For those who have been looking forward to the retirement of Nigeria’s fleet of the Chengdu F-7i Airguard fighter, the recent long-term strategic aquisition plan of the NAF downplayed the potential retirement of the F-7Ni interceptor. The NAF is hellbent of maintaining the F-7Ni tiny fleet through the 2020s. In 2016 there had been speculations that the Air Force was considering replacing its F-7Ni fighters with the JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter, all though the Air Force would retain its inventory of the F-7Ni.
The $500 million Super Tucano deal for 12 aircrafts ensured the supersonic F-7N will remain Nigeria’s fastest and most potent aircraft, able to carry a heavier weapons payload than any other aircraft in NAF inventory, and for good reasons. In an increasingly high-end threat environment, light and subsonic platforms like the Super Tucano and Alpha jet will not prove as effective as the faster, better armed and more agile F-7N.
For some bizzare reason, the NAF had made its buy rate of 3 combat capable aircraft a year a priority, and will be loath to retire the F-7N unless it has sufficient numbers of new strike platforms.
So since we are stuck with the F-7N we can as well access the capabilities of the only aircraft capable of carrying out air-to-air missions.
Due to its speed and agility, the F-7N is hailed as the poor mans F-16 fighter.
The F-7N has a top speed of Mach 2.0 (2,200 km/h). That’s twice the speed of sound.
COMBAT RADIUS / SERVICE CEILING
The F-7N has a combat radius of 8and an impressive service ceiling of 57,500 ft.
The F-7N is armed with two 30mm cannons, which can fire munitions at the rate of 60 rounds a minute. The aircraft has five hardpoints, four of which are located under the two wings and one beneath the centreline fuselage section. It can carry a payload of up to 2,000kg. The F-7 is fitted with PL-2, PL-5, PL-7, PL-8, PL-9, Magic R.550 and AIM-9 air-to-air missiles (AAM), unguided bombs weighing 50kg to 500kg, a 55mm rocket pod and a 90mm rocket pod.
The aircraft is equipped with an efficient avionics system which includes FIAR Grifo-7 mkII radar and a Type 226 PD HUDWAC (head-up display and weapon aiming computer) plus GARMIN global positioning and bombing navigation systems.
The F-7N can climb at the rate of 155m/s, while the maximum and cruise speeds of the aircraft are 2,120km/h and 1,200km/h respectively. Its combat range is 850km. The ferry range of the J-7 is 2,000km and the aircraft can fly to a maximum altitude of 17,800m.
The take-off and landing distances of the aircraft are 800m and 750m respectively. The aircraft weighs around 5,292kg and its maximum take-off weight is 9,100kg.
GROUND ATTACK MISSIONS
The F-7N has been designed to perform ground attack missions in all weather conditions. It can climb to higher altitudes with its delta wings at transonic and supersonic speeds. The aircraft also features a small-sized airframe fitted with a powerful engine.It is suitable only for point air defence due to its short-range attacking capability.
The F-7N is powered by a single Liyang Wopen-13F/WP-7 turbojet engine the J-7’s engine produces 44.1kN of dry thrust, while its afterburner thrust is 65.17kN. The developer of the WP-7 turbojet engine is Shenyang Aero Engine Factory.