The L-15 jet trainers. Photo: Peng Chen/Wikimedia
The L-15 jet trainers. Photo: Peng Chen/Wikimedia

New jet trainer aircraft being delivered to the People’s Liberation Army Navy will expedite training of Chinese airmen, as the force is facing a shortage of pilots capable of flying fighter jets from its second seagoing airbase slated for commission by the end of the year.

The PLA Daily reported on Tuesday that the L-15 third-generation supersonic training and light attack aircraft, developed and manufactured by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, would be the best lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) to hone the skills of student pilots for future Chinese carriers.

The term LIFT refers to jet trainers with avionics and stores-management capability that emulate operational fighter planes as well as true-to-life aerial combat scenarios to familiarize trainees with dogfight maneuvers and skills.

The L-15 features a streamlined aerodynamic design and integrated avionics, with a maximum speed of 1,200km/h as well as a maximum flight range of 2,600 kilometers. Its development was reportedly assisted by Russia’s Yakovlev Design Bureau and the jets are propelled by Ukrainian-made afterburning turbofan engines.

Last week the PLA Naval Aviation University in eastern China’s Shandong province held a ceremony to receive 12 L-15 jets.

Before the L-15’s introduction, the PLA Navy relied on its antiquated JJ-7 and JL-9 for pilot training.

The urgency to get more cadets trained for the second carrier is becoming more apparent now that the vessel is making headway in sea trials toward entry of service with the navy by the end of the year.

Pilots capable of flying carrier-based fighters are the elite among their peers as they must possess both the knack and the guts to withstand the huge thrust during short takeoffs and to land their jets on a carrier deck that may look no bigger than a needle in the open sea from the air.

Chinese military websites reported earlier this year that the L-15B would be modified for aircraft-carrier pilot training. The light attack aircraft is also used by the PLA Air Force for training and has been exported to Venezuela and Zambia.