Relations With US are bad As F-35 Acquisition Is Postponed, UAE Begins To Look At L-15 Fighter From China

Relations With US are bad As F-35 Acquisition Is Postponed, UAE Begins To Look At L-15 Fighter From China
L-15 participated in the static display and demonstrated its great agility in the aerobatic display during the Dubai Air Show 2021

International Military - Some time ago, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) bought Rafale fighter planes from France. It doesn't stop there, the UAE has now expressed its interest in the L-15 Hongdu Fighter Lead In Trainer/Light Combat Aircraft (FLIT/LCA) aircraft from China. After there was no definite answer regarding the acquisition of the F-35 from the United States (US), the UAE is now reportedly turning to aircraft produced by Chinese defense companies.

The UAE's move to acquire 12 L-15 aircraft made by Chinese companies will further strengthen ties between the rich Gulf Arab states. If true, it would make the United States unhappy with the close relationship between Abu Dhabi and Beijing. The UAE, a US ally in the Gulf, is expected to increase its Chinese-made aircraft to 36 in the near future, a move that could inflame Washington's anger over Abu Dhabi.

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Quoted from Defense Security Asia, the UAE's proposed purchase of FLIT/LCA aircraft from China will further worsen relations between the UAE and the United States after Washington acts to delay the sale of the fifth-generation F-35 aircraft to the rich Gulf nation. The UAE wants to acquire a number of advanced F-35 aircraft to better deal with threats from Iran.

President Jo Biden's administration has postponed the sale of the fifth-generation F-35 aircraft to the UAE, believed to be following the Gulf state's move to forge closer commercial ties with Chinese telecommunications infrastructure provider Huawei through 5G technology. After the United States postponed the sale of F-35s to the UAE, the Gulf state decided to buy 80 Rafale planes from France.

The UAE is expected to purchase the FLIT/LCA L-15 aircraft from the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC). For now, the value of the UAE's purchase of FLIT/LCA aircraft is unknown but the L-15 aircraft are estimated to be worth between US$ 10 million and US$ 15 million per unit, according to industry information.

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The value per unit of the fighter aircraft makes it cheaper than fighter aircraft made by US and other European companies. The L-15 is described by observers as one of the best in its class.

First introduced in 2006, the latest variant of the aircraft, the L-15B has the capability to carry up to 4 tons of missiles and bombs, with the cockpit for training pilots converted to a Weapon System Officer (WSO). For the export market, this aircraft is known as the L-15 but in China it is known as the JL-10.

Apart from being used by the Chinese Air Force, L-15 aircraft are also used by the Zambian Air Force with CATIC also seeking to sell FLIT/LCA aircraft to other countries. According to reports, Argentina and Venezuela which are facing economic sanctions including from the United States have shown interest in acquiring the L-15 aircraft.

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Among the countries currently targeting CATIC to become the newest L-15 customer is Malaysia which is planning to acquire 18-36 FLIT/LCA aircraft for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). The L-15 aircraft is one of the aircraft competing in the Malaysian Ministry of Defense tender for 18 FLIT/LCA aircraft which is estimated to be worth RM4 billion.

Malaysia is expected to decide which FLIT/LCA aircraft to buy this year. Quoted from Airforce Technology, the Hongdu L-15 is a twin-engine, modern jet trainer, or light attack aircraft designed and manufactured by China's Hongdu Aviation Industry Group (HAIG). It has been built as a rival to the Guizhou JL-9/FTC-2000 Mountain Eagle.

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The L-15 will be used as the main combat trainer (LIFT) by the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the People's Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF). About five prototypes have been built by HAIG. The aircraft has been designed to train pilots of third-generation fighter aircraft which include the Su-27, Su-30, J-10, and J-11. The refined design provides safety for pilots while reducing training costs compared to its competitors.

The L-15 Hongdu can climb at a speed of 150m/s. The maximum speed is 1,715 km/hour. The aircraft's range and combat radius are 3,100km and 550km, respectively. The service ceiling of the aircraft is 16,000 m. The maximum roaming time is two hours. The aircraft weighs about 4,960kg and its maximum takeoff weight is 9,500kg.

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