Chinese Military Aircraft Designations

Copyright © 2001-2005 Andreas Parsch
Original designation listings compiled by Andreas Gehrs-Pahl

1 Chinese Aircraft Designation System

2 Designation Listing

3 Engines, Drones, Missiles, Space Launchers, and Satellites

4 Sources

1 Chinese Aircraft Designation System

The People's Republic of China uses a type designation system similar in principle to the U.S. one. I.e., a letter designating the primary mission is followed by a sequential number.

In western transcription, the following type letters exist:

The CJ- and JL-designated trainers apparently share the same numerical series.

Export versions of aircraft are often marketed with "westernized" prefixes, e.g. "F", "A" and "B" instead of "J", "Q" and "H", respectively.

Training, reconnaissance and other modifications of fighters and bombers a second prefix letter:

This results in the designation prefixes:

Most (possibly all) numerical sequences start with number 5. One explanation, which I have seen, is, that number 4 is regarded as "unlucky" in traditional Chinese culture (similar to 13 in the west), and is to be avoided. Instead of skipping number 4, the Chinese decided to begin with number 5. However, there are reports of designations with numbers below 5, but all of these are more or less "hypothetical" and not definitely confirmed. An example is the designation J-4, which is often associated with the Chinese MiG-17F. However, several authors say, that this is actually a western invention, and that MiG-17Fs were/are never called J-4 in China.

Various suffixes (both letters and numbers) are used to designate variants and modifications, but as far as I know these are not standardized.

2 Designation Listing

It seems, that only aircraft built in China receive a designation in this system. This is another hint that the alleged designation numbers below 5 are ficticiuos, because they are all attributed to imported aircraft.

BA - ??? (Drone)

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
BA-5 Shenyang Chinese version of Lavochkin La-17 (export: CK-1 (Chang Kong)); versions include Ba-5I, CK-1A, CK-1B, CK-1C, CK-1E
BA-6 ? Target drone version of HQ-2 missile (NATO "CSA-1")

CJ - Chuji Jiaolianji (Primary Trainer)

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
CJ-3 Yakovlev Yak-18; CJ-3 designation questionable!
CJ-5 Nanchang Chinese version of Yakovlev Yak-18
CJ-6 Nanchang Improved CJ-5; versions include CJ-6, CJ-6A and CJ-6B
CJ-7 ? Turboprop trainer (designation unconfirmed)
CJ-8 ? Turbofan trainer (designation unconfirmed; most likely identical to JL-8)
JL-8 Nanchang/Hongdu Jet trainer; K-8 (Karakorum-8; variants include K-8E and K-8J) in Pakistan
JL-9 Guizhou Projected two-seat advanced jet trainer; a.k.a. "FTC-2000"
L-15 Hongdu Light trainer

H - Hongzhaji (Bomber)

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
H-5 Harbin Ilyushin Il-28 built in China; versions include H-5, H-5A, H-5B, H-5T (Il-28T), HD-5 (EW/ELINT), HJ-5 (Il-28U), HZ-5 (Il-28R) and HD-5
H-6 Xian Tupolev Tu-16 built in China; versions include H-6, H-6I, H-6A, H-6B (reconnaissance), H-6C, H-6D (maritime bomber), H-6E (nuclear), H-6F, H-6H, HD-6I (EW/ELINT), HD-6II, HD-6III, HU-6 (tanker) and HU-6D
JH-7 Xian Fighter-bomber project (a.k.a. FBC-1 "Flying Leopard"); versions include JH-7 (FBC-1), JH-7A (FBC-1M); HJ-7 trainer might also exist

J - Jianjiji (Fighter)

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
J-2 Mikoyan MiG-15; versions include J-2 and JJ-2 (MiG-15UTI); J-2/JJ-2 designations questionable!
J-4 Mikoyan MiG-17F; versions include J-4 and JJ-4 (MiG-17U); J-4/JJ-4 designations questionable!
J-5 Shenyang/Chengdu MiG-17PF built in China; versions include J-5, J-5A, J-5R, JJ-5 and JZ-5
J-6 Shenyang MiG-19 built in China; versions include J-6 (Mig-19S/SF), J-6A (Mig-19PF), J-6B (Mig-19PM), J-6C (Mig-19SF), J-6bis (improved J-6), J6Xin (improved J-6A), J-6I, J-6II, J-6III, J-6IV (cancelled), JJ-6 ("MiG-19UTI") and JZ-6 (MiG-19R)
J-7 Chengdu MiG-21F built in China; numerous versions, most important are
- based on MiG-21F-13: J-7, J-7I, J-7II (export: F-7B), J-7IIA, J-7H (J-7IIH), F-7M Airguard (export), F-7P/MP Airbolt (export)
- based on MiG-21MF: J-7C (J-7III), J-7D (J-7IIIA)
- 3rd generation J-7: J-7E (J-7IV), J-7EB, J-7EH, J-7G, F-7MG/PG (export)
- trainer: JJ-7 ("MiG-21U"), JJ-7A, FT-7P/PG (export)
J-8 Shenyang Developed from MiG-21 (NATO "Finback"); versions include J-8, J-8A (J-8I; "Finback A"), J-8B (J-8II; "Finback B"), J-8C (J-8III), J-8D (J-8IIA; J-8II with AAR), J-8E (J-8A with new radar & avionics), J-8F (J-8IIF), J-8M (J-8IIM; improved J-8II; "Finback C") and JZ-8
J-9 Chengdu Single-engine Mach 2.4 fighter project (1970s; canard layout); not built
(reports referring to J-9 as a CATIC fighter project based on MiG-23 are probably in error)
J-10 ? Swing-wing all-weather fighter project (late 1960s); not built, number later re-used
J-10 Chengdu Multi-role fighter; versions include J-10A (single-seater) and J-10B (two-seater)
J-11 Shenyang Single-engine lightweight fighter design (late 1960s); not built, number later re-used
J-11 Shenyang Sukhoi Su-27SK (also two-seaters Su-27UBK and Su-30MKK) built in China; versions include J-11, J-11A and J-11B
J-12 Nanchang Single-engine ultra-lightweight STOL fighter project (1970s); prototypes only; number might be re-used
J-12 - Possibly reserved for XXJ project; designation unconfirmed!
J-13 Shenyang Advanced single-engine fighter project (1980s); not built; number will most likely be re-used

Q - Qiangjiji (Attack)

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
Q-5 Nanchang Developed from MiG-19 (NATO "Fantan"); versions include Q-5, Q-5A, Q-5I, Q-5IA, Q-5K, Q-5M (A-5M), Q-5II, Q-5B, A-5C (Q-5III), Q-5D (A-5D), Q-5E/F, QD-5 (EW) and Q-5J (two-seater)
Q-6 Xian Swing-wing fighter bomber project (late 1970s) based on MiG-23; cancelled
Q-7 - (Designation unconfirmed)

SH - Shuishang Hongzhaji (Maritime Bomber)

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
SH-5 Harbin Flying boat

WZ - Wuren Zhencha (UAV)

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
WZ-5 BUAA Chinese copy of Teledyne-Ryan AQM-34N (export: CH-1 (Chang Hong))

X - Xiangji (Glider)

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
X-5 ? Known version is X-5A
(X-6) (No information)
X-7 ? "Jian Fan"
(X-8) (No information)
X-9 ?  
X-10 Shenyang "Qian Jin"
X-11 Shenyang Derivative of X-10

Y - Yunshuji (Transport)

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
Y-4 Douglas/Lisunov C-47 or Li-2; Y-4 designation questionable!
Y-5 Shijiazhuang Antonov An-2 built in China; named "Fong Shou"; versions include Y-5, Y-5A, Y-5B (with several sub-variants), Y-5C, Y-5D and Y-5N
Y-6 - Chinese copy of Ilyushin Il-14; cancelled
Y-7 Xian Chinese copy of Antonov An-24; versions include Y-7, Y-7-100, Y-7-100J, Y-7G, Y-7H (was Y-14), Y-7-200A and Y-7-200B
Y-8 Xian (Y-8/-8A)
Shaanxi (other)
Chinese copy of Antonov An-12; numerous versions, most important are Y-8, Y-8A, Y-8B, Y-8C, Y-8D (Y-8C for export), Y-8E (drone carrier/launcher for CH-1), Y-8F (civilian; several sub-variants), Y-8H, Y-8Q, Y-8X ("Xun") (a.k.a. Y-8MPA = Maritime Patrol Aircraft) and Y-8J ("Jin") (AEW)
(Y-9) (No information)
Y-10 Shanghai Chinese copy of Boeing 707-320
Y-11 Harbin Utility STOL transport with 2 piston engines (NATO "Chan"); versions include Y-11, Y-11B and Y-11B-II
Y-12 Harbin Improved Y-11, with 2 turboprop engines; versions include Y-12I, Y-12II, Y-12III, Y-12IV and Y-12E
Y-13 - Possibly used for Ilyushin Il-76; designation unconfirmed!
Y-14 Xian became Y-7H
(Y-15) (No information)
Y-16 - Chinese copy of Boeing 737-400; not built

Z - Zhishengji (VTOL/Helicopter)

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
Z-5 Harbin Mil Mi-4 built in China; named "Syuan Fen" (Whirlwind); versions include Z-5 and Z-5A
Z-6 Harbin Mil Mi-8 built in China
Z-7 - Cancelled project (late 1970s)
Z-8 Changhe Aérospatiale SA321 built in China; versions include Z-8 and Z-8A
Z-9 Harbin Eurocopter AS 365N1 Dauphin built in China; versions include Z-9, Z-9A, Z-9B, Z-9C (AS 365N1; naval variant), Z-9G (export: WZ-9 (Wuzhuang Zhishengji)), Z-9H and Z-9S
Z-10 - Attack helicopter
Z-11 Changhe Eurocopter AS 350B Fennec built in China; versions include Z-11 and Z-11W

3 Engines, Drones, Missiles, Space Launchers, and Satellites

Andreas Gehrs-Pahl, who has provided most of the data presented on this page, has also compiled listings of Chinese engines, drones, missiles, space launchers, and satellites. While these listings fall outside the scope of this aircraft designation page, they are too good to be "kept inside". Therefore, I provide them "as is" in the following file:

Chinese Aero-Engines and Unmanned Aerospace Vehicles, by Andreas Gehrs-Pahl

4 Sources

[1] Frank Noort: Scramble on the Web

Comments and corrections to: Andreas Parsch

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Last Updated: 21 April 2005