An L-15 trainer aircraft flies during the Zhuhai Airshow in Guangdong province in November. (WANG ZHUANGFEI/CHINA DAILY)
China has sold a number of its L-15 multirole military aircraft to the United Arab Emirates, according to Aviation Industry Corp of China, the country's main aircraft maker.
The State-owned defense contractor said in a news release on Tuesday that it has successfully inked a deal on the L-15 with the UAE.
It said the L-15 is a new-generation, light combat/training plane that can be used to carry out air combat, ground attacks and training for aviators to fly fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets. The aircraft features high training efficiency, strong combat power and low operational and maintenance costs.
The version to be delivered to the UAE Air Force will have aerial refueling capability, according to the company.
It did not disclose how many L-15s were ordered, the value of the contract or the delivery plan.
The announcement from AVIC was the first official confirmation from China about the L-15 deal.
In February 2022, the UAE's official Emirates News Agency reported that the nation's Ministry of Defense was working to sign a contract with China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp, AVIC's export wing, for the purchase of 12 L-15s, with the option for another 36 such aircraft in the future.
The report quoted a spokesman for the UAE military as saying that the Chinese plane is one of the top training/fighter jets in the world.
It also quoted Tareq Abdulraheem al Hosani, CEO of the Tawazun Economic Council, as saying that the prospective deal is part of ongoing efforts to diversify and modernize the Arab nation's military capabilities.
The Tawazun Economic Council is an official organization that manages the procurements and contracts of the UAE Armed Forces and the Abu Dhabi Police.
Developed by AVIC's Hongdu Aviation Industry Group in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, the L-15 has two engines, a streamlined aerodynamic design and integrated avionics. It can be equipped with an advanced fire-control radar and multiple types of munitions such as midrange air-to-air missiles, precision strike bombs and anti-ship cruise missiles.
The deal marks the first time for the UAE to introduce a Chinese manned aircraft — it has deployed several types of Chinese combat drones — and also for the L-15 to enter the Middle East market.
Currently, the L-15 has three end users, the People's Liberation Army Air Force, the PLA Navy and the Zambian Air Force.
Fu Qianshao, an aviation equipment expert who served in the PLA Air Force for decades, said on Wednesday that the L-15 is likely the best trainer aircraft in the world, which can explain why it is gaining popularity in the international market.
"The L-15 is one of the only two supersonic trainer planes in the market. The other is South Korea's T-50. The L-15 has world-class aerodynamic designs and fly-by-wire flight control systems. It is the only trainer jet in the world that is equipped with a passive phased array radar, which is better than any other radars used on trainer planes," he said.
The aircraft is good enough to engage advanced fighter jets such as the United States' F-16 or F/A-18 in low-altitude scenarios, according to Fu.