted in pairs in the front and rear part of the fuselage which would have moved the Shangdeng in its bus configuration. It is unknown whether or not the design would have allowed the tandem helicopter rotors to be folded in this configuration. If not, the blades could potentially be damaged in urban areas or crowded spaces. It is unknown if a separate transmission would have been connected to the wheels, but this would have certainly greatly complicated the design. If the vehicle in its bus configuration was meant to be propelled by the rotors, that would have been not only unacceptably inefficient, but would have also limited the paths it could travel and would have been highly dangerous to be next to. Steering in the wheeled mode is also unclear.

In its naval configuration, the Shangdeng would have been propelled by an unspecified amount of 15 in / 40 cm propellers in the rear, possibly with assistance from the wheels which would have provided limited propulsion in the water. Again, this would have probably been highly fuel-inefficient. Also, why would a helicopter, which can easily get between any two points by flying, be used as a boat is hard to fathom. How steering was achieved in the boat mode is unclear.

In the helicopter configuration, the Shangdeng would have just been propulsed by the rotor blades and radial engine. The problem of having someone trained both as a pilot, driver and skipper at the same time seems to have gone unnoticed by the designers. As the project did not progress beyond the conceptual model stage, intricate details regarding the Shangdeng No.1 are unknown. However, basic dimensions and estimated performances are provided by 中国飞机全书: Volume III, a book written by People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) general Wei Gang (魏钢), former PLAAF model maker and artist Chen Yingming (陈应明) and aviation magazine author Zhang Wei (张维).

Operator(s)

  • People’s Republic of China – The Shangdeng No.1 would most likely have been operated by the various military branches and likely some civilian institutes if it were to see mass production.

Shanghai Bulb Factory Shangdeng No.1*

* – Statistics taken from中国飞机全书 (Vol. 3)

Length 32 ft 10 in / 10.00 m
Height 6 ft 7 in / 2.00 m
Engine 1x Unspecified Multi-Cylinder Radial Engine Model (450 hp)
Rotor Blade Length 26 ft 3 in / 8.00 m
Rotor Blade Spacing 22 ft / 7.00 m
Boat Propeller Length 15 in / 40 cm
Wheel Diameter 27.5 in / 70 cm
Maximum Takeoff Weight 4000 lbs / 1,800 kg
Climb Rate 6.6 ft / 2 m per second
Maximum Speed (Flying) 95 mph / 150 km/h
Maximum Speed (Driving) 60 mph / 100 km/h
Maximum Speed (Sailing) 7 mph / 12 km/h
Range 400 mi / 650 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 9,800 ft / 3,000 m
Crew 2x Pilot

4x Passengers

Gallery

Side Profile View Illustration by Ed Jackson

Sources

Sikorsky S-70C-2 Black Hawk in Communist Chinese Service

PRC flag People’s Republic of China (1984)
Utility Helicopter – 24 Operated

The Sikorsky Black Hawk family is one of the most well-known helicopters of recent history. In its dozens of guises, it serves over 20 militaries worldwide. One of the lesser known operators is the People’s Republic of China. Initially purchased to be operated in the mountainous terrain of Tibet and Xinjiang, the Black Hawk eventually found itself as an aid relief helicopter in the 2008 and 2013 earthquakes in Sichuan and an inspiration for the design of the Harbin Z-20 helicopter.

History

S-70C-2 in combat excercises [dser.com]
The harsh geographic characteristics of Tibet and Xinjiang undoubtedly presented many tough problems to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The extreme altitudes of the Tibetan and Xinjiang plateaus make the duties of border troop outposts quite difficult, with Tibet being especially problematic. The Tibetan border alone spans nearly 3,728 mi / 6,000 km, with guard posts on mountains reaching over 13,123 ft / 4,000 m. The highest guardpost is the Shenxianwan (神仙湾) post at 17,650 ft / 5,380 m altitude. At these extreme altitudes the temperature is quite low with snow covering the mountains all year around, and the air is also oxygen deficient. All these factors combined make patrols and resupplying quite difficult for the border troops. Helicopters are the only viable option for resupplying missions as there are nearly no airstrips or adequate roads. The oxygen scarcity prevents helicopter engines from working to their full capacity, as well as reducing the rotor efficiency. This means that flying a helicopter up to that altitude is risky and difficult. Even if the helicopter can safely arrive, the amount of supplies that can be transported is severely limited and it would require several trips to fully resupply a base. In order to find a solution for this problem, China began to look into the international market for a high performing utility helicopter capable of operating at high altitudes and replacing the aging Soviet Mi-8 they were using for transport duties. Adopting the principle of “comparing three products and buying the best” (货比三家,择优选购), China chose three models of helicopters from various Western companies to compete for their business. The American Bell 214ST, Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk and French AS332 Eurocopter were chosen as potential candidates and examples of these helicopters were promptly sent to Lhasa for flight trials in December of 1983.

S-70C-2 preparing for takeoff [seesaawiki.jp]
The flight tests were conducted on an airfield at an altitude of approximately 5,600 ft / 1,600 m and had all three helicopters fly to higher mountains. Upon reaching approximately 9,840 ft / 3,000 m, it was discovered that the power of all these helicopters dropped noticeably and the engines were not able to deliver sufficient amounts of thrust and the helicopters were unable to successfully complete the test flight. After three months of research, Sikorsky’s technicians were able to successfully address most of the issues and flight tests for the Black Hawk were continued. The improved Black Hawk was able to fly over the Tanggula Mountains at an altitude of over 17,060 ft / 5,200 m and land in the nearby Ali region. After numerous thorough examinations, the Black Hawk was ultimately crowned as champion and determined to be best suited for the Tibetan and Xinjiang environment. In July of 1984, the Chinese government officially placed an order for 24 unarmed S-70C-2 Black Hawk models, which would be specially built for China. They featured high performing General Electric T700-701A engines for high altitude flights and a nose-mounted weather radar. The first batch of Blackhawks would arrive in November of the same year, designated as civilian helicopters. The transaction cost China an approximated total of 140 million USD.

S-70C-2 LH92204 participates in an aid relief operation [Sina News]
Despite officially being classified as civilian helicopters, the S-70C-2 was used in a military capacity during their service with the People’s Republic of China. Initially assigned to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in 1986, the Blackhawks were later reallocated to the PLA’s air branch. In Chinese service, the Black Hawk would mostly be assigned to the Tibetan plateaus, where they resupplied and transported border troops. During the 1987 border skirmish with India, the Blackhawks were extensively used for tactical troop transport and supply runs in the Indo-Tibetan border region. The S-70C-2 was able to carry up to 8000 lbs / 3630 kg of equipment, 12 or 14 people in normal situations , and up to 19 people in emergency situations. Unfortunately for the Chinese, support and spare parts from Sikorsky would come to an abrupt end after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The result of this massacre greatly impacted Sino-American relations and future sales of military hardware were prohibited. It seems that Sikorsky made an attempt to reestablish relations with the Chinese in 1998 by asking the government to allow the sale of replacement engines and parts to the Chinese, arguing that the parts should no longer be considered military hardware. This request, if ever made, was rejected. It would appear that only 21 of the 24 Blackhawks purchased were in service after 2000. Three Blackhawks were supposedly written off during service, probably due to piloting error or equipment malfunctions. Numerous Blackhawks were deployed during the 2008 and 2013 earthquakes in Sichuan, China to administer aid relief, alongside numerous Soviet-era helicopters such as the Mi-8. The Blackhawks are still in service with the Chinese to this day, but will most likely be replaced by the Harbin Z-20.

China’s “Indigenous” Black Hawk

Harbin Z-20 [chinese-military-aviation.blogspot.com]
When taking in account of China’s long history of reverse engineering or copying technology from other countries, it should be no surprise that the Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Company’s (HAMC) latest Z-20 (直-20, or Zhi-20) helicopter bears a striking resemblance to the Blackhawks. Believed to have been in development since 2006, the Z-20 finally took to the skies on December 23rd of 2013. Contemporary sources seem to suggest that the Z-20 possesses superior characteristics to the Black Hawk due to the refined design, but this has yet to be confirmed. As the Z-20 has only recently entered service and is still kept in relative secrecy. One can only speculate about its capabilities.

Variants Operated

  • S-70C-2 – The People’s Republic of China operated 24 examples of the S-70C-2 which were specially built for them by Sikorsky. This variant featured a nose-mounted weather radar, improved General Electric T700-701A engines for high altitude flights and various other improvements to the fuselage.

 Gallery

Illustrations by Ed Jackson www.artbyedo.com

Sikorsky S-70C-2 – LH92207
Sikorsky S-70C-2 – LH92210
S-70C-2 Hovering (Unknown source)
Detailed closeup of cockpit exterior (afwing.info)

S-70C-2 LH92206 transports a jeep during a military exercise [Sina News]
An unidentified S-70C-2 Black Hawk evacuates civilians in the Tibetan region. [Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft]
An unfortunate incident involving a unidentified S-70C-2 [Army Star]

Sources

 

Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa in Communist Chinese Service

PRC flag People’s Republic of China (1945-1952)
Fighter – 8+ Operated

An illustration depicting a Hayabusa in Communist service flying. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2)

Widely known as one of Japan’s most iconic aircraft of the Pacific War, the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa’s service life was not limited to the Second World War. Shortly after the Japanese capitulation, Nationalist and Communist Chinese forces were able to capture stockpiles of firearms, tanks and planes left over by the fleeing Japanese forces. Among these were various models of the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa. These were pressed into service with the Communist Chinese as an advanced combat trainer and fighter. One of the rather obscure chapters of the Hayabusa’s service life was that it was the first plane used by the Communist Chinese in aerial combat.

History

Developed in the late 1930s, the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Type 1 Fighter) enjoyed a relatively successful service record in the Second Sino-Japanese War once introduced in 1941. The Japanese 59th and 64th Sentai (Squadrons) were the first two squadrons to receive the new Ki-43-I fighter. With barely any resistance by the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF), the Ki-43-I helped reinforce Japanese aerial superiority over China, French Indochina, Malaya, and parts of India until the arrival of lend-lease Allied warplanes for China. Throughout the service of the Hayabusa, three major variants were issued to units: the Ki-43-I, Ki-43-II, and Ki-43-III. The Japanese also provided some of these variants to the Manchukuo Imperial Air Force in the Northeast region of China. With the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, stockpiles of Japanese equipment was up for grabs between the Soviets, Nationalist Chinese, and the Communist Chinese. The Nationalist Chinese forces reoccupied Shanghai near the end of 1945 and captured warplanes formerly belonging to the Japanese. Among these were various models of the Hayabusa which were used to equip the 18th and 19th Squadrons of the ROCAF’s 6th Fighter Group. These Hayabusas were stationed at Shandong in preparation for the Chinese Civil War. Due to a lack of spare parts and adequate mechanics, the two squadrons were disbanded the following May.

The Communist Chinese forces were by no means idle during the immediate few postwar months. Countless guns were captured, with a considerable amount of tanks and planes as well. In October of 1945, the Communist Chinese forces captured their first five Hayabusas during the liberation of Shenyang during the Liaoshen Campaign from the Nationalists. These five captured Nationalist Hayabusas were Ki-43-II models that formerly belonged to the Japanese 4th Training Regiment. The exact model of the planes is unknown. (It is unknown if they are kō, otsu, hei, etc. variants). These five planes would be sent to the recently established Northeast Old Aviation School (东北老航校) after some refurbishing and repairs. In December of the same year, two of these planes were repaired and were planned to be ferried to the Northeast Old Aviation School. Two Japanese ferry pilots now loyal to the Communist Chinese took off from Fengjibao (奉集堡) to fly to Tonghua (通化), one of their destinations. The two Hayabusas and their pilots never made it to Tonghua however, and it is widely speculated that these Japanese pilots were unfamiliar with the geography and ended up getting lost. This is indeed a possibility but there are many other theories. It’s conceivable that the planes suffered from mechanical failure and crashed. Another possibility may be that the pilots were intercepted by ROCAF planes, but there is no proof of this.

Artwork Depicting a Ki-43 flying over Japanese trainers in the Northeast Aviation School. (Illustration by Chen Yingming / 陈应明)

The rest of the Hayabusas were eventually delivered to the Northeast Old Aviation School, where they were used as advanced trainers for fighter pilots. In April of 1948, men belonging to the Northeast Old Aviation school were able to capture an unspecified amount of Hayabusa fighters in the Chaoyang (朝阳镇) Town airport located in Jilin. This was followed by another unspecified batch of Hayabusas captured in Sunjia (孙家) Airport located near Harbin in the Heilongjiang province sometime in June of the same year. Four Hayabusas were recorded to have been repaired by the school from 1947 to 1948. Under the guidance of former Japanese and Manchukuo pilots, many of the Communist Chinese air cadets were soon able to graduate from flying in the two-seater Tachikawa Ki-55 trainer to flying solo in the Hayabusa.

In March of 1948, a number of experienced pilots and instructors were pulled from the school to form a “Combat Flying Wing” (战斗飞行大队). The 1st Squadron would use bombers and transport aircraft while 2nd Squadron would use fighters. Among these would be six Ki-43-II models. The intent of this formation was to combat Nationalist planes, but this wing never saw any combat action.

Considerations were made to use the Hayabusa in the Establishment of the People’s Republic of China parade on October 1st of 1949, but this did not happen. Despite what one may think, the Japanese planes were not withheld from the parade due to political and racial issues, but rather fear of them experiencing mechanical problems during the parade.

Communist Chinese service members standing in front of a captured Hayabusa. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2)

As such, these worn out Hayabusas were grounded. By November of 1949, there were only five examples of the Hayabusa that were still in use. These final five fighters were used by the 7th Aviation School as trainers and teaching aids. By 1952, all of the Hayabusas were finally retired from service. There are no surviving examples of the Communist Chinese Hayabusa, but there is one known photo of the Communist Hayabusa in service.

First Air-to Air Combat of the Communist Chinese Air Force

In the afternoon of October 15th 1947, four Nationalist Chinese P-51D Mustangs belonging to the Shenyang Beiling airfield took off under the leadership of Xu Jizhen (徐吉骧), the co-captain of the squadron. They were tasked with the mission of patrolling the airspace of Harbin (哈尔滨), Jiamusi (佳木斯) and the Sino-Soviet border. Upon crossing the mountains near Mishan (密山), the Mustangs squadron noticed a Tachikawa Ki-55 trainer with Communist Chinese markings belonging to the Northeast Old Aviation School preparing to land at the nearby Tangyuan (汤原) airport. This Ki-55 was piloted by Lu Liping (吕黎平) and an unnamed Japanese instructor. Xu Jizhen immediately dove for the trainer and began firing. The area immediately behind the instructor’s compartment was hit, which resulted in a fire. Watching the attack from the ground, Fang Hua (方华), a veteran Communist soldier, scrambled for a nearby parked Nakajima Ki-43-II Hayabusa and took off. Unfortunately for him, the Hayabusa was not loaded with ammunition so he was unable to engage the Mustangs. However, he was able to lead the Mustangs away from the airfield and evaded their shots until they ran out of ammo. This unfortunate skirmish was the first air-to-air combat experience the Communist Chinese had.

Debunking the Numbers Operated

According to many Western sources, the Communist Chinese Forces only operated five Hayabusas. This is however incorrect. The author believes the reason that these sources mention only five models captured was due to translation errors or simply by overlooking facts. The most likely cause of the misconception is likely due to two facts:

  1. By the end of the Liaoshen Campaign, the Communist Chinese forces had captured five models.
  2. By the time the PLAAF was officially established, there were five models still in service.

What these Western sources may have overlooked however, was the fact that two of the first five models captured crashed during a ferry flight in December of 1945. This leaves only three models operational.

However, a commonly overlooked fact is that the Northeast Old Aviation School was able to capture an unspecified amount of Hayabusas in the Chaoyang (朝阳镇) Town airport located in Jilin sometime in April of 1946. Another unspecified batch of Hayabusas were also captured in Sunjia (孙家) Airport located near Harbin in the Heilongjiang province in June. Due to the unspecified nature of the amount of Hayabusas captured in these two places, it only adds to the difficulty of determining how much Hayabusas were truly captured and operated. But on an inventory check done in April of 1948, a total of six Hayabusas were accounted for serving with the 2nd Squadron. According to this record, that should mean three or more Hayabusas were captured in those two airfields. That should make a total of eight or more Hayabusas when accounting for the two crashed ones. In conclusion, the author believes that a potential total of eight or more Hayabusas were captured, and operated by the Communist Chinese forces to some extent until the retirement of all models in 1952.

Gallery

Communist Chinese Ki-43-II in the colors of the Northeast Old Aviation School by Brendan Matsuyama

Sources

Gang, W., Ming, C. Y., & Wei, Z. (2012). 中国飞机全书 (Vol. 1). Beijing: 航空工业出版社., Gang, W., Ming, C. Y., & Wei, Z. (2009). 中国飞机全书 (Vol. 2). Beijing: 航空工业出版社., Allen, K. (n.d.). PEOPLE’S LIBERATION ARMY AIR FORCE ORGANIZATION., 网易军事. (2016, May 24). 老航校70周年:“鬼子飞行员”在中国当教官., Zhang, X. (2003). Red Wings over the Yalu: China, the Soviet Union, and the Air War in Korea. College Station: Texas A & M University Press., Side Profile Views by Brendan Matsuyama

North American P-51 Mustang in Communist Chinese Service

PRC flag People’s Republic of China (1948-1953)
Fighter – 39 Operated

The North American P-51 Mustang is considered one of the world’s most iconic warplanes from the Second World War, seeing action in nearly all theaters, as well as the Korean War and many other conflicts thereafter. However, one of the lesser known stories of the Mustang is its service with the Communist Chinese forces who would go on to form the People’s Republic of China shortly after. A total of 39 Mustangs were obtained from the Chinese Nationalist forces either by capture or defection. These Mustangs were used in various roles with the Communists, and nine of them even had the honor of flying over Beijing on October 1st 1949 for a parade to commemorate the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Although never seeing combat, the Mustangs still had served with the Communist Chinese forces as one of their most advanced fighters until the arrival of Soviet aid.

A photo displaying the rather impressive cache of captured Nationalist planes now in Communist service. In this photo, there are around nineteen P-51 Mustangs visible. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2)

History

The Republic of China (i.e, Chinese Nationalists under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek) was a notable operator of the North American P-51 Mustang during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Since the United States entered the Second World War, plans were made to provide the Republic of China China with modern American warplanes to replace the worn and outdated planes that the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) were using. The Mustangs were initially flown by pilots of the Chinese-American Composite Wing (CACW) starting from November 1944. The models they operated were P-51B and P-51C, but later in February 1945, P-51D and P-51K variants were delivered and put to use against the Japanese along with the P-51B and P-51C. At the end of the Second World War, the ROCAF received 278 Mustangs from the USAAF, most of which were P-51D and P-51K models, but also with some F-6D and F-6K photo reconnaissance models. Soon after, the uneasy relationship between the Communist Party of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong and the Nationalist government under the leadership of Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) disintegrated. As such, the civil war between the two parties resumed after nearly nine years of truce. This time however, the Communist forces were more prepared to fight the Nationalist forces. As time went on, the Nationalist forces began losing their hold on mainland China and were forced to retreat to Formosa (Taiwan), but not before many of their soldiers, officers and generals defected, leaving a substantial amount of equipment behind.

The People’s Liberation Army obtained their first Mustang on September 23rd 1948 when Captain Yang Peiguang (杨培光) from the Nationalist 4th Fighter Wing based in Beiping (Beijing) defected with his P-51D to the Communist forces at Siping, Jilin Province. The bulk of the Mustangs which would be captured by the Communist forces were, however, from the Liaoshen Campaign which lasted from September 12th – November 2nd, 1948. With the Communist victory at the Battle of Jinzhou on October 15th, a considerable amount of Nationalist equipment was captured; among these were thirty one Mustangs in various states of repair at the Jinzhou Airfield. Though now with thirty four Mustangs in total, the People’s Liberation Army was not able to press any into service due to many factors; the most important two being the lack of able pilots and the varying states of disrepair that the Mustangs were in.

The city of Shenyang was finally captured by the People’s Liberation Army on October 30th 1948, and on the second day of the city’s capture on October 31st, the Northeast People’s Liberation Army Aviation School sent men to secure the Shenyang Beiling airport, factories, warehouses, personnel, and various other assets formerly belonging to the Nationalists. In November, the Shenyang Beiling airport was officially established as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Repair Factory Number 5 (中国人民解放军空军第五修理厂). With the establishment of this repair factory, the first machines to be repaired were the Mustangs. The repairs took top priority and the first Mustang was ready for service on December 30th. Since then, thirty six Mustangs were repaired within a span of eighteen to twenty months lasting until 1950.

On December 10th 1948, the People’s Liberation Army was able to capture the Nationalist-held Beiping (Beijing) Nanyuan Airport as part of the Pingjin Campaign. Three Mustangs were found in relatively good condition, and a total of 128 Packard-built V-1650 Merlin engines were captured as well. This boosted the total amount of Mustangs in the People’s Liberation Army to thirty seven, and provided plenty of replacement engines for maintenance. After this, two more Mustangs would fall in the hands of the Communist forces.

On December 29th, Lieutenant Tan Hanzhou (谭汉洲) of the Nationalist 4th Fighter Group defected with his Mustang from Qingdao to Communist held Shenyang. The last Mustang to fall into the People’s Liberation Army’s hands occured on January 14th of 1949 when Lieutenant Yan Chengyin* (阎承荫) from the Nationalist 3rd Fighter Group’s 28th Squadron defected from his home base of Nanjing to Communist held Jinan.

Lieutenant Tan Hanzhou with his Mustang shortly after his defection. (blog.163.com)

 

Now with thirty nine Mustangs in total, the People’s Liberation Army began to put them to use. Starting from late January 1949, a large number of Mustangs were presented to the Northeast Old Aviation School’s (东北老航校) 2nd Squadron of the 1st Air Group with the purpose of training pilots. On August 15th 1949, the People’s Liberation Army formed their first flying squadron named at the Beiping Nanyuan airfield. The squadron consisted of two Fairchild PT-19 trainers, two de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers and six Mustangs. Shortly after the formation on September 5th, this squadron was assigned the task of defending Beiping’s airspace from Nationalist forces. At some point before October, eleven more Mustangs were assigned to this squadron. The squadron saw no combat.

* Mr. Yan later changed his name to Yan Lei (阎磊) after his defection.

Perhaps the most notable use of the Mustangs in Communist Chinese service was on October 1st 1949. By then, the bulk of the Nationalist forces were in discord and in the process of retreating to Formosa (Taiwan). With the Communist victory inevitable, Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. A Soviet-style military parade was held in newly-renamed Beijing’s (Beiping) Tiananmen Square which included sixteen thousand and four hundred soldiers, one hundred and fifty two tanks, two hundred and twenty two cars and seventeen planes were displayed to the public. Of these seventeen planes, nine were Mustangs. The Mustangs flew in groups of threes in a V formation and led the aerial convoy. Once over Tiananmen square, these Mustangs increased their speed and flew past the square and out of sight, they made a turn and reentered Tiananmen square for the back just in time to link up with the two Fairchild PT-19A trainers flying last. Because they re-entered the square so quickly, the spectators were led to believe these were nine different Mustangs, with a total of twenty six planes appearing over Tiananmen square instead of the actual seventeen. This was mentioned in a government made propaganda newsreel. Of these nine Mustangs, at least one was a P-51K model.

After the parade, the Mustangs were once again deployed in a defensive state awaiting possible Nationalist intrusions in Beijing. By November 1949, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force was officially established and a total of twenty two airworthy Mustangs were in service, with nine more awaiting repair. This meant that thirty one Mustangs still survived, with eight written off. It is unknown what precisely happened to these Mustangs but the author speculates that they could have been cannibalized for parts, destroyed in training flights, disassembled to study the structure, or simply scrapped.

One of the only known photos of the two seat P-51D trainer. The canopy seemed to have been removed to make space. (js.voc.com.cn)

On July 26th 1950, the Beijing defense squadron was renamed the “Air Force 1st Independent Fighter Brigade” (空军独立第一歼击机大队). By then, the Soviet Union was supplying the Chinese with more modern equipment and by mid-August, the brigade’s Mustangs were replaced by Soviet Lavochkin La-9 fighters. Once replaced, all Mustangs scattered across the country were collected and given to Aviation School No.7 to train new pilots. With this, Aviation School No.7 modified thirteen Mustangs to be two-seat trainers. This was done perhaps to speed up the training process, and to prevent accidents by rookie pilots without guidance. There is currently one known photo of the two seat trainer.

By September 1953, most Mustangs were retired from training service due to cracks in the landing gear. However, eight of them remained in service with Aviation School No.7 to train Ilyushin IL-10 pilots how to taxi their planes. A few more examples were used as teaching tools to train pilots on identifying plane parts. It is unknown when precisely the Mustang was retired once and for all.

An illustration showing three P-51 Mustangs flying over Beijing on October 1st of 1949. (thepaper.cn)

Surviving PLAAF Mustangs

To this day, only two Mustangs formerly in PLAAF service survive in museums. The first one is a P-51K-10-NT “Red 3032” with the serial number 44-12458. This P-51K is on public display at the Chinese Aviation Museum (中国航空博物馆), sometimes also known as the Datangshan Aviation Museum located in Datangshan, Beijing. It remains in relatively pristine condition as it was in an indoors display and sheltered from the elements. Bomb hardpoints are visible under each of the wings which signifies that this Mustang perhaps once served as a fighter/bomber for the ROCAF.

P-51K-10-NT “Red 3032” on display. It is in rather good condition due to being stored indoors. (George Trussell)

The other surviving PLAAF Mustang is a P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” with the serial number 44-73920. This Mustang can be seen at the China People’s Revolution Military Museum (中国人民革命军事博物馆) in the Haidian District of Beijing. What is notable about this specific plane is that it was one of the nine Mustangs that flew over Beijing on October 1st of 1949 for the Founding of the People’s Republic of China parade. This Mustang was displayed outdoors exposed to nature for the majority of its life until the museum went under renovation when it was finally moved indoors. The Mustang has gone through minimal restoration, as it looks considerably cleaner than when it was displayed outdoors. This Mustang also had bomb hardpoints under its wings.

The P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” in its new indoor display after the museum renovation. It looks considerably cleaner than when it was displayed outdoors. (Wikimedia Commons)
The P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” in its old outdoors display, dust and slight rust can be seen on the machine. (Wikimedia Commons)

Variants Operated

A total of 39 North American P-51D Mustangs were operated by the Communist Chinese forces, and later the People’s Republic of China. Within these Mustangs, an unknown amount were P-51D and P-51K models.

  • P-51D – An unspecified amount of P-51D Mustangs of various block numbers were operated by the People’s Republic of China. A P-51D-25-NA is confirmed to have been in service as it flew over Beijing as part of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China parade and is now in the China People’s Revolution Military Museum (中国人民革命军事博物馆) in the Beijing.
  • P-51K – An unspecified amount of P-51K Mustangs of various block numbers were operated by the People’s Republic of China. A P-51K-10-NT is confirmed to have been in service as it is in the Chinese Aviation Museum (中国航空博物馆) in Beijing.
  • P-51 Trainer – A total of thirteen Mustangs were modified by Aviation School No.7 in 1951 to be two-seat trainers. The instructor sat in the rear while the student pilot was at the front. No surviving examples are preserved to this day.

Note

The author would like to extend his thanks to Mr. Hemmatyar for restoring some of the photos used in this article.

Gallery

P-51K-10-NT “Red 3032” displayed in the Chinese Aviation Museum in Datangshan, Beijing. Illustration by Brendan Matsuyama
P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” displayed in the China People’s Revolution Military Museum in the Haidian District of Beijing. Illustration by Brendan Matsuyama
A PLAAF P-51D/K with a blue rudder. The unit and serial number is unknown. Illustration by Brendan Matsuyama
A rare photograph of a mini P-51 Mustang model with PLAAF markings dated some time in the early 1950s. Two little boys accompany the cutout. This shows how impactful the Mustang was to the initial years of the People’s Republic of China. (eBay)
22 year old Lin Hu (林虎) with his P-51K before taking off to partake in the parade. (gogonews.cc)
A still frame showing three P-51 Mustangs flying over Beijing. (Establishment of the People’s Republic of China Parade)
A line of P-51 Mustangs awaiting inspection with their respective pilots standing at ease. (sohu.com)
A PLAAF Mustang taking off. Note the rocket rails. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2)
Mechanics and ground crew doing engine work on a Mustang. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2)
Four Mustangs line up on the Beijing Nanyuan Airfield awaiting to take off for the participation in the 1949 parade. Two Curtiss C-46 Commandos can also be seen in the background. (windsor8.com)

Sources

Gang, W., Ming, C. Y., & Wei, Z. (2009). 中国飞机全书 (Vol. 2). Beijing: 航空工业出版社., 八一战鹰大全(一)—— P-51“野马”战斗机. (n.d.). , Armstrong. (n.d.). 天马行空: 纪念 P-51 野马战斗机升空六十年., 肖邦振, & 李冰梅. (2010). 新中国成立前后 国民党空军飞行人员驾机起义探析. 军事史资料., Allen, K. (n.d.). PEOPLE’S LIBERATION ARMY AIR FORCE ORGANIZATION., (2016, December 19).开国大典——1949国庆大阅兵, Side Profile Views by Brendan Matsuyama

JJ-1 101

Shenyang JJ-1

peoples republic of china flag People’s Republic of China (1958)
Jet Trainer – 3 Built

The Shenyang JJ-1 (沈阳 歼教-1) was the People’s Republic of China’s first domestically designed jet plane, and thus it has a special place in Chinese aviation history. The JJ-1 was intended to serve a trainer role to help pilots transition from propeller planes to jets. The JJ-1 was not mass produced, despite its success since it was concluded that propeller trained pilots could easily move into jet engined planes. The JJ-1’s engine was also very difficult to repair. One JJ-1 still exists to this day and can be seen at the Chinese Aviation Museum in Beijing.

Chairman Mao Inspects Model

History

In the beginning of 1950s, the People’s Republic of China was still a relatively new nation. It was faced with the Korean War shortly after its formation. Due to the demands of the Korean War, China formed their aviation industry in 1951, focused solely on developing the economy and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The PLAAF was already formed prior to the industrialization using captured Nationalist Chinese, Japanese and American aircraft.

As the size of the air force began to expand, the high command realized that they needed a more effective way to train the pilots. China’s then ideology for industry was to copy the Soviet planes, gain experience from studying their blueprints, practice manufacturing them and design their own planes. Due to this ideology, China bought many Soviet aircraft. Among them are Yak-18s, MiG-15s, and MiG-17s. They successfully reverse engineered the Yak-18 with help from the Soviets, and branded their copy as the JJ-5. The JJ-5 successfully flew on July 3rd, 1954. The successful imitation proved that China was indeed capable of building aircraft, and they gained experience from doing so. With morale high, the Second Machinery Industry Department decided to design and develop a brand new aircraft.

JJ-1 Under Construction
Factory workers building the fuselage of the JJ-1

On August 2nd 1956, under the permission of the Aviation Department, a department for aircraft design was created. It was named The Shenyang Department of Aircraft Design (沈阳飞机设计室). The government appointed Xu Xun Shou (徐舜寿) as the director, and Huang Zhi Qian (黄志千) and Ye Zheng Da (叶正大) as co-directors. The Shenyang Department of Aircraft Design was focused on studying Soviet aircraft designs, so China gained more knowledge and would not have to keep purchasing aircraft from the Soviet Union. The department would satisfy the needs of the air force and also form China’s own design team.

 

Chairman Mao Inspects Model
Chairman Mao Zedong (毛泽东) inspects a wind tunnel model of the JJ-1

While designing the JJ-1, Xu Xun Shou (徐舜寿) evaluated China’s ability to produce aircraft and the needs of the air force. The original design criterion for the JJ-1 was that above all, it should prioritize pilot safety. The second criterion was that it should be on-par with American and the Soviet Union jet trainers. The third criterion was that all of the aircraft parts must be easy to produce, and be made with simple materials. The fourth criterion was that the aircraft itself should be easy to maintain, fly, and produced in China. After the basis of the aircraft was decided, a name had to be given. Three names were considered for the project: Eastern Wind 101 (东风101), Red Reserve 503 (红专503) and Annihilation Instruction 1 (歼教-1). In the end, they chose to go with Annihilation Instruction 1 (歼教-1) and gave it the code designation JJ-1.

During the design stage, engineers were faced with the difficulty of designing an aircraft from scratch with no prior experience. A turn of events led to a carpenter named Chen Ming Sheng (陈明生) to lead a small group of workers to create a wooden prototype for the designers within 100 days. This gave the designers the crucial information they needed to proceed with the design. Shortly after wind tunnel tests and evaluating the wooden mock-up, they sent the data to the USSR for advice and help. In total, it took 92 people to design and build the aircraft. The average age of the designers and workers was 22, which showed that China’s youth was capable of contributing to the nation. Most of the designers had studied abroad, mostly in the Soviet Union.

Design

The design of the JJ-1 was fairly simple. It was an all metal construction with two air intakes on the sides of the fuselage. It had two seats in tandem, one for the student and one for the instructor. The student would sit in front while the instructor would sit behind. It also had a tricycle landing gear and straight wings. The plane was to be fitted with a single NR-23 cannon. No sources specify how many rounds the gun would have, but it is generally assumed to be 50-100.

JJ-1 Powerplant
An edited and colorized photo of the SADO PF-1A turbojet

The powerplant of the JJ-1 was the SADO PF-1A turbojet, which was a copy of the Soviet Klimov RD-500, which itself was a copy of the British Derwent V turbojet. The JJ-1 would also be fitted with a RCP-3000 generator with two 12-CAM-28 batteries. Other than the tachometer and fuel gauge, every other flight instrument was borrowed from the J-5 (Chinese copy of the MiG-15). The right wing had a pitot tube (ПВД-4) to measure indicated air speed, while the left wing had a counterbalance to even out the weight made by the pitot equipment on the right wing. The radio that was installed was an ultra-short wave radio for communication with the control tower (РСИУ-3М). The inflight radio model installed was the СПУ-2, which was meant for communication between the student and the instructor. An ОСП-48 landing equipment model was also installed, meant for bad weather landings and emergency landings.

The JJ-1 vaguely resembles the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star with elements from the Hawker Sea Hawk and the Grumman F9F. Surprisingly, it took very little influence from Soviet aircrafts.

In total, two airworthy JJ-1s were produced used for flight testing, while an additional wooden mockup was used for static tests.

Flight Tests

Within 100 days of the design being completed, the JJ-1 was manufactured and ready for air trials.

JJ-1 Preflight
Test pilot Yu Zheng Wu (于振武) and a flight engineer pose for a photo shortly before takeoff

On July 26th 1958, the prototype of the JJ-1 was towed out of the hanger onto the airfield in preparation for the first test flight. . The test pilot was Yu Zheng Wu (于振武), a selected pilot from the PLAAF. The event was marked by a celebration among the factory workers and designers. The plane successfully took off after a green signal flare was fired from the aircraft control center, marking the first successful flight of a domestically designed aircraft in China. The plane climbed to high altitude while testing controls and maneuverability. When the plane landed, Wu was congratulated by onlookers for the occasion. One interesting thing that Wu suggested that the plane could be a potential close air support vehicle, as it could slow down to a stable speed to approach enemies and speed off when needed.

The Ministry of Aviation decided to inspect the JJ-1 for themselves after the first successful test flight. Marshal Ye Jianying (叶剑英) and Commander Liu Yalou (刘亚楼) came to inspect the aircraft. Both of the men were impressed with the performance of the aircraft. The test pilot Yu Zheng Wu (于振武) performed an unplanned low altitude aerobatic maneuver in front of the two men. This action left the onlookers cheering and applauding.

In October of 1958, the JJ-1 successfully completed its trials. Shortly after the annual celebration of the formation of China, the two airworthy JJ-1s were brought to Beijing to perform in an air show. Mao Zedong and the other official government staff were thoroughly impressed with the design, and deemed it successful. In November, while the two JJ-1s were returning to Shenyang from Beijing, one of the aircraft’s suffered a turbine fan failure. Despite this, both of the JJ-1s managed to return to Shenyang. Unfortunately, the factory was unable to fix the fans as they had no experience in repairing engines.

Results

Due to the factory’s inability to fix the turbines, the government questioned the effectiveness of the designers and factories. In the end, the Ministry of Air decided to not mass produce the JJ-1 despite it being very successful in trials. The Air Force also realized that the transition of propeller plane trained pilots to jet engine planes was relatively smooth, and a jet trainer was not required. This put an end to the JJ-1 project once and for all.

Only one of the three JJ-1s still exists to this day, and it can be seen at the Chinese Aviation museum in Beijing. The aircraft on display was the one that suffered the engine failure during mid-flight.

Shenyang JJ-1 Specifications

Wingspan: 37 ft 6 in / 11.43 m
Length: 34 ft 8 in / 10.56 m
Height: 12 ft 11 in / 3.94 m
Engine: 1x SADO PF-1A Turbojet (15.9 kN thrust)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 10,145 lb / 4,602 kg
Empty Takeoff Weight: 6,942 lb / 3,149 kg
Normal Takeoff Weight: 9,169 lb / 4,159 kg
Maximum Climb Rate: 93 fps / 28.4 m/s
Maximum Speed: 560 mph / 950 kmh
Range: 600 miles / 957 km
Service Ceiling: 47,500 ft / 14,500 m
Crew: 1x Student Pilot

1x Instructor Pilot

Armament: (intended for production model) 1x 23mm NR-23 Cannon

Gallery

JJ-1 101
JJ-1 101 in its initial livery, note the natural metal finish – July 1958
JJ-1 101 Striped
JJ-1 101 in a speculated livery with a striped tail flash
JJ-1 0101
JJ-1 as presently seen in the Chinese Aviation Museum
JJ-1 Powerplant
An edited and colorized photo of the SADO PF-1A turbojet
JJ-1 Designers
Some of the designers pose with the JJ-1
JJ-1 Hangar Towed
JJ-1 being towed to the runway before its maiden flight
JJ-1 Maiden Flight
JJ-1 maiden flight celebration
JJ-1 Wooden Mockup
Wooden mockup of the JJ-1. Made by Chen Ming Sheng (陈明生) and his group of workers
JJ-1 Preflight
Test pilot Yu Zheng Wu (于振武) and a flight engineer pose for a photo shortly before takeoff
JJ-1 Debut
The JJ-1 on its maiden flight
JJ-1 Under Construction
Factory workers building the fuselage of the JJ-1
JJ-1 Test Pilot - Post Flight
Test pilot Yu Zheng Wu (于振武) being embraced after successfully piloting and landing the JJ-1
Chairman Mao Inspects Model
Chairman Mao Zedong (毛泽东) inspects a wind tunnel model of the JJ-1
JJ-1 Flyby
Marshal Ye Jianying (叶剑英) and Commander Liu Yalou (刘亚楼) observe a JJ-1’s fly-by in the Shenyang trials. The photo of the marshals was indeed real, but the JJ-1 was edited in for propaganda purposes.

Contributors

Hongrui (Reed) Zhang – Chinese Translator

Sources

“歼教-1.” Baidu. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 July 2017.歼教-1. “歼教-1.” 互动百科 – 全球最大中文百科网站. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 July 2017.“The 红专-503 Hong Zhuan “Red Special” or 歼教-1 Jian Jiao “Fighter Trainer” also known as the Shenyang JJ-1 红专-503 歼教-1 (战斗机 教练员 航空器-1).” International Resin Modellers Association ©SM®TM – Articles 6. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 July 2017.“不为人知的“百日歼教1”.” Tiexue. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 July 2017., Images: Side Profile Views by Ed Jackson – Artbyedo.com