Last updated: 24 March 2008
The K-8 Karakorum basic jet trainer aircraft was jointly developed by Nanchang-based Hongdu Aviation Industry Group (HAIG) and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in the 1990s as a successor to the Cessna T-37 jet trainers in the Pakistani Air Force service. The aircraft was later adopted by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) as JL-8 (JiaoLian-8) to succeed its ageing JJ-5 jet trainer. The later variant powered by a Chinese indigenous WS-11 turbofan engine was reportedly designated L-11 (Lian-11)
by the PLAAF. A total of 500 examples have been built since 1993. The
aircraft is also co-produced as the K-8E in Egypt under license.
The PRC and Pakistan officially agreed to jointly develop the K-8 Karakorum basic jet trainer in 1986, with Pakistan bearing 25% of the total investment. The design of the aircraft began in 1987. Manufacture of five prototypes started in January 1989, and the first flight test took place on 26 November 1990. 15 examples in the pre-production variant were subsequently produced between 1992~1996, with six delivered to the Pakistani Air Force. However, Pakistan decided against domestic series production of the aircraft in 1994. While the original plan involved up to 75 aircraft for Pakistan, by early 1996 as many as 100 were reportedly desired to replace aging Cessna T-37 trainers.
The initial plan was to incorporate the Chinese-made airframe with significant American content, including AlliedSignal (now Honeywell International Inc.) TFE731-2A turbofan engine, and Collins and Magnavox avionics. The development of this project was jeopardized by the US-led sanction following June 1989. Later the K-8 had to switch to the Ukrainian Motorsich AI-25TLK turbofan. The K-8 powered by a Chinese indigenous WS-11 (licensed copy of the AI-25TLK) first flew in December 1998, and the engine was design certified in March 2003.
The K-8 prototype '001' in flight test
A pre-production variant K-8 in flight demonstration
JL-8 / L-11
The JL-8 prototype '202' carrying rocket launcher pods and bombs under wings
A line of the JL-8 trainer at a PLAAF flight academy
PLAAF JL-8/L-11 carrying a new colour scheme
Hongdu began to develop the K-8V integrated flight test simulation aircraft (IFSTA) in 1991. The aircraft was designed to simulate the aerodynamic characteristics of modern combat aircraft. By inputting different aerodynamic parameters into its flight control computer, the K-8V can simulate the flight profile of a particular aircraft. This enables an aircraft design to be tested before a costly physical prototypes are built. For this purpose, the K-8V is fitted with a dual-redundancy analogue fly-by-wire (FBW) system. The K-8V made its maiden flight in June 1997, and was commissioned in September 1998.
K-8V IFSTA '203' displayed during the Zhuhai Air Show
The K-8 has low-mounted wings, lateral air intakes, and whole-piece bubble canopy. Two pilots are accommodated in a tandem, air-conditioned cockpit, with the back seat slightly higher than the front seat. The domestic variants JL-8 and L-11 differ from the export variant K-8 in avionics configuration and powerplant.
The K-8 doesn't have a fixed weapon. There are four under-wing pylons to carry up to 1,000kg payload, each rated at 250kg. The stations can carry drop tanks, 23mm cannon pods, unguided rockets, 250kg bombs, short-range air-to-air missiles (e.g. Magic R550).
Avionics includes the EFIS-86 system, with twin-MFD, VHF/UHF radio, VHF landing/navigation, TATAN system, and air data computer.
The aircraft has three options for powerplant: (1) U.S.-made TFE731-2A turbofan; (2) Ukrainian-made AI-25TL turbofan; or (3) indigenous WS-11 (an AI-25TL clone, 16.87kN thrust).
First flight 26 November 1990 (K-8)
December 1994 (JL-8)
Role Basic jet flight training
Nanchang Hongdu Aviation Industry Group (HAIG)
Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC)
Manufacturer Nanchang Hongdu Aviation Industry Group (HAIG)
Wing area 17.02 square metres
Max take-off 4,330kg
Fuel capacity 780kg (internal)
Max payload 950kg
1X AlliedSignal (now Honeywell International Inc.) TFE731-2A turbofan, rated at 16.01kN (1,632kg, 3,599lb), or
1X Motorsich AI-25TLK turbofan (or its Chinese copy WS-11), rated 16.87kN (1,720kg, 3,792lb)
Max level speed 800km/h (sea level)
Max climb rate 30m/s (sea level)
Service ceiling 13,000m
4 hours 25 minutes
In-flight refuelling No
G limit +7.33 / -3G
Runway (take-off) 410m
Runway (landing) 512m
Fixed weapon None
External hardpoints 4