Avic Open To Local Manufacturing Of L-15s
Nov 19, 2009
By Bradley Perrett
Avic Defense, adopting an increasingly Western approach to military aircraft sales, says it is willing to allow foreign production of its latest export product, the L-15 Falcon supersonic trainer.
The aircraft is likely to retain the key advantage of an aircraft from a developing country, however, since the manufacturer is also suggesting it will be cheaply priced.
The L-15 is joining a crowded market as one of four trainers with the high flight performance needed for direct pilot transition to the most advanced fighters. Other players in the field are the Korea Aerospace T-50, Yakovlev Yak-130 and Alenia M-346.
The M-346 is a derivative of the Yak-130, while the L-15 resembles the Russian aircraft and was developed with help from Yakovlev.
Avic Defense’s trainer business, Hongdu Aviation of Nanchang, has already had considerable success in allowing a customer to set up a separate production line. Its JL-8 (or K-
subsonic jet trainer has been assembled in Egypt as part of an order for 120.
But the willingness of Avic Defense to allow foreign assembly of the L-15 is more surprising, since the company has not yet put the Falcon into large-scale production at home. Moreover, manufacturers in up-and-coming aircraft industries, far more than most Western competitors, are usually highly protective of their home production lines.
“Because the L-15 has been developed and made in China, we are very competitive in price,” says Avic Defense President Wang Yawei, also asserting that the aircraft’s performance is at least comparable with that of its competitors.
Five L-15s have been built so far, Wang told Aviation Week during an interview in the company’s offices in central Beijing. One of the five is slated to be at the Dubai Airshow to perform the type’s first foreign flight demonstration. Despite skepticism in some aerospace companies about the value of air-show flight displays, Avic Defense feels they can bring great success after its experience with the Egyptian order.
Export sales may be particularly crucial for the L-15, since it is not assured of large-scale domestic sales. The Chinese air force could instead buy the JL-9, a massively modified derivative of the MiG-21, as its supersonic trainer.
The JL-9, also called the FTC-2000, is a product of the Guizhou Aircraft subsidiary of Avic General Aircraft.
Aerodynamically, the L-15 features prominent leading-edge extensions that help it to emulate the extreme maneuverability of the latest fighters. The flight control system is digitally commanded.
As to the similarity to the Yak-130, “the development of the L-15 was primarily based on the results of domestic technology research,” says Wang.
“[But] in seeking to catch up with the mainstream development of such advanced trainers, we proceeded with international cooperation in certain areas, benefiting from our long-term relationships. We cooperated with international partners on aerodynamic design and testing.”
In the development of the latest-generation trainers, such cooperation has inevitably resulted in an interchange of ideas and the partners learning from each other, says Wang. “So the similar characteristics of these similar products simply reflect technological cooperation and the requirements of the market.”
Avic Defense specializes in fighters, trainers, drones and missiles, although it also has considerable nonmilitary and even nonaeronautic activities. Its key factories are the combat aircraft plants at Chengdu and Shenyang, Hongdu Aircraft, the missile facilities at Luoyang and three maintenance businesses.
The J-10 is the latest fighter from Chengdu to enter service, although a successor is close to flight testing (see p. 26).
Despite reports of an imminent sale to Pakistan, Wang plays down the immediate potential of the J-10 (or Jian-10) as an export product, because Avic Defense is too busy filling domestic orders.
“The J-10 is one of the major fighter aircraft for the Chinese air force,” he stresses. “The main responsibility of our facilities is to operate at full load to provide this advanced military aviation equipment to the Chinese air force. Whether the J-10 will be offered in the international market will be decided in the future.”
China has agreed to sell 36 J-10s to Pakistan, the Financial Times and Pakistan’s Daily Times quote unnamed Pakistani officials as saying. Wang told Aviation Week he has not heard of such reports.
For the moment, the company is promoting export sales of its FC-1 Xiaolong (or JF-17 Thunder), which it says is of the same technology generation as the J-10. The FC-1 has been jointly developed with Pakistan.
Separately, details of Shenyang’s F-8T, the latest version of another Avic Defense product, have been revealed. The fighter, whose origins date back to the 1960s, now offers 15,400 lb. thrust, up 4% from the previously reported rating, and a multifunction X band pulse-Doppler radar with a detection range of 75 km. (40 nm.) for 3-sq.-meter targets.
A brochure shows the aircraft with Avic Defense’s advanced PL-12 air-to-air missile. Weight is 10.4 metric tons empty, 15.2 tons at normal takeoff and 20 tons maximum