China Presented a New Combat Training Aircraft

On November 2, the Chinese Hongdu Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG) held a presentation of the promising lightweight training aircraft L-15B, which is an option for further development of existing equipment. The vehicle with the letter “B” differs from its predecessors by some important features, which can give it a great future development. Let’s start considering a promising Chinese project and its advantages.

Construction Peculiarities

L-15B is a combat trainer aircraft with a normal aerodynamic design with a mid-wing and two engines. In the manufacture of the airframe, carbon composites are widely used. It is equal to approximately a quarter of the structure. Due to this, the claimed aggregate resource reaches 30 years.

The first L-15 prototypes were equipped with Ukrainian-made DV-2 and DV-2F turbojet engines. Subsequently, they were replaced by more powerful AI-222-25F products. The latter develop traction of 2500 kgf without afterburner and 4200 kgf with afterburner. It is alleged that replacing the DV-2 with the AI-222-25F made the aircraft of the family supersonic and provided them with the required flight performance and takeoff and landing characteristics.

L-15B differs from the base model in increased characteristics and new features, which led to the need for certain improvements. The most noticeable change is the external suspension points under the fuselage and wing. L-15B receives nine points for weapons or other suspension units. HAIG previously promoted the L-15AW UBS with similar equipment. However, this plane had only seven suspension points.

The most interesting innovations take place in the field of avionics. For the effective solution of combat missions, the promising UBS L-15B should use a full-fledged sighting and navigation system with a radar station, weapons control equipment, etc. For comparison, the base TCB L-15 had very limited combat capabilities.

It is reported that the L-15B is equipped with a new aviation radar with a passive headlight. A digital weapon control system is paired with it. There is also information about the use of airborne defense complex. With it, the plane must detect enemy attacks and escape from the attack. The type of BKO, its composition, and the principles of action are still unknown.

It is worth to note that we are talking about a deep modernization of the original avionics kit, taking into consideration the new purpose of the aircraft. Training L-15 had equipment mainly for piloting and training pilots, while combat training L-15B receives devices that correspond to its tasks. By the way, characteristics of training aircraft L-15B can be considered to be revolutionary as well as characteristics of new aircraft Boeing 777X . These ones are perfect examples of great development in the aircraft industry.

Weapons Complex

Due to the new on-board equipment and suspension units, the L-15B can solve a wide range of combat missions. New equipment and weapons make it possible to obtain good combat qualities, but according to the general characteristics of the UBS, the L-15B should be inferior to specialized aircraft.

The combat load of Chinese aircraft reaches 3.5 tons. Nine nodes are used for its suspension. Three nodes are located under the fuselage, three more ⎼ under the planes. Built-in weapons are missing. If necessary, the L-15B can carry a hanging container with a machine gun or cannon weapons and ammunition.

The aircraft can use several types of air-to-air guided missiles. Of greatest interest in this context is compatibility with the medium-range missile PL-12. With the help of such weapons, UBS L-15B can hit targets at ranges of about 70 km. There is a choice of several short-range missiles. However, in terms of air-to-air capabilities, the new aircraft is inferior to other combat vehicles.

Versatility

According to Air Force Technology , the promising Hongdu L-15B combat training aircraft retains the necessary capabilities for training flight personnel, but at the same time becomes a full-fledged combat unit. Such versatility has obvious advantages, however, drawbacks happen to be as well.

It should be noted that the current L-15B is not the first UBS in its family. The base L-15 is capable of carrying weapons, and then the L-15AW project was proposed ⎼ an aircraft with improved combat capabilities. However, the current modification with the letter "B" has advantages over previous developments. Due to the improvement of various components of the structure, it was possible to increase take-off weight, including combat load, expand the range of weapons, etc. In some way, flight performance has grown.

Demonstration

The demonstration and the first demonstration flights took place already on November 2. They took place at a flight conference for a Chinese aircraft group called the Hongdu Aircraft Industry Group. The conference was held in the administrative center of Jiangxi Province, the city of Nanchang, with a population of more than five million people.

The first roll-out of one of the first samples took place on May 3, 2017, in one of the workshops of aircraft plants in the same city of Nanchang. It is worth emphasizing that this was a two-seat aircraft, which would be used for a light attack destroyer and a transitional combat training aircraft. This is the next version of the L-15 aircraft, the main difference of which is the engine made by the Ivchenko-Progress design bureau. Such an engine enables the aircraft to develop supersonic speed, due to its power and lightness of the aircraft itself. Serious work has been done from the previous version, which will improve the pilot training process and give a tangible advantage in possible combat conditions. L-15B is a good example of competent engineering in every sense.

Negotiations were held for several years to arrange the release of the Chinese multi-tasking L-15 aircraft at Ukrainian airlines, but the PRC agreed to sell only one line from their assembly at the aircraft factory in Odesa, and leave all parts to production in China.

Commercial Perspectives

It is assumed that poor countries will show interest in inexpensive jet light attack aircraft, as well as the possible adoption of the L-15B into the arsenal of the PLA air force as a combat training aircraft.

Generally, the entire family of UTS / UBS L-15 was created with an eye on the sale of equipment of the Chinese army and foreign customers. The same applies to the latest model L-15B. Nothing is known about orders for this aircraft, but information about the sale of previous modifications can be used for new ratings.

Since 2013, L-15 aircraft have been supplied by the PLA Air Force, where they are used to train tactical pilots. In 2018, it became known about the supply of such equipment to the PLA Navy. The purchase was made in the interests of training units of naval aviation. In 2017, a batch of six L-15 aircraft departed from China to Zambia.

Several other countries also showed interest in the purchase of Hongdu L-15. For instance, there were negotiations with Pakistan. The equipment was studied by specialists in Uruguay as well. Since 2014, it has been repeatedly discussed about the possible deployment of licensed L-15 production in Odessa. However, agreements with these countries have not been signed yet.