China’s L-15 Falcon: Cut-Rate Warfare On A Budget
(Source: Asia Times; posted Jan 04, 2020)
By Dave Makichuk
As an affordable and efficient jet trainer and lightweight fighter, the Falcon offers a low-cost option for the world’s less-developed air forces. Availability and logistic support remains an unknown, however. (China MoD photo)
Let’s face it, you’re not the Pentagon, and you never will be. You’re a small developing country, but you have military needs — an efficient and affordable air force, to provide national security and prestige.

But flying a high-performance jet fighter is a physically and mentally demanding skill that requires a lot of practice — each hour flying a warplane can cost tens of thousands of dollars in fuel and maintenance expenses.

That’s why many air forces employ lighter, easier-handling Lead-In Fighter Trainers (LIFTs) to give pilots a chance to accumulate real-life experience with supersonic flight, air combat maneuvers, and weapons launch before they take the stick of a possibly finicky high-performance jet fighter.

The thing is advanced jet trainers like South Korea’ T-50 Golden Eagle are quite capable of basic combat duties short of high-intensity conflict while costing half or a third as much as a brand-new warplane.

For example, Filipino FA-50s and Nigerian Alpha Jet trainers have played a major role in combating brutal insurgencies in 2017, though both were involved in tragic friendly fire incidents.

According to a special report from Sebastian Roblin in The National Interest, the US Air Force is looking to purchase 350 new LIFT jets following its T-X competition and is evaluating several designs costing between US$30 and US$40 million per airframe.

However, China has already been phasing into service its own very slick and speedy LIFT, costing the equivalent of only US$10 to US$15 million, which has attracted interest in Africa and Latin America.

Built by Hongdu in Nanchang, China, the L-15 Falcon resembles an adorably abbreviated Super Hornet or F-16. The Falcon’s two Ukrainian-built AL-222 turbofans afford the trainee and instructor a backup should one engine fail, while multi-function displays in the “glass cockpit” and the hands-on-throttle-and-stick controls give trainees a chance to work with the kinds of instruments typical to fourth-generation fighters. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Asia Times website.


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