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China: Image of JH-7B prototype

One of the first publicized photos of the JH-7B prototypes is shown here. This newest member of the JH-7 series has been under development at 603/XAC since mid-2000. JH-7B was initially speculated to feature stealth optimized aerodynamics, including a diamond shaped forward fuselage and DSI or Caret inlets. 

However it turned out that JH-7B features only limited improvements, mainly in the areas of avionics and the flight control system. Its external appearance mostly remains the same, in order to save time and cut cost.

A new fire-control radar and mission computer as well as a new full-authority digital FBW could have been installed. Composite materials may have been used in greater areas to further reduce the weight. The root of the vertical tailfin has been raised in order to improved the aerodynamics. 

Its engines might be the improved WS-9A turbofans with 15% more thrust (?). A retractable IFR probe has been installed on the port side of the cockpit as well. Its wing structure has also been strengthened in order to carry the next generation long-range supersonic AShMs and tactical ASMs, such as YJ-12. JH-7B might face competition from J-16 fighter bomber currently being developed at 601/SAC. 

However its primary customer is thought to be PLAN, similar to the JH-7 case. Therefore the aircraft is expected to replace the old batches of naval JH-7 once entering the service. The first prototype was rumored to be under construction in 2011. 

It was reported that a JH-7B prototype took off for the first time from the CFTE airfield in fall 2012. Currently two prototypes (#821? & 822) are being tested at CFTE.

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