The Chengdu J-60 was an high-speed assault bomber designed for low and very high altitude attacks -among the last of its kind. Its spacious bomb-bay and adequate wing configuration made it the obvious choice when the Chinese air force looked for a (moderately) cheap low-orbit capable combat aircraft.
The payload was very diverse (albeit more in the prototype stage than in service):
- a retractable laser installed in the bomb-bay
- two single-stage anti-orbital missiles (of Chinese or Pakistani design)
- a wing-mounted large mirror laser
...and miscellaneous sensor suites or counter-measure pods.
The mated SABRE engine was detachable in case of malfunction or emergency, and could operate separately -tests showed it could land on its own if separated above 1000 meters. The obvious shortcoming was that when the SABRE engine was attached, the other engines where unavailable -but that wasn't too much of an issue, since the turbo-stato main engines where not really needed then.
When the Jian fleet started to show wing fatigue, it was gradually withdrawn and replaced with more modern lifting body designs.