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L-15 lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT)
L-15A / JL-10 advanced jet trainer (AJT)
JL-15 Lead-in Fighter Trainer (LIFT)

There is a fair amount of confusion as to the designation for the aircraft, but all the designators clearly apply to the same airplane.

The new design JL-15 advanced lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) can also be converted into light air-to-ground attack role. The JL-15 was revealed by Nanchang-based Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation (HAIG) during the 9th Aviation Expo held in Beijing in September 2001. Revealing the JL-15 in its early design stage suggested that Hongdu intended to promote the aircraft in the international market, an effort which has been encouraged by the export success of K-8 intermediate trainer. HAIG unveiled a full-scale mock-up of its JL-15 at the 2004 Zhuhai Airshow.

Export sales may be particularly crucial for the L-15, since it was not assured of large-scale domestic sales, and Hongdu was actively marketing the aircraft to both domestic and international markets. The JL-15 joined 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 JL-15 resembled the Russian aircraft and was developed with help from Yakovlev.

Guizhou Aviation Industry Group Co. (GAIGC) JL-9/FTC-2000 was competing with the Hongdu Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG) L-15 for the PLAAFs next generation trainer program. The L-15 was a direct rival to the Guizhou Aircraft Industry Corporation (GAIC) JL-9/FTC-2000 Mountain Eagle in competition for the People's Liberation Army Air Force's (PLAAF) next-generation advanced trainer aircraft program. The JL-9 is a massively modified derivative of the MiG-21. Compared to the L-15, the JL-9/FTC-2000 was less advanced in term of technology. For example, the aircraft uses mechanical control rather than fly-by-wire (FBW). However, the JL-9 was much cheaper than the proposed L-15 advanced trainer, and would be ready for deployment by 2005, while the L-15 was still in the blueprint stage.

On June 28, 2005, JL-9/FTC-2000 Mountain Eagle advanced fighter-pilot training aircraft, just returned from the 46th Paris Air Show, was selected as its supersonic trainer by the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in the purchasing list of equipment during the nation's Eleventh Five-Year Plan Period (2006-2010).

The JL-15 made its maiden flight on 13 March 2006. The first JL-15 prototype rolled out in September 2005 and made its maiden flight on 13 March 2006. In April 2006, it was reported that the PLAAF placed orders for 4 JL-15 trainers, and small batch production will start in 2007. The JL-15 was displayed for the first time overseas at the Dubai air show in 2009. Five L-15s had been built by the end of 2009. This new trainer was designed to support the next generation of Chinese fighters, such as J-10, which lacked a two-seat trainer version.

The new generation of Chinese supersonic combat-training planes were successfully tested in Nanchang, Jiangxi province of southeast China. China Central Television reported 23 June 2008 that the advanced training plane L-15, dubbed Falcon-03, combines many state-of-the-art technologies. The 16-minute test flight was conduced at an airfield owned by the Hongdu Group in Nanchang city. The testing teams would soon carry out more test flights to help advance the jet trainer's capabilities. The goal was to mass produce the plane as soon as possible. By early 2010 the China Aviation Industry Corp. [AVIC] had been in talks for over a year with California-based U.S. Aerospace Inc. about offering the L-15 trainer jet as a candidate in the T-X program to replace the U.S. Air Force's fleet of T-38s Talon trainers, but worried about political opposition. US lawmakers have resisted big defense contract awards to foreign suppliers, even those with US-domeciled subsidiaries.

AviChinas 43.5%-owned subsidiary Hongdu Aviation (unrated) plans to relocate some of its factories to rural areas in China during 2H14, which may have a negative effect on its productivity and profitability in the year. Though its 1Q14 net profit increased by 50% YoY, observers expected slower net-profit growth for rest of the year. Also, 1Q14 net profit was not significant for the full year given the generally low seasonality of the first quarter.

With respect to Hongdu Aviations L15 trainer aircraft, the net profit from 11 of the existing 12 orders was recognised in 2013. Management expects the company to win more orders in 2014 and is confident that the L15 will be a better model and more reasonably priced than similar aircraft offered by its competitors, such as the T50 produced by Korea Aerospace Industries (unrated). As such, we expect Hongdu to secure more orders in 2014, which should lead to net profit growth of 15-20% YoY for 2015-16 on the forecasts.

An L-15 trainer from Jiangxi Hongdu Aviation Industry Group Corporation Limited completed its first pilot flight in 2016 on the noon of Jan. 18, 2016.

The Naval Aeronautical University opened in 2017, the result of merging the navy's aviation academy and its aeronautical and astronautical university, according to the PLA Navy official WeChat account on May 31. The university recruited 450 pilot cadets in its first round of admissions. The university has its main campus in Yantai, East China's Shandong Province, and three other campuses in Northeast China's Liaoning, North China's Hebei and Northwest China's Shaanxi Provinces. The PLA Navy's pilot-training university facilities are mainly located in northern China because the region has better weather conditions and longer training-friendly hours for the pilots than the south of the country.

As China's aircraft carrier fleet expands, the Chinese navy is exploring ways to streamline the training process for its pilots by introducing a new generation of aircraft to aeronautical university training programs. According to the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) official website 81.cn, China's Naval Aeronautical University deployed a third generation domestically-made training plane for its pilot cadets in the skies of Bohai Bay in January 2018. Although the report did not specifically name the aircraft used in the training, Song Zhong, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times it was likely to be the Navy JL-10H, also known as the L-15B Falcon supersonic jet. It marked the first public reported deployment of the L-15B jet trainer.

The use of such an advanced trainer jet at university-level training programs shows the PLA Navy is exploring a more streamlined training system which will conclude after only two stages at the university and the navy. This is a significant streamlining of the previous process, which involved a three-level system consisting of training at military bases between the two, Song said. "The PLA Navy has indeed been devoting increasing efforts to training its pilots, especially for aircraft carrier-based planes," Zhang Ye, a research fellow at the People's Liberation Army Naval Research Institute, told the Global Times.

"The number of pilots for fixed wing shipboard aircraft should be around twice as many as the carrier can carry, that is to say, it will be somewhere between 80 and 100," Xu Guangyu, a retired major general and senior adviser of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times.

The Chinese navy will urgently need about 400 pilots, as China is expected to roll out at least four aircraft carriers in the near future, Song noted. He also stressed that instead of using pilots from the PLA Air Force who fly from ground bases and have developed a different flying experience than that needed for shipboard flights, it was better to train new pilots for aircraft carrier-based tasks. The subjects for the navy-trained pilots cover the ski-jumping launch style for China's current aircraft carriers with upward decks, as well as catapult take-offs for the country's future straight-deck aircraft carriers using an electromagnetic launcher system, Xu said.

On 02 March 2018, Hongdu Aviation Industry Group upgraded L15 flying for the first time after the Spring Festival, and the "side knife", "barrel roll", "Tail Slip" action of special subjects, such as flight training, show the good state of aircraft and flight performance.

China's latest trainer aircraft, delivered to the People's Liberation Army Navy, was expected to help improve the training of pilots based on aircraft carriers. The PLA Navy said in a statement in August 2018 that its Naval Aviation University in Shandong province had held a commissioning ceremony for a new type of trainer jet at an unidentified naval airport along the Bohai Sea. The statement said the aircraft is a third-generation trainer jet developed by the Aviation Industry Corp of China's Hongdu Aviation Industry Group in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. Rear Admiral Wang Jundong, political commissar of the university, was quoted in the statement as saying at the ceremony that the service of the new trainer jet will complement the university's trainer fleet and enable pilots to get more realistic experience for air combat.

Though the statement did not identify the new aircraft, pictures published by the university showed that it is a Hongdu Aviation Industry L-15 advanced trainer jet. At least 12 L-15s were delivered at the ceremony.



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