Naval Air: Chinese Jet Trainers For Carrier Operations

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January 27, 2011: A Chinese JL-9[PHOTO] trainer aircraft was recently spotted with a tailhook, indicating that it was probably going to be used for training carrier aviators. The Chinese Navy has built some land based airstrips, in the size and shape of a carrier deck, so that carrier landings can be practiced. That prepares the new carrier aviator for the challenge of landing on a small space that is moving up and down, sideways and forward.

The JL-9 is an upgraded version of the JJ-7 trainer, which was based on the J-7 (a Chinese copy of the Russian MiG-21). The JL-9 has side air intakes, and a radar dome up front. It doesn't look a lot like a MiG-21, and is somewhat easier to fly. The JL-9 just recently entered production and is several million dollars cheaper than its competitor, the twin-engine JL-15 trainer. Apparently, the Chinese believe that it's better, and cheaper, for new J-10 and J-11 pilots to learn in JL-9s, rather than spending more time in the pricey, but similar in performance (to J-10s and 11s), JL-15s.

Thus China has decided not to buy the high-performance JL-15 jet trainer it has been developing (with help from Russian and Ukrainian firms) for nearly a decade. At least not yet. The 9.5 ton, twin engine JL-15 can achieve supersonic speeds, and has the kind of high-tech cockpit found in modern fighters. The JL-15 was designed to be produced in two versions; advanced trainer, and initial fighter trainer. This would smooth the transition to high end aircraft like the J-10 (similar to the F-16) and J-11 (an Su-27 clone). Instead of the JL-15, the air force and navy are buying JL-9s, and equipping some of them to operates from carriers.

 


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