Defense News Website reports that the Hongdu Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG) is preparing to deliver the first of six Hongdu Falcon L-15 supersonic lead-in fighter/trainer jets ordered by the Zambian Air Force (ZAF) at a cost of $100 million in April 2014.
On Dec. 27, HAIG published images of Chinese aircraft specialists posing with ZAF pilots and aircraft technicians with a caption saying the crews have just completed pre-delivery conversion training on the operation and maintenance of the aircraft at the company’s factory in the Chinese city of Nanchang.
The company said all six pilots who will fly the aircraft once the full batch is delivered were part of the group that received
specialized training. The L-15 is designed to provide basic jet flight training to pilots who are being groomed for the operation of high-performance fourth-generation aircraft, such as the Chinese-made J-10 and Russian-made Su-27 and better.
Once completed, the delivery will set China up as the sole supplier of the entire ZAF aircraft needs following delivery of 16 Karakorum light attack and trainer jets and 7 Harbin Z-9 light attack helicopters between 1999 and 2012.
The aircraft were acquired from Aviation Industry Corporation of China subsidiaries China Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing and Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing, respectively.
The force modernization program seeks to replace a largely obsolete fleet made up of a collection of Cold War-era Russian, American and British aircraft models. The twin-seat L-15 Falcon jet is powered to a climb rate of 150 meters per second and a maximum speed of 1,715 kilometers by two Russian-made Ivchenko Progress AL-222K-25F turbo-fan engines fitted with after-burners.
Four under-wing and two wing-tip hard-points which are programmed to carry up to 3,000 kilogram weapons payloads, including short-range air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, bombs and rocket pods, enable the aircraft to perform its secondary light-attack role.
Late in 2014, ZAF commander Brig. Gen. Jabes Zulu said the force will take delivery of several SF 260TW trainer aircraft, one C-27J transport aircraft, 6 Hongdu L-15 fighter/trainer aircraft and several Russian Mi-17 helicopters.
Brig. Gen Zulu said the force needs to rebuild its airlift capabilities to meet the logistical needs of Zambian Army units which
are deployed to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central Africa Republic.
The new fleet of aircraft is also expected to improve the ZAF’s internal airlift operational capabilities and its ability to respond to public emergency relief and evacuation needs.
Zambia is also seeking new P-18 aerial defense radar systems to secure national airspace.