Originally published at 4:47 a.m. ET
SINGAPORE – What began as a simple lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) has evolved into an aircraft armed to the teeth.
At the Singapore Airshow this week, the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. (CATIC) displayed the supersonic Hongdu-built L-15 Falcon attack/fighter/trainer (AFT) aircraft armed with new weapon systems not seen outfitted on the Falcon before.
The Nanchang-based Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation is a subsidiary of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).
Richard Fisher, an International Assessment and Strategy Center senior fellow, said the L-15 is now being marketed as a multirole combat aircraft in addition to its original LIFT mission.
The model at the air show was outfitted with the KG600 jamming pod, a Luoyang SD-10 self-guided medium range air-to-air missile (AAM) and PL-5 short-range AAM, and a precision guided bomb.
Outfitting options include 800L drop tank, gun pods, dummy bomb, PL-5EII and SD-10A AAMs, KG600 jamming pod, unguided 250kg/500kg bombs, HF-18D rocket launchers, and 250kg LS-6 and 500kg LS-6 laser guided bombs, according to a CATIC brochure.
“As the chined nose of the L-15 has not been modified on this model, it could also be that AVIC/Hongdu intend to equip the L-15 with a small active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which would boost its combat potential,” Fisher said. At present, it comes with pulse-doppler radar.
Fisher said there is some irony that CATIC is marketing the L-15 at the Singapore Airshow. The L-15 is now the primary competition for the subsonic Russian Yakovlev Yak-130 multirole combat and LIFT aircraft, and Yakovlev had played a decisive role in helping Hongdu refine the L-15 design. The Russian’s are also exhibiting a model of the Yak-130 at this week’s show.
The Singapore Airshow is being held at the Changi Exhibition Center from Feb. 16-21.