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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

China eyes international military market

China debuted its new L-15 Falcon advanced jet trainer (AJT) at the Dubai Airshow marking the first time the aircraft has been shown to the public outside of China. Chinese officials from China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) gave a rare press conference on the L-15 AJT on Nov. 16.  AVIC defense president Wang Yawei said the company had made strides in research and development of new aircraft and was anxious to explore the export market.
“The attendance of the L-15 is aimed at exploiting the international market,” he said.  “There is a high demand of trainers of this type in the international market.”
Developed by the Hongdu Aviation Industry Group, an AVIC subsidiary, the Falcon is a multi-purpose supersonic jet trainer.  L-15’s chief architect Zhang Hong, Hongdu vice general manager said Falcon missions include advanced training, lead-in training, companion training and close air support.  The aircraft will also come in a Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) and Companion Trainer variant.
“The L-15 is a new generation advanced trainer that provides solutions for pilot training,” Zhang said.  The aircraft is “characterized by a modern aerodynamic configuration” and equipped with twin turbofan engines, fly-by-wire system and a glass cockpit.
The Falcon is powered by two Ukrainian-built Ivchenko Progress AI-222K-25F engines with a performance speed of Mach 1.4 and service ceiling of 1,600 meters with a range of 3,100 kilometers.
“The L-15 is a cost effective replacement for old advanced jet trainers, an excellent platform to accumulate flight experience for pilots,” Zhang said.  The aircraft is “capable of armed reconnaissance, defensive counter-air, close air support and anti-terrorism” missions.
The press conference itself was a surprisingly slick presentation for a company that has traditionally shied away from the media spotlight.  Wang said the company would be exhibiting more advanced military aircraft at future international aviation shows.
AVIC officials manning the booth appeared relaxed and comfortable talking about their product line, a clear departure from previous aerospace and defense shows in the past where company officials turned away media inquiries.
The AVIC booth displayed models and brochures on a variety of new aircraft and weapons systems including the FTC-2000 supersonic advanced trainer, CZ-11MB1 light multi-purpose helicopter (Z-11 variant), the K-8 Karakorum jet trainer, the FC-1/JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter and the 500-kg LS-6 standoff strike weapon.

The K-8 and the FC-1/JF-17 are joint aircraft development programs involving AVIC and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC).  The K-8 was also on display at the show by PAC.
In a K-8 brochure AVIC identified the engine outfitting the aircraft as a “proven Honeywell TFE-731-2A-2A turbofan engine,” but in a reference to the Chinese Hongdu JL-8 variant it has a “flexible option for Ukraine [Ivchenko] AI-25TL turbofan engine.”  The U.S. restricts the sale of equipment to China for use by the military.
AVIC has benefited from China’s booming economy and has expanded research and development of new aircraft and systems, Wang said.  AVIC is also developing a new “200-ton military cargo aircraft” expected to be unveiled in December.  The program is being jointly developed by AVIC and Xi’an Aircraft Industry Group.
In November 2008 the company reintegrated AVIC I and AVIC II into one entity in the hope of expanding opportunities in the export market and streamlining the company, he said.
AVIC was originally one consortium of aerospace companies, but in 1999 the corporation was split, retaining its original title, in an attempt to modernize its manufacturing facilities and competitiveness.  AVIC I centered on sophisticated fixed-wing aircraft like fighters and bombers and AVIC II focused on smaller fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.  However, the effort resulted in difficulties and AVIC I/II merged back together last year.

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