January 26, 2010:
Following its leftist allies lead, Bolivia has ordered six K-8 trainer aircraft from China. Venezuela paid about $25 million each for theirs, but it's not known what Bolivia will pay. China has exported K-8s to several other countries (often at bargain prices), including Myanmar (Burma). Bolivia wants to use the K-8 as a light strike aircraft (against rebels and drug gangs), with secondary duty as a trainer. Also being purchased are ten Mi-17 transport helicopters.
The K-8 (also called JL-8) is a 4.3 ton, two seat, jet trainer. It uses American, Chinese or Ukrainian engines. Originally, China was going to just use a 3600 pound thrust American engines. But after the 1989 Chinese crackdown on pro-democracy forces, the United States cut off the supply of engines. This encouraged China to design 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 Ukrainian AI-25TLK, while it works to perfect its own engine design.
The K-8 has a cruising speed of 800 kilometers an hour, endurance of four hours and five hard points. It can carry a 23mm cannon in the hard point under the fuselage, and half a ton of bombs, rockets or missiles, from the four hard points on the wings. This gives the aircraft combat capability, at least against a foe with few anti-aircraft weapons. Electronics on the JL-8 are minimal, as it's basically a two seat trainer, to prepare fighter pilots before they climb into anything from an F-16 to Su-30s.