Trumpeter 1/144 Shenyang J-8II

KIT #: ?01328
PRICE: 18 RMB at Xinshi on Xinjiekou, Beiing
DECALS: One option


The "Finback", as it's known to the West, is a big monster of an interceptor that started life way back in 1964, languished during the Cultural Revolution, finally entered service in 1984 with a major redesign, and still flies today in frontline service.

China originally wanted something big and fast enough to tackle a B-58 or a U-2, but its expertise was not up to the task. The original version of the J-8 had the same nose design as a MiG-21, which meant its radar was very small (among a host of other problems).

The plane was redesigned in the mid-80s to look more like a Sukhoi Su-15 Flagon (though with normal delta wings), and about 300 of this version are reportedly still in service, in various sub-types. It's called the J-8II.

Although it has two mammoth engines, its performance is very much old-school. Even an F-4 can outfly it, and it had no "Beyond Visual Range" (BVR) capabilities until this century, when the latest J-8M, H and F versions were made. In China, the focus these days is much more on the newer range of modern aircraft like the J-10 Vigorous Dragon.

The J-8II is probably most infamous for its role in the "Hainan Incident" of early 2001 - one of the first foreign policy crises of the new US administration under President George W Bush. A US EP-3 was performing a relatively routine mission off the coast of China. A J-8II intercepted it, as often happened. The two aircraft collided. The EP-3 managed to land in China but the J-8II crashed and its pilot who was seen to eject, was never found. The US crew were detained, interrogated, but treated well. The event was resolved diplomatically. The US said that the J-8II was flying recklessly and collided with the EP-3. It produced video from an earlier interception by the same Chinese pilot to back up its argument. China blamed the pilot of the EP-3, saying he turned into the Chinese jet. Other than the testimony of the Chinese pilot's wingman, China released no corroborating evidence - despite having the black boxes from both planes.


This is a great 1/144 kit. It is nicely moulded, with overscale but nonetheless good-looking engraved panel lines. It comes with four air-to-air missiles (the PL-5 is China's take on the AA-2 Atoll, itself a knockoff of the AIM-9). Two little rocket pods and a centreline fuel tank round out the ordnance and actually give you a pretty busy looking interceptor.

Up front there's a little ejection seat and the undercarriage will do the job without being amazing.

There is not a great deal to say about it other than it looks like it will make a nice replica that generally looks like a J-8II. It is not up there with the very best of the newest kits in this scale, but it is certainly way better than a lot of the older models you can find in 1/144.

The decals are straightforward and so far as I can see, these jets were mostly painted white overall so there is probably not a great deal of scope for different schemes (unless you go for a what-if). There is at least one white example with some fetching red and blue stripes - google images has a few photos.


Like the YF-22 I reviewed recently, I couldn't turn this down for a little over a dollar. Even if it was 3 or 4 dollars at your LHS I think it's a worthwhile way to spend a weekend. J-8II models can be found in 1/72 (try Trumpeter for starters) but they are pretty big in that scale so if you just want something out of the mainstream, but you don't want the effort of building something bigger, then I'd plump for this.

Richard F

February 2011

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