May 29, 2006:
China is finding a market for it's older aircraft in Africa. It has sold fifteen F-7 aircraft to Nigeria for $17 million each. These aircraft are Chinese copies of the Russian MiG-21. With modern radars and air-to-air missiles, these aircraft can still be useful for air defense, because otherwise they are a 1950s design and not very fast or maneuverable by modern standards. China kept upgrading the F-7 until the late 1980s. The F-7 became an eight ton fighter with better maneuverability than the original Russian design, but still had a short range (600 kilometers) and could carry only about a ton of bombs. Basically, the F-7 can't stay in the air more than about two hours per sortie. The Chinese engines wear out quickly, and the aircraft requires a lot of maintenance. But for a country like Nigeria, with no well armed neighbors, the F-7 is a good investment. A modern fighter, whether Russian or American, would cost two to three times as much (even for a used aircraft). China built about 800 F-7s, and still uses several hundred. The ones Nigeria got were probably refurbished aircraft the Chinese once used.