Warplanes: China Invades Ukraine

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January 6, 2016: A Chinese firm is negotiating a deal to manufacture their JL-15 jet trainer/light attack aircraft in Ukraine. This makes sense as Ukraine has several underused Cold War era aircraft manufacturing facilities and currently supplies the engines for the JL-15. These jet trainers are designed for ground attack and reconnaissance as well as for training pilots. The two-seat 9.5 ton, twin engine JL-15 can achieve supersonic speeds and has the kind of high-tech cockpit found in modern fighters. The JL-15 was designed to be produced in several versions, all of them two seat aircraft. The different versions are modified slightly to equip the aircraft for various types of pilot training (advanced trainer or initial fighter trainer) as well as combat tasks.

The main use of the JL-15 is preparing new pilots for high end aircraft like the MiG-29s, F-16s or Su-30s. Most JL-15s are equipped with AI-222 jet engines made by the Ukrainian firm Motor Sich. This company also supplies AI-25 engines for the older 4.3 ton JL-8 trainer. China has not bought many JL-15s itself, having decided to stay with the cheaper JL-9. This aircraft is less expensive in part because it is based on the MiG-21 fighter design or, rather, the Chinese clone the J-7.

Because of all the Cold War era arms factories Ukraine inherited in 1991 when the Soviet Union, not to mention huge stockpiles of Soviet weapons, ammo and equipment, Ukraine became one of the biggest exporters of military gear on the planet in the 1990s. China has been a regular customer and is familiar with what the Ukrainians can do. Because China is one of the few major allies Russia has, Russia in unlikely to pressure China to back away from deals with Ukraine. China and Ukraine have been doing business since the 1990s and China sees more opportunity there, despite the threat of Russian invasion (which would probably avoid damaging Chinese properties).

 


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