Air Platforms

AAD 2016: Zambian L-15s make first public appearance

16 September 2016
A ZAF L-15AFT was displayed at AAD 2016 with all the weapons options. Source: IHS/Patrick Allen

The delivery of the first of Zambia's new HAIC L-15 multirole jet fighters was confirmed during the Africa Aerospace & Defence (AAD) exhibition held in South Africa from 14-18 September, when two were displayed at the show.

An official from the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC), which promoted the aircraft at the show, was reluctant to discuss the numbers involved, but told IHS Jane's that the first batch of "more than two" L-15s arrived in Zambia in July and the rest are expected to be delivered by early 2017. A CATIC official told IHS Jane's in 2014 that Zambia had ordered six L-15s.

It was confirmed during the event that Zambia is receiving the L-15AFT attack/fighter/trainer version as opposed to the L-15AJT advanced jet trainer that recently entered service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) as the JL-10.

Major Paul Besa, one of the first Zambian L-15 pilots, told IHS Jane's that the delivery of the L-15s marked a milestone for the ZAF as it now has a third-generation multirole fighter with fly-by-wire avionics. He said the aircraft are being flown by the Air Defence Command's Lusaka-based Squadron 15.

Despite the name of the command, he stressed that the ZAF's L-15AFTs would be used in both the air defence and attack roles, saying that Zambia has ordered the full-range of weapons.

In the air-to-air role these include PL-5E short-range air-to-air missiles on the two outermost hardpoints. The air-to-ground weapons include a 23 mm PC-2AI gun pod on the centreline hardpoint and a combination of HF-18D pods for 57 mm rockets, 250 kg or 500 kg bombs, and air-to-surface missiles on the remaining four hardpoints.

Maj Besa said that the ZAF had ordered both LS-6 GPS/INS guided bombs and YJ-9E air-to-surface missiles. The latter is the export version of China's TL-10.

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