|This page is about the Chinese strike aircraft A-5C. For other versions, see Q-5 (Family).
- 1 Description
- 2 General info
- 3 Armaments
- 4 Usage in battles
- 5 History
- 6 Media
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
The A-5C (known as 强-5III in the Chinese client) is the export version of the Q-5 Fantan during the early days of paid military sales in the 1980s. China was in desperate need of funding after economic reforms, and since previous aircraft exports were essentially given as aid rather than sales, military factories were also searching for a means to generate funds for their new projects. The idea for an export Q-5 came from Pakistan, which decided to expand its air force with more attackers following previous losses in war and concerns about the menacing Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Due to its impressive performance at low altitudes and relatively affordable price, the Q-5 was chosen as one of the new attackers for the PAF. However, these jets needed to be upgraded with Western avionics and weapons to ensure logistical compatibility. The new jet, known as the A-5C in PAF service, began production in the early 1980s and was exported to several countries across the Afro-Eurasian continent.
Introduced in Update "Direct Hit", the A-5C shares most of the performance, appearance, and capabilities of a Q-5A, but with advanced air-to-air missiles and Western bombs which might be more familiar to French and American pilots. It retains the Q-5A's ballistic computer and can still destroy ground targets with HE rockets and unguided bombs. However, the main improvement over the tech tree Fantans lies in its ability to carry AAMs on dedicated wing hardpoints. With its excellent climb rate for an attacker, a pair of deadly Magic 1s or AIM-9Ps, and somewhat superior manoeuvrability to contemporary counterparts, it can punch above its weight in air combat, surprising opponents with what a MiG-19-based aircraft can do.
The A-5C is slightly heavier than the Q-5A, but the difference is negligible and does not meaningfully affect the flight performance. The acceleration and climb are still impressive even at a whole battle rating above the Q-5A. However the limited top speed and heavy control compression at transonic and supersonic speeds are flaws not shared by contemporary MiG-21s and Phantoms for example. While the A-5C can't effectively manoeuvre at high speeds, it does have excellent energy retention in those zones and can easily perform zoom climbs and climbing spirals. The best control authority is achieved at high subsonic speeds (~600-800 km/h IAS) if there is a need for sharp turns.
| Max Speed
(km/h at 7,000 m)
| Max altitude
| Turn time
| Rate of climb
| Take-off run
|Max Static G
|Optimal velocities (km/h)
|Wing loading (full fuel)
|Shenyang Liming WP-6A-III
|Mass with fuel (no weapons load)
| Max Takeoff
|Afterburning axial-flow turbojet
|Thrust to weight ratio @ 0 m (WEP)
| 2,679 kgf
| 3,783 kgf
Survivability and armour
- 10 mm steel plate behind nose cone
- 60 mm bulletproof glass in cockpit front
- 8 mm steel plate underneath cockpit
- 25 mm steel armoured pilot's seat
- 10 + 16 mm steel armoured pilot's headrest
- Self-sealing fuel tanks behind cockpit and underneath engines in rear fuselage
The A-5C protects the pilot from small arms fire, but against the armaments encountered at the battle rating, this level of protection does not amount to much. Enemy cannons and missiles will make short work of the A-5C so avoiding incoming fire is paramount. The twin engines are likely to be damaged by attacks from the rear, but having two of them offers some extra survivability since it is capable of flying back to base on one engine. The aircraft also remains somewhat controllable if one of the elevators is blown off.
Modifications and economy
The A-5C is armed with:
- A choice between two presets:
- 2 x 23 mm Type 23-2K cannons, wing-mounted (120 rpg = 240 total)
- 2 x 23 mm Type 23-2K cannons + 18 x countermeasures
The A-5C is equipped with the same Type 23-2K cannons as the other Fantan models. They fire rapidly and have a decent ammunition supply by Soviet/Chinese standards, but the muzzle velocity leaves something to be desired when fighting supersonic aircraft and the damage from individual shots can be inconsistent. They are not very suited for high-speed snapshots or head-ons but are still important backup weapons for when the A-5C runs out of missiles.
The ballistic computer grants CCIP functionality for the guns, which can be useful for harassing light ground targets if other ordnance is unavailable. However the AP-T rounds do not have enough penetration to threaten MBTs.
The A-5C can be outfitted with the following ordnance:
|250 kg Type 250-2 bombs
|250 kg 250-3 bombs
|250 kg 250-4 bombs
|750 lb M117 cone 45 bombs
|Type 90-1 rockets
|Type 130-2 rockets
|AIM-9P Sidewinder missiles
|Matra R550 Magic 1 missiles
|Default weapon presets
As an export model operated by Pakistan, the A-5C has different toys to play with than the PLAAF's Q-5A. It has a new pair of outboard wing hardpoints exclusively reserved for air-to-air missiles, and very potent missiles at that. The French Matra Magic 1, made famous by the Mirage IIIC, is one of the most manoeuvrable missiles in War Thunder with a 35 G overload. Launching them within 2 km will generally seal the fate of non-flaring targets. The American AIM-9P, identical in performance to the AIM-9J used by the F-4E and F-5E, is less manoeuvrable with a 20 G overload but tends to have a longer effective range and is thus more effective for sneak attacks. To summarize, the AIM-9P is best used at longer ranges with its longer burn time, whereas the Magic 1s should only really be used at close range.
The unguided rockets are still the Type 90-1 HEAT rockets and Type 130-2 HE rockets used by the Q-5A. There is a slight improvement in that both models can be mounted on any of the four main wing pylons, allowing for a full load of sixteen Type 130-2 rockets to be carried.
The A-5C now has access to American bombs. The 500 lb Mk 82 bombs are not much different from the Chinese 250 kg bombs, but the 750 lb M117 bombs are significantly heavier. They have a better explosive content for base bombing and require less precision when bombing ground targets.
A nice feature of the A-5C is the AAMs, rockets, and bombs all have reserved hardpoints and do not interfere with each other. A fully loaded A-5C can drop a full bombload and go on rocket runs while having a pair of AAMs for air combat at all times.
Usage in battles
Although historically an attack aircraft, the A-5C is not a first-rate ground attacker in Air RB since its bombload is still not impressive compared to other jets at its battle rating. It cannot destroy a base with its four 250 kg/500 lb bombs, but this is still an option for supplementary research points: stay at low altitude, rush to a base, drop the bombs, then head towards the center of the map to join the furball. Going after AI ground vehicles with the bombs and rockets can also be successful provided that other jets do not arrive quickly to crash the party. The Type 130 HE rockets can also be unloaded into a base for additional points.
With a higher battle rating than the other Fantans, the A-5C starts to feel the limits of the MiG-19-based airframe when facing Mach 2-capable jets like the F-4C Phantom II. It can no longer count on being able to outrun its opponents, and the control compression makes it difficult to hit high-speed snapshots or make rapid high-speed turns to dodge missiles. It is then important to utilize the A-5C's strengths in acceleration, climb, and energy retention to maintain good positioning in dogfights. Use the flares and RWR to help avoid incoming missiles and carefully manage the airspeed with the throttle and airbrakes.
While its Chinese cousins lacked any form of AAM for self-defense, the A-5C comes with a pair of AIM-9Ps or Matra R550 Magics which prove very deadly at its battle rating. They are the reason why the A-5C is still effective in face of its airframe limitations; for example, the Magic's high manoeuvrability and wide seeker acquisition cone allows the A-5C to destroy manoeuvring enemy targets even if it is compressing and cannot manoeuvre much itself. Still, the pilot is responsible for using the missiles effectively: none can be used in the front aspect, they can be spoofed by flares, and only two of them are available. Use them against high-value targets that do not have enough time to react and consider returning to base once the missiles are spent. It is still possible for the A-5C to dogfight with guns, but the extended energy fighting the A-5C relies on makes for easy missile bait if other enemies are around.
Although the A-5C has access to great missiles for its battle rating, remember that other common attacker aircraft like the Soviet Su-25/K and the American A-10A/Late have not only highly agile, but also all-aspect missiles in the form of the R-60M and AIM-9L Sidewinder. Do not engage these aircraft in head-ons and use the A-5C's superior flight performance to take them down. Because the Frogfoot and Warthog have huge flare capacities, be prepared to use guns if convenient or necessary.
Similar to the Q-5A, the A-5C can be quite effective in Ground RB despite having a relatively light payload. Since the A-5C has CCIP capabilities, pilots can deliver ordnance to enemy positions or vehicles with high accuracy. Once the bombs and rockets are spent, the A-5C can switch to providing air cover with its powerful AAMs, or return to base to restock.
The A-5C can carry a good amount of Type 130-2 HE rockets. With CCIP, they can be fired from several kilometres away outside of cannon SPAA range, and easily destroy thin-skinned vehicles through overpressure or shrapnel. Even MBTs can be knocked out by hits to side or roof armour, although this requires more precision and is best attempted at closer distances. The 750 lb bombs come in four drops and can conveniently destroy static targets, armoured or not, once enemy air defense has been suppressed.
Something to remember is that the A-5C's battle rating will pit it against radar-guided SAM systems. Without precision weapons like the laser-guided bombs of the tech tree Q-5L, the A-5C cannot engage SAMs like the Roland 1 outside of their missile range. The small countermeasure capacity also makes it difficult to drop lots of chaff for breaking radar locks. Assess the battlefield and fly cautiously if there is a significant SAM presence; either sneak around at low altitude or fly very high above their radar and unleash a rain of ordnance in a dive when they are distracted.
Evading IR Missiles
The A-5's engines produce a somewhat large heat signature compared to other aircraft at its BR, in some cases even if you shut your afterburner off and try to flare/bank away from the missile, it will ignore the flares outright and go right for your engines. At high speeds, your elevators and ailerons compress significantly, preventing you from evading the missile even if you expend all 18 flares on a single missile.
In order to evade some more-flare-resistant missiles such as the AIM-9L, a good strategy is to shut off your engines completely or reducing your throttle to 0% so your heat signature is reduced significantly, drop a flare or two, then fire up your engines again and speed off. Do not attempt to aggressively bank while your engines are off or still warming up, as you could bleed enough speed to allow whoever fired the missile at you a chance to get their guns locked on you. Once your engines are up to temperature again and producing maximum thrust, then you can bank to try to evade any future missile, this best works against slower targets like the A-10 or Su-25 which both carry 30-35 G all-aspect AAMs of the AIM-9L and R-60M/MK respectively. Avoid trying this tactic against jets like the F-4C or MiG-21s, as they can catch up to you at lower altitudes, especially at speeds approaching Mach 1.
Pros and cons
- High acceleration, great energy retention, and decent climb rate
- Good sustained manoeuvrability, can out-turn F-4 Phantoms and keep up with MiG-21s
- Can carry decent numbers of powerful HE rockets
- Excellent AIM-9P or R550 Magic missiles for air combat
- Has access to more powerful bombs than earlier Q-5 models
- CCIP for gun, rockets and bombs
- Average roll rate, much slower than shorter-winged opponents such as Yak-38 and Jaguar
- Rudder and elevators lock up at high speeds (>1000 km/h)
- Lower top speed than many opponents
- The 23 mm cannons sometimes fall short in damage, much less lethal than J-6A's 30 mm cannons
- Ordnance capacity is still below average for its rank
- The amount of flares is quite limited
Designed to meet a 1950s requirement for a supersonic attack aircraft, the Qianjiji-5 (Q-5) first flew on 4 June 1965. The Q-5 (and later A-5 for export) is a derivative of the Shenyang F-6 (MiG-19) aircraft and was first designed in China in August 1958 at the Shenyang facility. Responsibility was later assigned to the Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Corp. (NAMC) facility, creating the first prototype in 1960. The prototype program was cancelled in 1961, but kept alive by small team of Chinese aeronautical engineers and defence personnel, resuming officially in 1963. The first flight of the Q-5 took place on 4 June 1965, with an updated prototype flying in October 1969.
In view of the economy after the Cultural Revolution and the dawn of the economic reform in Mainland China, the Central Government decided that all exported weapons would be priced and handled by the newly established. In mid-1979, Egypt became their first overseas customer with orders of new jets and engines; meanwhile, Pakistan had concluded that the main culprit for the lost of 3rd Indo-Pakistan War was because of the lack of a dedicated ground attacker, in fear of possible assaults from USSR via Afghanistan, they were in dire need for a new ground attacker.
The A-5C was originally an improved export version of the 1976 Q-5I. It was flight tested in late 1980 and certified for production on 20 October 1981. However, keen to win further orders, Nanchang offered the Q-5IA for export as the A-5C, incorporating 32 modifications onto the Q-5I plus upgraded avionics. These upgrades made it comparable to the Q-5III, which the A-5C is often said to be based upon. With 3 prototypes built in 1982, the newly designated A-5C was delivered to the Pakistan Air Force from early 1983 to 1984, with 54 of them built through out the year.
The A-5C is powered by two Shenyang WP-6 turbojets, producing 25.50 kN of thrust, and 31.87 kN with afterburner. Both turbojets are mounted side by side in the rear of the fuselage. This allows the A-5C to climb at a rate of 103m/s with a maximum and cruise speed of 1210km/h and 910km/h respectively at a range of 2000km. The aircraft weighs around 6,375kg and its maximum take-off weight is 11,830kg.
Armaments include two Type 23-2K (23 mm) autocannons fitted in the wing roots, which carry 100 rounds per gun. There are 10 attachment hardpoints, normally for external stores; two pairs in tandem under centre of fuselage, and three under each wing. 
Pakistan had sent 2 teams of staffs to Nanchang Aircraft Corporation and it was concluded that the A-5C (Q-5IA) would be a fair option, ordering 52 aircraft. Pakistan deemed it worthy as an attacker with its low-altitude performance and price, but it would also be upgraded with Western avionics, ejection seats, weaponry such as Western IR AAMs for self-defense. The original delivery to Pakistan consisted of 52 A-5Cs in 1983 which equipped the No. 16 and No. 26 Squadrons of the PAF.
In total, about 90 A-5Cs were delivered to Pakistan between 1983-94, at the price of around $1 million per aircraft, distributed to three different PAF squadrons (No. 7, 16 and 26). Some of them were retired as early as 1999 and as of mid-1999 only 49 remained in service.. However, Pakistan would continue to purchase more, with 6 A-5Cs acquired in 2003. The remaining would be kept in commission until mid-2011, when the more-advanced JF-17 "Thunder" - a joint Chinese-Pakistani multi-role combat aircraft, replaced them as a multi-role fighter.
Other export variants of the A-5 remain in service with Myanmar, Bangladesh, North Korea and Sudan. As of 2023, 20 A-5Bs (based on the Q-5II) and A-5Cs are in service with the Myanmar Air Force, while less than 10 A-5Cs serve with the Bangladesh Air Force. It is unknown how many remain in service with North Korea and Sudan. Some sources estimate that North Korea purchased 36-50 A-5s between 1970 and 1982 with Sudan receiving around 20 in the early 2000s.
Modern usages of the A-5 include during the War in Darfur, beginning in 2003, where the Sudanese Air Force used the jets for ground attack. Another case, albeit accidental, occurred in March 2015, when Myanmar Air Force A-5C jets engaged in a skirmish against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) accidentally dropped bombs on a Chinese village in Gengma County, Yunnan, killing 4 villagers within Chinese territory.
- Related development
- (A-5C Fantan 1999)
- (Nanchang Q-5 2010)
- (Chawla, 66)
- (Nanchang Q-5 Fantan 2023)
- (FANTAN A-5 2000)
- (Chawla, 72)
- (War in Darfur 2008)
- (China Summons Ambassador 2015)
- “A-5C Fantan.” AIRCRAFTS OF THE PAKISTAN AIR FORCE, PAKISTAN AIRFORCE ONLINE, 1999, pakfizaia.tripod.com/a5.html.
- “Nanchang Q-5 Ground Attack Aircraft.” Airforce Technology, 26 Sept. 2010, www.airforce-technology.com/projects/nanchanggroundattack/?cf-view.
- Sherman, Robert. “FANTAN A-5, Q-5 (NANCHANG).” Fantan A-5, Q-5 (Nanchang) Pakistan Aircraft Special Weapons Delivery Systems, 13 Feb. 2000, nuke.fas.org/guide/pakistan/aircraft/a-5.htm.
- Chawla, Shalini. “PAKISTAN AIR FORCE: MODERNISATION TRENDS.” Air Power, vol. 14, no. 3, summer 2019, pp. 57–80.
- Nanchang Q-5 (Fantan), Military Factory, 10 Apr. 2023, www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.php?aircraft_id=568.
- Forsgren, Jan. “Jan Forsgren.” Aeroflight, 2023, www.aeroflight.co.uk/user/fleet/north-korea-af-nanchang-q-5-ia-fantan.htm.
- Feinberg, William. “China Summons Burmese Ambassador after Bomb Kills Four in Yunnan.” East by Southeast, ExSe, 14 Mar. 2015, www.eastbysoutheast.com/china-summons-burmese-ambassador-after-bomb-kills-four-in-yunnan/.
- Andersson, Hilary. “China ‘Is Fuelling War in Darfur.’” BBC News, BBC, 13 July 2008, news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7503428.stm.
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