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The China Aviation Museum in Xiaotangshan trumps all others in the world with regard to sheer numbers of aircraft. But it also has some rare and exotic types and offers a great place to get acquainted with Chinese military aviation history. You will need the best part of a day just to see it all, let alone if you really want to explore and take things in. Enjoy our selection!

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To start of with a rare one, this eyecatcher is the first Nanchang J12, '01' red.

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After this you have a choice to go right towards the cavern entrance, straight towards a long row of fighters and the other side of the cavern, left to the larger aircraft and hangars. Aircraft everywhere you look. Let us go towards the cavern past a good selection of JJ5, J6 and JJ6s.

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You would expect lots of J6s, and rest assured, they are abundant. But, also the MiG-19. Seen here is MiG-19PM 14121, a pattern aircraft for the unsuccesful J6B.

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Another favourite of us is the JJ5, exported as FT-5 to Albania, Pakistan, Sri Lanka to name a few.

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The cavern entrance is an exhibit area, you have to pay an extra fee at the small boot on the right to enter.

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After that you will first encounter some immaculate exhibits like this anonymous MiG-15 in North Korean markings. But that is easily trumped by this rare Yak-17U...

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After you pass some other exhibits, and a JF-17 replica, you enter the actual sheltered area with the distinctive cavern line-up... Three MiG-15s in North Korean markings kick-off the row. It can get quite chilly and it is also quite dark. So bring a coat and tripod!

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This Tu-2 is one of four in the museum. Two are in the cavern and this '20' yellow is marked in North Korean colours.

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The MiG-17 was license built China and known as Type-56, Dong Feng 101 and later is was dubbed J5 in Peoples Republic of China Air Force service. Only the first handful were Russian built. This 2424 is a one-off radar-testbed.

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After the MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21 manufacturing and improvement programs, the J8 was the first indigenous designed fighter that first flew on 5 July 1969. As can be appreciated by this shot, it is absolutely huge!

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The Il-28U was known as HJ-5 in operational service. In Europe the Romanian air force operated this type until December 2000. Again, this 10692 could either be an imported Il-28U or a Harbin-built example.

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The last section of the cavern is devoted to trophies and aircraft that were received from friendly countries. Pakistan falls in the latter category and CL-13B Sabre 1783 and Mirage 5 '67-119' (really former Libyan 5DE 108 fitted with a 5EF or 5PA nose cone) are on display.

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'Enemy' aircraft is this F-5F 5361 that was flown to China by a defecting pilot from the Republic of China (aka Taiwan) on 8 August 1981.

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More friendly gifts are this rare Egyptian MiG-23MS 9501 and Zimbabwean Canberra.

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The wall behind the Canberra blocks the view on the cavern exit, but once outside again, the sight is magnificent with no less than two J8s, two A5s and a J7 leading the pack.

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Although for most of you the J7s and early MiG-21s all look the same, this 98071 is actually a rare early model J7I. It can be seen as the first variant of the type on full production standard. One eye-catching difference with the MiG-21F-13 is the drag shute housing at the base of the tail.

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Not much to time to ponder about the huge family of J7 aircraft, because when you look to the left you will see this...

The line up starts with eleven J6, JJ5, MiG-15 and J5s...

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..and onward it goes with 20 more from the slight gap visible at the An-24 nose seen on the previous shot.

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Opposite are some CJ6. Based on the CJ5 license built Yak-18, and manufactured in huge numbers, the sturdy plane is a favourite among warbird owners too.

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Turning right after the long silver row, and right again, you will encounter a field with mainly transport aircraft lined by some trees. The C-46 is actually quite numerous in China.

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Another Western type used in the early days is this DHC-2 Beaver. We paired it with a Il-12, three of which are parked in this area...

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Proceeding further East, through the tree line, you stumble on some derelict aircraft. One of a whole score of CJ5s is awaiting a better future here. Mind you, inside are beautifully restored ones too.

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Heading North you will have a view on the helicopter area to your left but also you will encounter more stored aircraft. Odd looking An-2 with floats and a row of rare but forlorn looking Il-10s for example.

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Over a dozen of Hawker Siddely HS.121 Tridents were used by the Peoples Republic Air Force.

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Two solemn looking white VIP Mi-8s head the helicopter display. Far more remarkable is the Z6, a development of the Z5 (Mi-4) equipped with turbine engines. It was not a succces, only 15 were built. Sometimes you can already predict that by looking at a design.

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Its predecessor, the harbin Z5 license built Mi-4 was an unequivocal success though. Well over 500 were produced and used in various roles by all branches of the Chinese armed forces. Medical evacuation is one of that roles.

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By now, you are surely feeling your legs. Time to go inside the purpose built display hangars. Two aircraft marked '101' are found there. The red propeller driven aircraft is a Tachikawa Ki-36 whereas the jet trainer is the very first of its kind in China, the JJ1. It never made it past testing and only two ever flew.

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The prototype of the first J5 carried 'Zhong-0101' markings like this one, it could well be that very aircraft. The Chinese efforts during the Korean War are commemorated in many ways, and painting MiG-15s in PRK colour schemes is one of them.

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Modern hardware is on display too. Even a J11 (Su-27) and two J10s. But from old to new we have an early production J6 and, oh joy, another J7I, the latter fitting just under the drooping wing of a H6 (Tu-16) bomber that is inside the hall as well.

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The J8B is a development of the J8 and has intakes on the fuselage sides to house the bigger radar dome in the nose. The Q5 is a dedicated ground attack development of the venerable J6.

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Another rather big aircraft is the Xian JH-7A. This fighter bomber looks a bit like a Tornado from this angle.

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Suspended from the roof are some aircraft too, like a PT-19, CJ5 and CJ6. The Z5 has been granted a platform of its own.

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Outside again, you will pass some bombers before you will be nearing the exit again. The H6 (Tu-16) is still produced today in small numbers.

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This AWACS variant is based on the Tu-4. It is too big to get a decent shot of, but we hope you get a bit of an idea...

With this, we conclude our 'short' tour. We realize that we omitted many special and unique aircraft and cutting short lots of rows, this article is still the one with the most photographs in it on our site so far.... So go there and be dazzled yourself!