June 12, 2010: Venezuela is buying more K-8 jet trainers from China, after having ordered 18 two years ago. Pleased with the first ones to arrive, Venezuela is now building a fleet of 40 K-8s. Venezuela apparently plans to use the aircraft more for reconnaissance and combat than for training.
Also known as the JL-8, the K-8 uses the 350 kg/770 pound, 3.1 meter/9.5 foot long Ukrainian Motor Sich AI-25TLK (3,300 pounds of thrust) jet engines, to power the 4.3 ton, two seat aircraft. Originally, China was going to use 3,600 pound thrust American engines, but after the 1989 Chinese crackdown on pro-democracy groups, the United States cut off the supply of engines. This encouraged China to design and build a similar engine (the WS-11). But China has had a hard time mastering the precise technologies and manufacturing techniques needed to build jet engines. So it has been buying the AI-25TLK instead.
The K-8 entered service in 1994, and over 500 have been built. The aircraft can be fitted with a 23mm cannon, and carry nearly a ton of missiles and bombs. Egypt and Pakistan also use the K-8. The aircraft sell for $4-5 million each.