Saturday, June 05, 2010

First photo of JL-9 Plateau Eagle in PLAAF Color.

The PLA is being cheap again -- instead of procuring one of the most advanced supersonic trainers available, the JL-15 Falcon, for its flight cadets, both the PLAAF and the PLANAF have opted for the cheaper but less capable JL-9 for now.

The JL-9 is based on the JL-7 currently in service, thus it is easier and cheaper to adopt compare to the JL-15. However, its capacity to train the next generations of J-10 and J-11 pilots is still remain questionable.

You can still see JL-9's Mig21 lineage, especially in the tail area.

JL-7, the current workhorse


JL-15 making a major push into the Middle East.

Pakistan Eyes Acquisition of Chinese Training Aircraft
L-15 Buy Likely Would Phase Out 2 Other Trainers
By Usman Ansari
Published: 1 February 2010

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan may acquire the Chinese L-15 supersonic jet trainer aircraft to equip a unit to transition pilots to advanced fighters, eventually reducing the types of trainers in its fleet from four to two.

The need for the aircraft has arisen despite the operation of the Air Force's current basic/advanced jet trainer, the Sino-Pakistani K-8 Karakorum, which is a highly capable aircraft that has won numerous export orders. Experts dispute whether the L-15, manufactured by Hongdu, is a good fit for Pakistan's needs.

Kaiser Tufail, Pakistani defense analyst and former Air Force air commodore, said, "the L-15 makes sense only if K-8 is used solely for basic flying training and L-15 for fighter conversion. In such a case, the [older] T-37 [trainer] would be redundant.

"Considering the extensive [and expensive] structural life enhancement program that theT-37s have undergone, their useful life has been extended by at least 10 more years. The only solution to the dilemma would be to look for a buyer for the T-37s and recover some much-needed foreign exchange."

Tufail added, "Other than this training stream, the L-15 doesn't quite fit if the K-8 is to perform the role of fighter conversion."

However, defense analyst Usman Shabbir of the Pakistan Military Consortium believes the interest in the L-15 is understandable.

The K-8 had been examined by the Air Force as a possible replacement for the current FT-5, a Chinese-made twin-seat MiG-17 Fresco, in the fighter conversion role when it first entered service in the early 1990s, he said. Pakistan also uses a small number of FT-6 trainers, a Chinese-made two-seat Mig-19 Farmer.

However, the Air Force "most likely felt that a dedicated aircraft purpose-built would be a better option," he said. The 1990s were also a time of considerable financial hardship for Pakistan, so the FT-5 therefore continued in service.

Shabbir further stated, "Now that the availability of an affordable and dedicated aircraft from China is assured, it probably led to the decision to go for the type in preparation for the future high-tech jets such as FC-20 andF-16C/D training requirements."

No official word from the Air Force, or the China Aviation Technology Import-Export Corp., was forthcoming. Officials' refusal to confirm the deal may stem from the fact that negotiations have not reached the final stages.

However, the Air Force has conducted detailed examinations of the aircraft, which included a visit of a single L-15 to Pakistan in December as it transited on its way to the Dubai Airshow. Negotiations are now being undertaken on technical aspects and pricing. The time frame for the conclusion of a deal is unknown.

Limited Combat Role

Like the K-8, the L-15 is also useful in the counterinsurgency role as it can carry a light warload of rockets and bombs, plus air-to-air missiles. There is no indication the aircraft is expected to be tasked with this role, but the capability is a point of interest for Pakistan.

The L-15 competed for orders from the People's Liberation Army Air Force and Naval Air Force against the cheaper and less capable JL-9. The JL-9 is heavily based on the F-7 series of fighters and looks set to be the final evolutionary stage of the MiG-21 Fishbed design.

The F-7 also makes up the backbone of Pakistan's Air Force and therefore the JL-9 could bring cost savings due to commonality, but that advantage appears to have been discounted.

This selling point for the JL-9 may have counted against it in the minds of the service's planners, Shabbir said. The L-15 was probably chosen "precisely because it is the more advanced design," and the "JL-9 most likely is not considered a good enough platform due to its F-7 lineage and airframe design, with its associated future growth limitations."

With the Pakistani F-7 variants expected to be retired this decade, the added cost savings associated with selecting the JL-9 would be unlikely to materialize. Also, the L-15 would allow Pakistan to reap economies of scale because of China's extensive modernization program.

Pakistan's interest in the L-15 may therefore have wider implications. Officially, at least, the L-15 has not fully entered service with the Chinese Air Force, but Pakistan's interest may indicate the Chinese are looking at the L-15 in a more favorable light.



Eric Z said...

Hmm I thought PLAAF chose JL-9 because L-15's progress was too slow and that it would require foreign engines.

Coatepeque said...

the only thing "wrong" with the foreign engine is the price.

btl25 said...

There's nothing wrong with the JL-9 when compared to the L-15. Sure its less advanced, but it can go Mach 1.6 compared with Mach 1.4, has more room in the nose for a bigger radar, only uses one engine that is interchangable with the ones currently used on the J-7s and J-8s, and its cheaper to boot. Maybe if the L-15 can match or better the speed of the JL-9, and its engines can be locally produced, will the balance tip to the L-15's favor. Until that happens then its pretty much even between the two, with the JL-9 having a slight edge logistics wise due to the engine it uses.

Steven said...

Doesn't Pakistan still owe millions of dollars worth of loans from previous military purchases from China? Where are they getting all this money to even consider buying L-15s?

As for the JL-9 vs. the L-15, I agree with btl25, right now the JL-9 has several key advantages over the L-15, especially when it comes to the engine seeing as how much difficulty the Ukraine had with them. The key though is that we're sort of on a verge of a new generation of trainer aircraft and nobody seems to know what sort of direction is best? Several countries such as S. Korea are going with very advanced, very fighter like trainers that have fantastic performance to simulate high performance aircraft, while others believe that advanced simulation software is the future and opt for aircraft like the Pilatus PC-9. Others it seems are still skeptical and believe that lead in fighter training should be more forgiving (simpler) and that the most advanced step of fighter training should just be left to twin seat variants of single engine fighters.

duskylim said...

I tend to agree.

The JL-9 still has potential, particularly as an advanced transition trainer.

If the K-8 can be modified to mimic other planes as a fly-by-wire aircraft, why not the JL-9?

Also, it can take advantage of various technical developments like:

a) auto-maneuvering slats for the double-delta wing, like on the J-7E and J-7G, although the JL-9's wing seems much broader front-to-back

b) use of a more powerful, reliable and economical engine like the WP-14, Kunlun series

c) in-flight refueling probes (already done on mock-ups)

d) programmable fly-by-wire to mimic the fighter desired

e) diverterless-supersonic-intakes, like on the later-model JF-17's

These and other improvements have the potential to turn the aircraft into a ultra-low cost single-seat fighter, for the niche below the JF-17.

Steven said...

According to an update bu Hui Tong today 'A modified JL-9 dedicated for training pilots in takeoff and landing on a carrier deck (land-based simulated?) made its maiden flight in 2009. This variant (JL-9J?) features strengthened landing gears and an arresting hook and is expected to support the carrier based J-15 fighter.'

Coatepeque said...

Guys, thank you for your comments, good stuff.