The Hongdu JL-8 (Nanchang JL-8), also known as the Karakorum-8 or K-8 for short, is a two-seat intermediate jet trainer and light attack aircraft designed in the People's Republic of China by China Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation. The primary contractor is the Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation.

K-8 of the Bangladesh Air Force
Role Jet trainer
Light attack
Manufacturer Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation
Pakistan Aeronautical Complex
First flight 21 November 1990
Introduction 21 September 1994
Status Operational
Primary users PLA Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
Egyptian Air Force
Myanmar Air Force
Produced 1990-present
Number built 500+[1]

Development edit

The JL-8 trainer was proposed as a joint cooperation effort between the governments of Pakistan and the People's Republic of China in 1986. The name was changed on the suggestion of Pakistan's President Zia ul Haq to Karakoram-8 to represent the friendship between the two countries. Work on the design started in 1987 at Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Company (NAMC) at Nanchang, Jiangshi Province in South Central China. The Chinese chief designer of the aircraft was Shi Ping (石屏), heading a team of over 100 Chinese Engineers, while Air Cdr Muhammad Younas Tbt (M), SI(M) was the chief designer from the Pakistani side leading a team of over 20 Pakistani engineers.

Initially, the aircraft was to have used many parts manufactured in the United States, including the Garrett TFE731 engine and several cockpit displays, and communication and avionics systems, but due to political developments and an embargo from the US at the end of the 1980s following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, other suppliers had to be used. The first prototype was built in 1989, with the first flight taking place on 21 November 1990, piloted by Chief Test Pilot Col Yang Yao (杨耀). Flight testing continued from 1991 to 1993 by a Flight Test Team consisting of four Chinese and two Pakistani pilots.

After four prototypes were built, production of a small batch of 24 aircraft was launched in 1992. The Chinese share out of these was 18, while the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) received six K-8s in 1994. In 1995, the PAF decided to order 75 more K-8s to gradually replace its fleet of Cessna T-37 Tweet basic trainers. In 2010, the number of K-8 aircraft in the PAF inventory was estimated to be around 40. The People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) received its first six JL-8 trainers in 1995 following additional upgrades. The Chinese model uses a Chinese-manufactured version of the Ukrainian Ivchenko AI-25 (DV-2) engine, designated WS-11. The PLAAF is anticipated to continue adding the JL-8 trainer to its fleet to replace its obsolete trainers, such as the Chengdu JJ-5. In 2008, the number of JL-8s in PLAAF inventory was estimated to be over 120 aircraft.

Other countries have shown interest in the trainer, and it now also serves in the air forces of Egypt, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. While the type primarily serves as a basic and advanced trainer, it can also be used in the close air support or even air combat role when appropriately armed.

The export-variant K-8 Karakorum Basic Common Advanced Jet Trainer is co-produced by China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) for export markets other than Pakistan, while later aircraft for Pakistan have been built by the Aircraft Manufacturing Factory (AMF), Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. The latest export variant is the K-8P version, which is operated by the PAF. The K-8P has an advanced avionics package of integrated head-up display (HUD), multi-function displays (MFDs) and comes equipped with MFD-integrated GPS and ILS/TACAN systems. It also has hardpoints for carrying a variety of training and operational bombs up to 250 kg, pod-mounted 23 mm cannon, and PL-5 / 7 /AIM-9 P launchers. In September 2011, NAMC produced another 12 K-8Ps for an undisclosed foreign client.[2]

In 2008 Venezuela announced the purchase of 18 K-8 aircraft. The K-8 has been marketed by China to the air forces of the Philippines [citation needed], and to Indonesia, as a replacement for Indonesia's BAE Hawk jet trainers.[3] In 2009, the Bolivian government approved a deal to purchase 6 K-8P aircraft for use in anti-drug operations.[4] In 2010 the total number of K-8 aircraft produced in all variants was estimated to be more than 500, with a continual production rate of approximately 24 aircraft per year.

Design edit

A K-8 of the Bolivian Air Force.

The JL-8 / K-8 has a multi-role capability for training and, with little modification, can also be used for airfield defense. The aircraft is supposed to be as cost-effective as possible, with a short turn-around time and low maintenance requirements. The JL-8 for the domestic Chinese market and its export variants, K-8E and K-8P, have different powerplants and avionics.

Airframe and flight control system edit

A low-wing monoplane design primarily constructed of aluminum alloys, the JL-8 / K-8 airframe structure is designed for an 8,000 flight hour service life.

The landing gear is of tricycle configuration, with hydraulically operated wheel brakes and nose-wheel steering.

The flight control system operates a set of conventional flight control surfaces with a rigid push-rod transmission system, which itself is electrically or hydraulically operated. The aileron control system, of irreversible servo-control type, is composed of a hydraulic booster, an artificial-feel device, a feel trim actuator and a rigid push-rod transmission mechanism. The elevator and rudder control systems are of reversible push-rod type.

Cockpit and avionics edit

The JL-8 / K-8 cockpit arrangement is designed to be as close to that of a combat aircraft as possible. A transparent plastic canopy covering both cockpits, which are arranged in a tandem seating position, is supposed to give a good all-round field of view.

A Rockwell Collins Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) is fitted, with multi-function displays (MFDs) in the front and rear cockpits showing information to the pilots. The emergency cockpit escape system is made up of two Martin-Baker MK-10L rocket-assisted ejection seats which are zero-zero capable, meaning they can be used safely at zero altitude and zero speed. Although JL-8 is designed to have limited capability to deliver air-to-ground weapons, the first rocket attack practice was only completed in May 2011.[5]

Ultra high frequency (UHF) and very high frequency (VHF) radio communication systems are present, along with a Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) and automatic direction finder (ADF). An instrument landing system (ILS) is also available. These systems can be tailored to meet the requirements of the customer.

A strap-on Environmental control system (ECS) from AlliedSignal provides air conditioning to the cockpit. It is capable of operating when the aircraft is on the ground, under ambient temperatures of -40 to +52 °C, as well as in the air.

Propulsion and fuel system edit

The JL-8, for the Chinese domestic market, was originally powered by the Ukrainian Ivchenko-Progress AI-25TLK turbofan jet engine with 16.9 kN of thrust, but this has been replaced by the WS-11, the Chinese-manufactured version of the AI-25TLK. Export variants (K-8P, K-8E) use the lower-thrust (15.6 kN) Honeywell TFE731-2A-2A modular turbofan, which has digital electronic engine control (DEEC), provided the US government approves sale of the engine to the customer.

A hydro-mechanical fuel control system delivers fuel to the engine. The aircraft's fuel system consists of the fuel tanks and the fuel supply/transfer, vent/pressurization, fuel quantity measuring/indicating, fuel refueling and fuel drain subsystems. The total fuel is contained in two fuselage bladder-type rubber tanks and a wing integral tank of 1720 lb. The capacity of each drop tank is 250 litres.

Operational history edit

The K-8 took part in its first aerial display in 1993 at the Singapore Air Show and since then has participated at Air Shows at numerous places including Dubai, Paris, Farnborough, Bangkok, Zhuhai etc. It was shown to the Pakistani public for the first time on 23 March 1994 at the Pakistan Day Parade. It became part of the Sherdils (Lion Hearts) aerobatics team of the Pakistan Air Force in 2009 and carried out its first public display on 6 April 2010. K-8 replaced the team's previous T-37 Tweet aircraft.[6][7]

Myanmar edit

In late December 2012 and early January 2013, during the Kachin conflict, K-8s of the Myanmar Air Force were used to strike Kachin Independence Army positions in the north of the country.[8][9] On 30 June 2023 a K-8 W was destroyed while attacking opposition groups.[10] On 11 November 2023 KNDF and People Defense Forces shot down a K8W at Loikaw, Karenni State with a 0.5 machine gun and it crashed into Than Daung Township in Karen State.

Accidents and incidents edit

  • 24 March 2021: A Bolivian Air Force (FAB) K-8VB with tail number FAB-663 crashed into a house in Sacaba, Bolivia, killing a woman in her house around 9:30 local time during a training mission. Both crew members survived after ejecting from the aircraft.[11]
  • 18 June 2022: A Venezuelan Air Force (Aviación Militar Bolivariana AMB) K-8W with tail number 2702 crashed at Los Cortijos in the state of Zulia. Both occupants ejected to safety.[12]
  • 11 November 2023: A Myanmar Air Force jet crashed in Hpruso Township, Karenni State. Both pilots ejected safely.The air force stated the aircraft suffered a technical problem, while an insurgent group, in conflict with the Myanmar junta, reported it had shot down the jet.[13]

Variants edit

Data from:

  • K-8
Original variant powered by the Garrett TFE731-2A turbofan engine.
Egyptian Air Force K-8E on display at the 2015 Malta International Airshow
  • K-8E
K-8 variant developed for export to Egypt in 1999, featuring 33 modifications to the airframe and avionics. Built in Egypt from Chinese-supplied kits, production of 80 Egyptian-built Chinese kits was completed in 2005, with license production of an additional 40 K-8Es undertaken thereafter.
Pakistan Air Force K-8P
  • K-8P
Pakistan-specific variant with new avionics, glass cockpit and Martin-Baker Zero-Zero ejection seats.
  • K-8V
An 'integrated flight test simulation aircraft' (IFTSA), equipped with an advanced flight control computer and analogue fly-by-wire (FBW) system which can mimic the aerodynamic characteristics and flight profile of other aircraft. Used primarily to test aircraft designs before prototypes are built and tested.
  • JL-8
PLAAF-specific variant powered by the Ivchenko AI-25 TLK turbofan and featuring Chinese avionics suite. First flew in December 1994, 6 aircraft delivered to PLAAF in June 1998.
  • L-11
Variant of JL-8 powered by the WS-11 turbofan (Ivchenko AI-25 TLK produced under license in China). Approximately 100 aircraft delivered to PLAAF.
  • JL-8W (K-8W)
Variant of the JL-8 with improved cockpit and HUD. Delivered to Venezuela's Bolivarian Military Aviation 13 March 2010, with no U.S.-controlled parts. Total order 18 aircraft (+ 40 announced). 16 delivered to Bangladesh Air Force, one crashed in 2018.
  • JL-8VB (K-8VB)
Variant similar to JL-8W; for export to Bolivian Air Force, with no U.S.-controlled parts. Total order 6 aircraft (+ 12 announced).
  • K-8NG (Next Generation)
Recently at the 2021 Dubai Air Show, a modernization of the K-8 Karakorum training platform called K-8NG was presented.[14] K-8NG is a multi-role jet trainer with basic/advanced training, air-to-ground precision strike, and reconnaissance capabilities.[citation needed]

Operators edit

Main operating countries of the Chinese K-8 "Karakorum" aircraft in the world.

Current edit

A K-8 of the Bolivian Air Force.
  Sri Lanka

Former edit


Specifications (K-8) edit

Data from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra - Karakoram-8 (K-8) Aircraft,[18] Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide[19]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 11.6 m (38 ft 1 in)
  • Wingspan: 9.63 m (31 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 4.1 m (13 ft 5 in)
  • Empty weight: 2,687 kg (5,924 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 4,330 kg (9,546 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Honeywell TFE731-2A turbofan engine, 16.01 kN (3,600 lbf) thrust


  • Maximum speed: 800 km/h (500 mph, 430 kn)
  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.75
  • Range: 2,250 km (1,400 mi, 1,210 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 13,000 m (43,000 ft)
  • g limits: +7.33 -3.0
  • Wing loading: 254.40 kg/m2 (52.11 lb/sq ft)


  • Guns: 1× 23 mm cannon pod (mounted on centreline hardpoint)
  • Hardpoints: Up to 5 hardpoints (varies on variants), total capacity 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) external fuel and ordnance:
    • 4× under-wing, capacity 250 kg each
    • 1× under-fuselage (23 mm cannon pod mount)
  • Rockets: 57 mm unguided rocket pods, capacity 24 rounds (2 x pods with 12 rounds each)
  • Air-to-air missiles: PL-5, PL-7
  • Air-to-ground missiles: TL-10, TL-20, YJ-9E (Anti ship). NG Version only.
  • Bombs: 200 kg, 250 kg unguided bomb. 50 kg, 100 kg Laser guided bomb. NG Version only.
  • Others:
    • 2× 80 US gal (300 L) fuel drop-tanks mounted on outboard under-wing hardpoints


  • EFIS
  • Targeting POD for laser guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. NG Version only.
  • Passive Jamming POD. NG Version only.

See also edit

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

References edit

  1. ^ K-8 (JL-8, L-11) Basic Jet Trainer - Archived 28 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "K-8P trainer jet exportation". Archived from the original on 3 March 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2011.
  3. ^ ANGKASA No.07 Edisi April 2007 (page 14-15)
  4. ^ | Bolivia buys six Pakistan-made aircraft Archived 29 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ " JL8 Trainer Jet rocket practice". Archived from the original on 9 February 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  6. ^ "PAF's High Mark exercise enters second phase". Pakistan Times. PAF Bombing Range, Thal, Pakistan. 7 April 2010. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  7. ^ "PAF's firepower demo marks precise hit at enemy targets". Thal, Pakistan: 7 April 2010. Retrieved 7 April 2010. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Myanmar jets used against Kachin rebels (raw footage)". YouTube. 3 January 2013. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  9. ^ Bertil Lintner. "Myanmar airstrikes reopen ethnic wounds". Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  10. ^ "Two Myanmar Junta Pilots Killed When Kayah Resistance Shot Down Fighter Jet". The Irrawaddy. 29 July 2023. Retrieved 31 July 2023.
  11. ^ "Así sería la Aeronave que cayó en Sacaba". Los Tiempos. 24 March 2021. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  12. ^ "Incident Hongdu K-8W, 18 Jun 2022".
  13. ^ "Incident Hongdu K-8W, 11 November 2023".
  14. ^ "Chinese Manufacturer Lifts DARPA Concept for New Fighter | Aviation Week Network".
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "World Air Forces 2022". Flightglobal Insight. 2022. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  16. ^ The Military Balance 2021. International Institute for Strategic Studies. p. 255.
  17. ^ The Military Balance 2021. International Institute for Strategic Studies. p. 254.
  18. ^ "Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra - Karakoram-8 (K-8) Aircraft". Archived from the original on 26 April 2019. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  19. ^ Gething, Gunter Endres, Michael J.; Endres, Gunter (4 September 2007). Jane's aircraft recognition guide (5th ed.). Collins. ISBN 978-0061346194.

External links edit