Sudan’s air force has taken delivery of its six FTC-2000 fighter/trainer aircraft from China’s Guizhou Aircraft Industries Corporation (GAIC).
Sudan’s defence ministry on 16 May said the FTC-2000 squadron was inaugurated during a ceremony attended by Chief of Joint Staff Lieutenant General Kamal Abdul-Marouf Al-Mahi, the deputy chief of staff Major General Awad Khalafallah Marawi, and the Chinese military attache.
The ministry said the new aircraft are a qualitative addition to the Air Force’s combat effectiveness and contribute to enhancing Sudan’s defence capabilities.
The FTC-2000 is the export version of the JL-9 trainer in service with the Chinese air force and navy and is marketed by the Aviation Industries Corporation of China (AVIC).
During the 2015 Paris Air Show, AVIC officials told IHS Jane’s that an undisclosed African country had ordered the FTC-2000. GAIC director general Wang Wenfei revealed Sudan as the export customer in an interview with China Aviation News on 3 November 2016.
Sudan’s first aircraft were rolled off GAIC’s Anshun production line in Guizhou Province on 5 June 2017, painted in desert camouflage. It was fitted with air-to-air missiles and rocket pods.
According to AVIC, the FTC-2000 Mountain Eagle (Shanying) is capable of providing both basic and advanced pilot training and also has a secondary combat capability. The company says its cockpit layout and low intakes are designed to improve visibility for the pilots. The aircraft is fitted with a pulse Doppler radar, INS/GPS, weapons computer etc. Top speed of the FTC-2000 is Mach 1.5.
The FTC-2000 is heavily based on the Guizhou JJ-7/FT-7, the Chinese-developed trainer version of the Shenyang-built MiG-21. The JJ-7 has subsequently been retired from Chinese service while the JL-9 was first introduced to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 2011. The FTC-2000 performed its maiden flight on 13 December 2003.
According to the Chinese defence ministry, the JL-9/FTC-2000 is capable of training pilots for aircraft like the J-7, Shenyang J-8, Chengdu/Pakistan Aeronautical Complex JF-17, and Sukhoi Su-27.
The JL-9 is powered by a Guizhou Liyang WP-13 turbojet equipped with an afterburner. The aircraft has five hard points, of which three can carry fuel tanks, and a 23 mm cannon. Sudan’s aircraft have been seen with external fuel tanks and possibly weapons.
Sudan is the only known export customer for the FTC-2000, but Wenfei indicated that other African countries, including Nigeria, were also considering acquiring the type. AVIC has also sold the L-15 jet trainer to Zambia, which has bought six.
Sudan already operates the F-7, making the acquisition of the FTC-2000 a sensible one in terms of logistics and spares. Sudan’s air force has a dozen F-7s and a dozen K-8 jet trainers in service.