Nanchang/PAC K-8

Country of Origin: China.
Type: Two seat basic/advanceed trainer.
Powerplant: One 16.0kN (3600lb) AlliedSignal TFE731-2A-2A turbofan.
Performance: Max speed at sea level 807km/h (435kt). Max initial rate of climb 5315ft/min. Service ceiling 42,650ft. Range with max internal fuel 1400km (755nm), range with max internal and external fuel 2250km (1215nm). Endurance with max internal fuel 3hr, endurance with max internal and external fuel 4hr 25min.
Weights: Empty equipped 2687kg (5924lb), max takeoff with external stores 4330kg (9545lb).
Accommodations: Two in tandem.
Armament: One centerline and four underwing hardpoints can carry max weapons load of 945kg (2080lb). One centerline hardpoint can carry a 23mm gun pod, plus two 250litre drop tanks or up to four 50kg bombs plus two multiple rocket launchers. Two outboard pylons can carry a PL-7 AAM or two 250kg BL-755 bombs each.
Operators: Burma, China, Egypt, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe.
History: The Karakorum is China's first locally designed fet trainer and has been developed in co-operation with Pakistan.
Development of the Karakorum, initially designated L-8, as announced at the 1987 Paris Airshow. At the time of the new trainer's launch Nanchang (NAMC) sought international partners to develop the aircraft for export. Subsequently a development and co-production deal was signed with Pakistan, which took a 25% share in the program.

When Pakistan joined the trainer project the aircraft was redesignated K-8 and named Karakorum, after the mountain range that forms parts of Pakistan/China border. Pakistan, through PAC (Pakistan Aeronautical Complex), had some design input into the K-8 and is responsible for the manufacture of the K-8's fin and tailpane. However, Pakistan decided not to establish its on K-8 assembly line.

The first three flying K-8s prototypes flew for the first time on November 21 1990. These were followed by 15 pre-production development aircraft, the first of which flew in 1993. Pakistan is understood to have a total requirement for upto 100 K-8s to replace its T-37s, and the first batch of six were delivered in 1996. The Chinese requirement could be several hundred airframes.

The K-8 is of conventional esign for a jet trainer, with a straight wing and seating in tandem. Initail and export aircraft are powered by an AlliedSignal TFE731 turbofan with FADEC, while the Chinese production aircraft (if funded) will be powered by a 16.9kN Progress ZMKB Al-25TL turbofan.

Other western origin equipment in the K-8 includes the two Collins CRTs in each cockpit while the crew sits on two Martin-Baker zero/zero ejection seats. Five hardpoints give K-8 a light ground attack/weapons training capability.

Service in PAF: Pakistan has abandoned plans to manufacture locally the K-8 Karakorum jet trainer, developed jointly with China's Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing (NAMC), and instead will concentrate on expanded component production and spares support.

Plans to establish a K-8 production line at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra by 1998 "...were shelved for a combination of financial and infrastructural reasons", admits a senior PAC Aircraft Manufacturing Factory official.

NAMC has already begun low-rate production of an initial batch of 15 K- 8s, including six aircraft scheduled for delivery to Pakistan early this month. The six aircraft were handed over officially to the Pakistan air force on 21 September in Nanchang, China.

PAC has a 25% stake in the K-8 programme and is responsible for manufacturing the aircraft's horizontal stabiliser, elevator, fin and engine cowling. Pakistan had planned to build the aircraft's entire structure eventually, but is now negotiating with NAMC to increase its component workshare to 45%.

"We want to build high-value system components for spares support to other K-8 users in the region," says PAC. China is targeting Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Syria and Thailand as potential K-8 buyers, but has not yet secured an order beyond the initial 15 aircraft now being built.

The six AlliedSignal Engines TFE731-2A turbofan-powered aircraft being delivered to Pakistan will undergo six months of evaluation by air force academy flying instructors at Risalpur airbase. A decision is then expected on buying a further 60 trainers to replace the Pakistan air force's fleet of Cessna T-37Bs and Shenyang FT-5s.

Pakistani K-8s incorporate a series of modifications for local use, including an improved cockpit environmental-control system, new anti- skid brakes, and an imperial-scale electronic flight-instrumentation system (EFIS).

The aircraft's metric calibrated Rockwell-Collins EFIS-86 system was converted by China's Suzhou Aircraft Instrument Factory, where it is produced under licence. The software modifications, however, have not been tested or recognised by Rockwell-Collins and the company has instructed that its name be removed from the system.

NAMC is also understood to be working on re-engineing the K-8 with the Ukrainian-built Progress DV-2 engine for use with the China's PLA air force and naval aviation. "They are keen to have the DV-2, as they have lost confidence in the American-built engine," says a source.

The US Government in 1992 blocked any further sales of TFE731s to China, because of technology-transfer concerns. The ban was lifted this year.

PAF Squadrons:
  • Airforce Academy