The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force has begun replacing J-7 fighter jets with advanced next-generation ones.

J-7 fighter jets attached to an aviation brigade affiliated with the PLA Western Theater Command Air Force recently conducted a series of combat-oriented exercises, and these exercises were the curtain call performance of the J-7s in this particular brigade, as the unit will receive new aircraft to replace them soon, China Central Television (CCTV) reported last week.

The PLA Air Force is now commissioning third-generation fighter jets in large numbers, including the J-10, J-11 and J-16, with fourth-generation fighter jet the J-20 also entering service, and it was only a matter of time before the outdated second-generation J-7 retires, Global Times reported.

J-7 has a ceiling of more than 20,000 meters and a top speed of Mach 2.  It can integrate with third generation fighter jets and early warning aircraft to play unique roles in combat.

In the exercises, a JJ-7, a trainer variation of the J-7 played the role of the enemy and two J-7s took off to intercept it.

Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Sunday, “Third-generation fighter jets like the J-10 perform better in both aerial combat and land attack, as their radar capability and maneuverability are superior to the J-7 in all fronts.”