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Hongdu JL-8 / K-8 Karakorum

China (1994)
Picture of Hongdu JL-8 / K-8 Karakorum Light Attack / Advanced Trainer Aircraft

The Hongdu JL-8 has been in operation service since 1994 and can be used as both an advanced jet trainer and light strike platform.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Hongdu JL-8 / K-8 Karakorum Light Attack / Advanced Trainer Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 6/22/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The Hongdu JL-8 / K-8 is a series of indigenous Chinese lightweight jet-powered aircraft. The JL-8 is a dual-role platform that allows for advanced pilot jet training while also retaining inherent combat capabilities for the light strike role. While the JL-8 is produced by Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation, its origins lay in a design from the well-established Nanchang firm. The Pakistani government, which currently enjoys a close working relationship with China, is involved in the production of a similar variant known as the K-8 "Karakorum" - these being manufactured under the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex label. Operators of the JL-8 / K-8 also include Bolivia, Ghana, Myanmar, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe. To date, at least 500 examples of this aircraft have been delivered to various budget-conscious customers around the globe, either those looking to upgrade to a more modern jet trainer or those looking for a relatively inexpensive combat platform.

The initial JL-8 prototype was made public in 1989 with first flight being recorded on November 21st, 1990 and operational service being attained on September 21st, 1994. The original internal systems of the JL-8 series were intended to sport American-based technology but the deteriorating political ties between the United States and China following Tiananmen Square (1989) formally disallowed such use. As a result, the aircraft was redrawn to include available non-American parts. Some, therefore, question the inherent reliability of the JL-8 family as several notable - and fatal - crashed have since occurred. Regardless, the aircraft has maintained a growing foothold on the world market, particularly for national air forces needing a modern jet trainer for the instruction of a new generation of airmen with the combat capabilities inherent in the JL-8 family essentially coming as a "bonus" to these customers. As of this writing, China maintains the largest fleet of JL-8s with some 400 aircraft on the books. Egypt has also received (and produced) at least 118 aircraft of which at least forty of these were constructed in local facilities, the rest being manufactured from Chinese supplied "kits".

"JL-8" is used to signify the Chinese Air Force versions that fit a Ukrainian Ivchenko AI-25 TLK turbofan engine. The avionics package is, however, decidedly Chinese in origin. The "L-11" is based on the JL-8 but instead fitted with a Chinese locally-produced version of the Ivchenko AI-25 TLK known as the "WS-11". The "JL-8W" (also known as the "K-8W") is also based on the JL-8 but features an upgraded cockpit and meant for export to the Bolivian Air Force. Another Bolivian-destined product is the similar "JL-8VB" (also known as the "K-8VB"). All of the export models are delivered with the Honeywell TFE731-2A turbofan engine as opposed to the more powerful Chinese WS-11 series turbofan.

The basic "K-8 Karakorum" designation is used to mark initial export production models, these fitting a lesser Garrett/Honeywell TFE731-2A geared turbofan engine of 3,600lbs thrust. The Garrett TFE731 series is a product of Honeywell Aerospace and Garrett AiResearch first fielded in 1970. These engines have proven successful in the corporate jet arena to which some 11,000 powerplants of the type have since been produced, collectively logging millions of flight hours since their inception. The powerplant supplies the K-8 with a top speed of just under 500 miles per hour (approximately Mach 0.75) and an operational range of about 1,400 miles. Her service ceiling is listed at over 42,500 feet. As such, the JL-8 is categorized as subsonic aircraft, meaning she cannot travel at over the speed of sound (Mach 1), a typical design limitation of jet-powered trainer mounts.

The "K-8E" is an Egyptian export model with a revised avionics suite to suite Egyptian Air Force requirements. The "K-8P" is a Pakistani Air Force model also with a revised avionics suite and a modern all-glass cockpit arrangement. The "K-8V" has been consistently used as a developmental airframe for the testing of various system arrangements for future production consideration.

Outwardly, the JL-8 and its series variants maintain a very conventional design appearance yet bears an uncanny resemblance to the BAe Hawk, also utilized by the United States military as the McDonnell Douglas / Boeing T-45 Goshawk. The two-seat cockpit is situated at the front of the short, slim fuselage with the two crewmembers seated in tandem under a long-running, single-piece glass canopy hinged to the right hand side. In the trainer role, the student takes the forward cockpit while the instructor is seated in the rear. In the combat role, the two operators share the workload to decrease flight stresses for each pilot. A dual-control configuration means that the instructor can take control of the aircraft when need be. Martin-Baker ejection seats are allotted for each cockpit position. The cockpit sits behind a short, pointed nose assembly lacking any known radar installations. The fuselage also houses applicable avionics, fuel and the engine (fuel is also housed in each wing). A fuselage spine restricts rearward visibility, particularly for the rear-seated crewmember. Wings are low-set monoplane installations and straight in their design with clipped tips. The empennage is short and sports a single vertical tail fin atop the engine exhaust duct and a pair of horizontal tail planes are situated at the extreme rear of the jet, just under and behind the base of the vertical tail fin. The engine is aspirated by a pair of smallish, oval-type intake vents to either side of the rear cockpit. The undercarriage is a conventional tricycle arrangement with a pair of single-wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled nose leg.

While primarily utilized as a trainer with its customers, modern advanced trainer aircraft such as the JL-8, largely for economical and marketing reasons, can be converted into bonafide warring platforms with some modifications to its base configuration. When in the armed role, the standard armament consists of a 23mm cannon fitted to an external gun pod along the fuselage centerline. This can be supplemented with external provisions (or replaced altogether) with installation of munitions across four additional underwing hardpoints. This allows the JL-8 to mount conventional drop bombs, laser-guided bombs, air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, unguided rocket pods and fuel drop tanks - the latter to help extend her operational ranges. These arrangements allow the JL-8 series to undertake Close-Air Support (CAS) roles in direct support of allied ground force actions. After combat, the same airframe can then be reverted back to its non-combat training role without loss.

In Pakistani service, the K-8 has been noted for its use in the "Sherdils" aerial acrobatics display team of the Pakistan Air Force. The aircraft has been in this role since the middle part of 2010.

Any available statistics for the Hongdu JL-8 / K-8 Karakorum Light Attack / Advanced Trainer Aircraft are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (497mph).

    Graph average of 375 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
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LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
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  LAX
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  NYC
Graph showcases the Hongdu K-8 (Karakorum)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
525
525


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: China
Year: 1994
Type: Light Attack / Advanced Trainer Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Hongdu - China / Pakistan Aeronautical Complex - Pakistan
Production: 525
Status: Active, In-Service
Global Operators:
Bolivia; China; Egypt; Ghana; Myanmar; Namibia; Pakistan; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Tanzania; Venezuela; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Hongdu K-8 (Karakorum) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
2


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
38.06 ft


Meters
11.6 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
31.59 ft


Meters
9.63 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
13.81 ft


Meters
4.21 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
5,924 lb


Kilograms
2,687 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
9,546 lb


Kilograms
4,330 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Garrett TFE731-2A-2A turbofan engine delivering 3,600lbs of thrust.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
497 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
800 kph


Knots
432 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,398 mi


Kilometers
2,250 km


Nautical Miles
1,215 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
42,651 ft


Meters
13,000 m


Miles
8.08 mi

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft machine gun pod
Graphical image of an aircraft air-to-surface missile
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft guided bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft external fuel tank
Armament - Hardpoints (5):

OPTIONAL:
1 x 23mm cannon in external underfuselage gunpod.

Additionally, strike variants can be outfitted with rocket pods, conventional drop bombs, laser-guided bombs, air-to-air/air-to-surface guided missiles and fuel drop tanks.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• JL-8 - Chinese Variant; fitted with Ukrainian Ivchenko AI-25 TLK turbofan engine.
• JL-8W (K-8W) - Revised cockpit
• JL-8VB (K8VB) - Bolivian Export Variant; based on the JL-8W.
• L-11 - Chinese Variant; fitted with Chinese WS-11 turbofan engine (license-production of Ivchencko AI-25 TLK turbofan engines).
• K-8 "Karakorum" - Base Export Model; fitted with Garrett/Honeywell TFE731-2A turbofan engine.
• K-8E - Egyptian Export Model; revised avionics systems.
• K-8P - Pakistan Model; revised avionics
• K-8V - Developmental Testbed Airframe