Arguably the ‘star’ of this year’s AAD is the Hongdu L-15 Falcon advanced jet trainer, two of which have been brought to the show by the Zambian air force, which has only recently taken delivery of the type.
The aircraft is partaking in the flying display, flown by Zambian and Chinese pilots. Zambia became the first export customer for the Chinese aircraft in 2014, ordering six. The first of them flew late last year. Subsequently the type has been ordered by Venezuela, with Pakistan seen as a likely buyer.
Located in Nanchang, the Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation developed the L-15 as an advanced trainer for the Chinese air force, which allocated the designation JL-10. Development involved technical assistance from the Russian Yakovlev design bureau, which designed the similar Yak-130 that also spawned the Leonardo M-346. The L-15/JL-10 was first revealed in mock-up form in 2004, and the first of two initial prototypes flew on 13 March 2006, powered by interim Lotarev DV-2 engines. The first aircraft with the intended Ivchenko/Progress AI-222 engine from Ukraine took to the air on 10 May 2008. China’s Gas Turbine Establishment has produced an engine known as Minshan for the L-15/JL-10 and a prototype with this powerplant is thought to have flown in May.
The Minshan may be a version or development of the AI-222.
Competing against the Guizhou JL-9/FTC-2000 to fulfil China’s trainer requirements, the L-15/ JL-10 has been developed in two versions, the AJT (advanced jet trainer) with non-afterburning AI-222s and the LIFT (lead-in fighter trainer) with afterburning AI-222s providing a supersonic capability.
The LIFT version also has sensor capability, including a small fire control radar, and significant weapons-carrying capability, allowing the aircraft to undertake both weapons training and light attack duties.
A development aircraft was seen recently in China flying with PL-5II air-to-air missiles on wingtip rails, LS-6 GPS-guided glide bombs under the wings and a 23mm cannon pod under the belly.
AJT versions of the JL-10 began to be delivered to the Chinese air force in 2013.