Trumpeter | Chengdu J-7

Reviewed by Vernon Rabbetts

The CAC J/F-7E Family

The history of the aircraft can be traced right back to 1961, just before the breakdown in relations between China and Russia. The Chinese had one MiG-21 on hand, but by the time the collapse came, they had insufficient parts and no licenses to build the "Fishbed".

The Chinese government decided that it should proceed with reverse engineering in an attempt to build up it's own capabilities. Despite calamities such as the Cultural Revolution, this is exactly what the Chinese have done. Many of the aircraft that are flown by the PLAAF today (and are sneeringly written off as "Chinese Knock-offs") are actually indigenous developed planes, which in some cases are as capable as their western counterparts.

The MiG-21 was a classic Cold-War Supersonic Interceptor, which was great for fast climb intercepts, high energy maneuvering and not much else. The original J-7 likewise benefited from all of these strengths and also suffered from many weaknesses. These included very short periods between services/overhauls on the engines, poor low-speed manoeuvring capabilities, huge turning circles and increasingly dated avionics.

In 1987, CAC (Chengdu Aircraft Company) began developing the J-7E with the first flight occurring in May 1990. There were significant changes, the most obvious of which was the wing.

The old MiG-21/J-7 wing was a delta with a 57-degree sweep from root to tip. The new wing was a "double delta" with the inner wing at 57-degrees, but the outer wing having a reduced 42-degree sweep. This when taken into consideration with a three foot increase in span over the old wing gives a much greater surface area and a massive increase in lift. In addition, auto-manoeuvering flaps at the leading and trailing edges have been incorporated with no apparent servo accommodating bumps and bulges on the leading edge.

The diagram attached shows the major changes in the plan form of the J-7E over its' most comparable MiG-21 counterpart (fuselage design-wise) the 21-F-13. Other differences are the two-part canopy over the F-13's one-piece and changes to the vertical stabilizer.

This has resulted in a 25% shorter take off run, a 33% reduced turn rate at 5,000ft and a 66% better turning rate at 20,000ft. What is more, the minimum safe speed for a high-alpha slow speed loop in the old J-7 was 800-900Km/H, but the F-7PG (Pakistani military version of the EB) has flown this manoeuvre at 600Km/H with ease.

Internally the engine was up rated from the Liming Wopen WP-7B Turbojet (13,450lbs thrust with afterburner engaged) to the Liming Wopen WP-13, which has 14,650lbs of thrust with afterburner engaged. The WP-13 also incorporates titanium alloys into the compressor blades. This has resulted in a 25% reduction in time to accelerate from 500 to 1,100Km/H and an increase in time between engine overhaul.

On top of this a Chinese designed variable position cone has replaced the old three-position nose cone of the MiG-21. The avionics have been massively upgraded and now include technology from Israeli and Russian sources. The fire radar is either the Marconi Super Skytracker or in the case of Pakistani F-7's, license built Italian FIAR Grifo-7, giving the J/F-7E family good track-while-scanning and look-down-shoot-down capabilities.

Both the J-7MG/G and the F-7PG can be fitted with helmet mounted sights and the Pakistani version can mount up to four AIM-9L/P Sidewinders as well as unguided Air to Ground Iron bombs and Rockets.

What this means in practical terms is that the F-7E is now very close to the flight performance and combat manoeuvring capabilities of the F-16 A/B and has closed the technology gap in terms of the Taiwanese and Indian Air Forces. (Which are vital considerations for the Chinese and the Pakistani Governments.)


The EB variant of the J-7 is a purely aerobatic aircraft with all weapons systems removed and upgraded flight control systems. It is flown by the "August 1st" Aerobatic Display of the 81st Aerobatic Team, PLAAF.

The team is still pretty unknown in the west and operates 9 J-7EB's in its displays. The idea of a viable airshow display in one of the old J-7's is pretty laughable, but the new wing makes it work thanks to its much greater manoeuvring capabilities.

The team has had two colour schemes, one as shown on the box cover in red and white, the second in the far more attractive white and 2 blues above.

The Kit

This kit has been released for a while now, but no major review has been done, bearing in mind the quality of the kit, it is worth rectifying this situation.


The kit comes in the standard Trumpeter heavy-duty boxing which when opened reveals 7 light grey sprues comprising all the major assemblies. Each is bagged separately as are the clear plastic parts on a single sprue. In addition, you get a separate bag, which contains three white metal landing gear, three rubber tyres, six screws, one acetate sheet of instrument displays and a single piece of etched metal for the rear-view mirrors.

All parts are flash free and have finely engraved panel details.

Fuselage Parts

As is common with many of Trumpeters jet models, the fuselage is broken into four major components. This allows you to display the installed engine by removing the tail of the aircraft.

All air brakes are positionable either in the closed or open position and the various scoops and inlets that stud the fuselage are included. The vertical stabiliser is separate as is the rudder. The horizontal stabilisers pivot, although I suspect the best way of handling these is to choose one position and glue them there. In addition, there is a white metal shock cone, which should help keep this puppy from sitting on it's tail, although I still think you'll need extra weight to achieve this.

The Cockpit

The cockpit is a bit of a grey area with most Chinese aircraft; do you really know if the manufacturer got the kit right? It's not easy to pop on down to your nearest air base and ask for a quick shufti really. However, based on the pictures below, I think that things seem to be pretty much right.

The seat is a bit of teaser too; it should in my opinion be replaced with a resin one, but where to get one? Answers on a postcard please!! If you decide to convert this to the F-7PG, (the image on the right above) then this will be solved by getting hold of a Martin Baker Mk.10 resin seat, which the Pakistani's insisted on. (This does not say much for the state of Chinese bang-seat manufacturing.) But if you use the kit seat you will need to provide proper harnesses from paper or photo-etch.

The main colour of the Chinese cockpit will be what I normally think of as British-Junior-School-Outdoor-Toilet-Turquoise, which is greener than the Russian cockpit colour.

The Engine

The biggest fault of the Trumpeter MiG-21 series is the engine, which for some reason was molded in four pieces length-wise. This makes construction more difficult and getting rid of the seams even more difficult. This is a real pity as Trumpeter makes bloody good engines for its' kits. However, if you decide to make and keep the display option you'll have yourself. Once completed and painted however, it should look reasonably nice, just take your time and be careful of destroying details.

The Wings

The wings are a standard top and bottom construction with the option of dropped leading and trailing edge flaps. When I first saw the construction of the dropped flap, I thought they looked too simplistic, but having looked through as many photographs as I can get, this actually seems to be pretty accurate. The landing legs are white metal and these should present no real problem and rubber tyres.

The Other Stuff

The whole package is rounded off with the transparencies, which are clear and seem to fit the photos excellently, photo-etch mirrors for the cockpit that are chromed and should require no polishing to look the part and a decal sheet.

You get two options from the same aerobatic team; the first is the old red and white scheme, the second the new white and two-blues. The registration on my set is good although the details are a little soft and they do look a bit thick. You will probably need to apply gloss coat and rub this down with used glass paper before adding another gloss coat to avoid them standing out too much.


Trumpeters' series of MiG-19 and 21 variants are excellent; in fact in all the reviews of all the versions, I've never read a damning one. The reason is simple; the kits are very easy to make, very high quality and a real pleasure to look at afterwards.

This will make an unusual contribution to your display cabinet and in the blue and white guise might even have a few people guessing.

My thanks to Trumpeter for the review sample and Lucky Model for the use of their photos after my camera died a death.

The kit is available now from Lucky Model.

© Vernon Rabbetts 2003

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This review was published on Saturday, July 02 2011; Last modified on Wednesday, May 18 2016