Six Zambian Air Force pilots have completed training on Hongdu Aircraft Industry Group’s L-15 lead-in fighter trainer. As the first export customer for the type, Zambia will soon introduce it into active service.
Hongdu, part of China’s Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), announced on 28 December that the first Zambian pilots and maintenance personnel had completed conversion to the supersonic L-15 Falcon. It appears at least one L-15 was accepted by Zambia and six pilots trained at the Hongdu airfield.
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.
Between 1999 and 2012 Zambia received 16 K-8P jets from China, and has received five WZ-551 armoured personnel carriers from the Asian country. China has a close relationship with Zambia, especially after signing a military cooperation protocol in 1998 regarding training of the Zambian Army. The Chinese and Zambian defence ministers met in Beijing in July 2005, agreeing to continue military co-operation.
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.
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.
Zambia’s small air force has few combat aircraft, with only a dozen MiG-21s and a dozen J-6s in its fleet, although it is doubtful that the J-6s are airworthy. Around ten SF-260MZs are used mainly for training.
According to the Jane’s information group, Zambia’s air force is hampered by a lack of spares and a shortage of flying hours. Although it has sufficient capacity to transport troops and cargo, its combat capability is very limited. Transport capacity was boosted by the delivery of five Y-12 and two MA60 aircraft from China in 2006.