China’s modified trainer jet prototype ready for maiden flight
Published: Apr 21, 2020 06:50 PM

A JL-9 fighter trainer attached to the PLA Naval Aviation University taxis on the runway after finishing flight training in Hebei province. Cadets assigned to the regiment conduct flight training subjects including instrument flight, low-altitude aerobatics and formation flying. ( by Lan Pengfei)

The prototype of the newly modified version of the Naval Mountain Eagle trainer jet is now preparing for its maiden flight after its production was completed on Sunday, the aircraft's maker announced on Monday. This type of aircraft is expected to serve as an aircraft carrier-based trainer, which China is in desperate need to train more aircraft carrier-based fighter jet pilots, analysts said on Tuesday.

Under the full support of military representatives, the prototype in the Naval Mountain Eagle project was delivered on Sunday evening, marking a milestone in the project, and the aircraft is on the way to make its first flight according to schedule, read a statement the aircraft's developer, Guizhou Aviation Industry Corporation under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), released on its WeChat account on Monday.

While the Guizhou company did not elaborate on the project, it said in a separate statement in March that the goal was to "win a new victory in developing and producing the Naval Mountain Eagle," and the statement came with a picture showing an aircraft carrier at sea, with a Naval Mountain Eagle flying above the carrier and J-15 fighter jets parked on the carrier's flight deck.

This had led Weihutang, a column on military affairs affiliated with China Central Television, to say in March that this project is likely a modification of the original Naval Mountain Eagle, enabling it to become an aircraft carrier-based trainer.

The Naval Mountain Eagle trainer, designated as the JL-9, is already in service with the Chinese PLA Navy. It can only operate on land-based airfields and simulate aircraft carrier operations.

China does not have an aircraft carrier-based trainer jet to train fighter pilots and have to first train them on a land-based trainer, then switch directly to the actual J-15 fighter jet, a military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Monday.

Developing a carrier-based trainer will help China train carrier-based fighter pilots more efficiently at a time when China is building more aircraft carriers and having more carrier-based fighter jets, the expert said.