Public debut for Zambian L-15s


The Zambian Air Force brought two of its newly delivered L-15 Falcon fighter/trainer aircraft to the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition outside Pretoria last week in their first public debut.

One of the aircraft was on static display while the second flew displays during the trade days between 14 and 16 September. The static display aircraft was surrounded by wide array of weapons, including 250 kg and 500 kg bombs, PL-5E II short-range air-to-air missile, TL-10 (YJ-5E) air-to-surface missile, LS-6 GPS/INS-guided bombs and HFD-18D 57mm rocket pods and a centreline 23 mm PC-2AI gun pod. Zambia has ordered these weapons for its L-15s.

The serial numbers on the aircraft (AF-1001 and AF-1003) at AAD indicate that three aircraft have been delivered so far, out of an order for six. Chinese defence industry officials at the exhibition indicated that deliveries have not concluded and are still underway.

Zambia received its first L-15s in July this year, with the type entering service with 15 Squadron at Air Defence Command, based at Lusaka-Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.

Hongdu, part of China’s Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), announced on 28 December last year that the first six Zambian pilots and maintenance personnel had completed conversion to the supersonic L-15.

Zambia reportedly ordered six L-15s in early 2014 at a cost of around $100 million. On 26 December 2014, ZAF officer commanding, Brigadier General Jabes Zulu, confirmed that the type had been ordered and stated that additional SF260TW trainers, C-27J transports and Mi-17 helicopters would also be delivered.

The L-15 was developed to meet the Chinese Air Force and Navy lead-in fighter trainer requirements. In Chinese service it will be called the JL-10, and will also be operated by Venezuela. Zambia is the first export customer.

The L-15 is powered by two Ivchenko Progress AL-222K-25F turbofan engines fitted with after-burners, giving a top speed of more than Mach 1.4. Four under-wing and two wing-tip hard-points can carry around 3 000 kilogrammes of ordnance.