Once wholly dependent on Soviet/Russian-inspired jet-powered trainers, China has since developed the indigenous JL-9 through its Aero Engine Research Institute of Guizhou Avitaion Industry Corporation ("Guizhou"). The aircraft - also recognized under the designation of FTC-2000 "Shanying" ("Mountain Eagle") - recorded its first flight on December 13th, 2003 and is currently undergoing the requisite flight testing regime with limited production also underway (as of 2013). The two-seat trainer/light attack platform is slated for quantitative use by the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF). It is expected that the type will also become available to export customers and outfitted with Western electronics under the Guizhou Aviation Industry Import/Export Company (GAIIEC) brand label. The PLANAF recognizes the JL-9 under the designation of "JL-9G" and this is a specialized navalized (anti-corrosive coating, arrestor hook) platform for over-water work. Interestingly, the arrival of the JL-9 also coincides with China bringing their first aircraft carrier into the fold, alarming regional neighbors and driving a modern arms race in the Asia-Pacific region.
The advanced trainer/light-strike market is a proven niche the world over, supplying both established and growing air forces with a capable jet trainer for new generations of combat pilots as well as retaining enough combat qualities to be used in a limited frontline, low-level assault role. In this way, the group type serves budget-conscious air powers of the world quite nicely. The JL-9 was specifically developed by Guizhou to fulfill a PLAAF requirement centered on replacing the aging Guizhou JJ-7 line - a MiG-21-inspired trainer based on the fully-capable Chengdu J-7 combat family. In particular, the type was developed as a stepping stone towards command for incoming pilots of the new generation of combat aircraft being procured by the Chinese military. Design work on the JL-9 began at the turn of the century and culminated with first-units beginning delivery in 2006. The aircraft was officially revealed to the public in 2011.
With experience in operating and producing Soviet-Russian combat aircraft, it is no surprise that the JL-9 at least partially inspired by the 1960s-era Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 "Fishbed". The resemblance can be found in the dorsal tail fin shape as well as use of a raise fuselage spine, ventral strakes and short, clipped main wing appendages. The fuselage is tubular with slab sides and the frontal section is dramatically sloped along its dorsal line to provide excellent vision over the nose assembly through a single-piece, lightly-framed canopy. The canopy covers two pilots seated in tandem - the student pilot in front with the instructor at rear in a slightly raised cockpit position. A single turbofan engine is used and this is aspirated by two small, semi-circle intakes fitted to either side of the exterior cockpit wall. The fuselage is given a raised spine which allows for increased internal storage of fuel, avionics and applicable systems and leaves storage space in the wings for the single-wheeled main landing gear legs (retracting inwards towards centerline) and additional fuel stores ("wet wing"). The front of the fuselage is supported through a single-wheeled nose landing gear leg retracting forwards. The main wing appendages feature two sections with different levels of sweep along the leading edge. The trailing edges are straight. Each wing showcases a pair of hardpoints for externally-mounted ordnance. The empennage includes a large-area single vertical tail fin and a pair of low-set horizontal planes. An in-flight refueling probe has been fitted to the right side of the forward fuselage for extended ranges. Composite materials are used throughout the JL-9's construction to make for a light-yet-strong airframe.
The avionics suite includes the Italian-originated FIAR Grifo S7 series pulse-doppler radar mounted in the nose assembly (for export variants). The cockpit is all-modern with two full-color Multi-Function Displays (MFDs) in the forward cockpit and three in the rear. A conventional control stick is set between the legs for each pilot and throttle controls are set to the left side of the cockpit wall. Computers assist in handling of the aircraft in-flight as well as in data processing while navigation is both GPS- and inertia-based. A Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) is integrated as part of the electronic countermeasures suite which supplies the crew with the needed information to formulate a potentially life-saving response to launched enemy missiles or tracking radar installations.
Dimensionally, the JL-9 sports a length of 47 feet, 9 inches with a wingspan measuring 27 feet, 3.5 inches and height of 13 feet, 5.5 inches. Weights include an 11,000lb empty listing and 21,600lb maximum take-off weight (MTOW) value. Power is served through 1 x Guizhou Liyang WP-13F(C) turbojet offering afterburning (reheat) for spurts of increased speed (at the expense of increased fuel use). Dry thrust output is 9,900lbs while afterburner increased output to 14,650lbs. Maximum speed of the airframe is Mach 1.5 while cruising speed is listed as 1,100 kmh. The aircraft features an operational range of 1,600 kilometers and can fly at ceilings of up to 52,500 feet (16,000 meters).
Armament-wise, the JL-9 is fitted with a base internal cannon through the 23mm Type 23-1 series. Including the four underwing hardpoints mentioned, there is also a centerline hardpoint. The aircraft supports various in-service air-to-air and air-to-surface guided/homing missiles and precision-guided munitions as well as conventional drop bombs and unguided rockets (the latter fired via pods). The centerline and inner-most, underwing hardpoints are all plumbed for fuel drop tanks.
The JL-9 is seen as a comperable competitor to the American Northrop T-38 Talon, the Italian Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master and the South Korean KAI T-50 Golden Eagle.
September 2018 - AVIC has unveiled the initial FTC-2000G light combat model of its FTC-2000 trainer series. Changes to the two-seat trainer include an increase to MTOW.
April 2020 - An unnamed Southeast Asian nation (possibly Cambodia or - more likely - Myanmar) has committed to the Chinese-made FTC-2000G light strike platform. Deliveries to this customer are set to commence in 2021 and cover a 24-month period.
May 2020 - A navy-centric version of the land-based JL-9 Advanced Jet Trainer, the JL-9G "Sword Fish", recorded its first flight. Changes to the variant include a revised tail base and wingtip extensions but the form and function of the aircraft appear to have been wholly retained. However, despite its ability to train naval aviators, the aircraft rather interestingly lacks a tail hook leading to the assumption that it will be a land-based naval trainer.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
Developed ability to be used as a dedicated trainer for student pilots (typically under the supervision of an instructor).
47.7 ft (14.55 m)
27.3 ft (8.32 m)
13.5 ft (4.10 m)
10,935 lb (4,960 kg)
21,605 lb (9,800 kg)
+10,670 lb (+4,840 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Guizhou JL-9 Shanying (FTC-2000 Mountain Eagle) production variant)
1 x Guizhou Liyang WP-13F(C) turbojet engine with afterburner developing 14,650 lb of thrust.
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