The Hongdu L-15 Falcon is a supersonic advanced training and light combat aircraft being developed by Nanchang-based Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation (HAIC). This aircraft had reportedly been completed alongside Yakovlev OKB of Russia to meet the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF) lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) requirements, as well as next-generation training and light combat needs for foreign customers. The aircraft made its maiden flight on 13 March 2006. The L-15 is a direct rival to the Guizhou Aircraft Industry Corporation (GAIC) JL-9/FTC-2000 Mountain Eagle in competition for the PLAAF next-generation advanced trainer aircraft program.
The two-seat, two-engine L-15 featured the latest advanced technologies developed by China, such as the digital quadruple fly-by-wire (FBW), glass cockpit (two multi-color head down displays for both the front and rear cockpit, and an additional head-up display for the front cockpit) and hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) flight control. The look-down field of view for the front cockpit is 18°, and 6° for the rear cockpit, exceeding the US requirement. The aerodynamic performance of the aircraft is enhanced by its large leading edge extensions (LEX) design, which gives a maximum angle of attack of 30°.
This is very useful when trying to simulate the maneuvers of advanced fourth-generation fighters such as J-10, JF-17 and J-11, as well as for newest fifth generation fighter like J-20 and J-31. JL-9/FTC-2000 Mountain Eagle trainer jet from Guizhou Aircraft Industry Corporation (GAIC) is a direct competitor of the L-15. L-15 has a wide range of more advanced features comparing JL-9, but JL-9 is significant cheaper and its development and production would be fully indigenous, while early batches of L-15 still rely on AI-222 series turbofan engine from Ukraine before an indigenous update is ready.
The first two units are powered by two Ivchenko-Progress DV-2 engines, which do not have afterburners, and these two aircraft thus do not have the capability to reach supersonic speed. The third unit (#03) is powered by a pair of an improved version of the DV-2, the DV-2F, that has afterburners, so that it can attain supersonic speed. The subsequent production units are expected to be powered by Ukraine’s Ivchenko-Progress AI-222K-25F turbofan engines with afterburners once a co-production license is obtained by the 608 Institute. Ivchenko-Progress was able to increase the thrust of the AI-222-28F (thrust 4500 kg) and AI-222-30F (5000 kg thrust) engines. The latter two engines may be used to equip the L-15 or other Chinese aircraft. Meanwhile, according to various Chinese reports, L-15s with updated Guizhou FWS-17 engines had already undergone test flights.