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Revolutionizing Chinese Airpower: Transforming Aging J-6 and J-7 Fighters into Supersonic Drone Pioneers

Chinese military companies are actively engaged in developing unmanned strike and reconnaissance drones. However, there are instances where it is more cost-effective to convert existing aircraft into drones. The old J-6 and J-7 fighters are destined for such a transformation.

Here’s What We Know The J-6, also known as the F-6 Farmer, is China’s replica of the Soviet-era MiG-19 and is the most widely used fighter in the People’s Liberation Army of China. The Chinese Air Force has received 3,000 aircraft in various configurations.

This fighter is powered by two W-6 engines, providing a maximum total thrust of 51 kN and approximately 64 kN with afterburners. The J-6 can achieve speeds of up to 1540 km/h (1340 km/h on the ground), has a range of up to 2200 km, and features four hangpoints for weaponry.

Similarly, the J-7, also referred to as the F-7, is a Chinese licensed version of the Soviet MiG-21. While not as extensively deployed as the J-6, it has undergone numerous modifications. The most expensive variant costs $9 million and is capable of exceeding Mach 2 (2469.6 km/h) in speed.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has already retired the J-6 and J-7 fighters. According to reports, Chinese experts are currently working on converting these third-generation fighters into supersonic drones. Theoretically, they could be employed to overwhelm Taiwan’s air defense system or serve as kamikaze drones.

China is not the first to explore aircraft-to-drone conversions. The United States has been conducting tests on artificial intelligence capable of piloting F-16s for a considerable period. Additionally, the US military intends to convert several Fighting Falcons into unmanned aerial vehicles as part of the VENOM project.

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