The prototype of the Guizhou Aviation Industry Corporation (GAIC) aircraft carrier-based version of Chinese JL-9 jet trainer dubbed the ‘Naval Mountain Eagle’ is now preparing for its maiden flight following the completion of assembly on Sunday. The aircraft will be deployed on China’s two aircraft carriers to train carrier-based fighter jet pilots. It is a modification of the JL-9 trainer on which the FTC-2000G fighter –trainer is based.
Aviation industries Corporation of China (AVIC), the parent company of GAIC had announced last year the end of production of JL-9 to make way for the carrier-based version. 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. Previous reports have said that JL-9 has been modified with strengthened landing gear besides a more powerful engine and flight characteristics to handle the additional strain of landing and taking off from aircraft carriers.
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 ski jumps to simulate aircraft carrier operations. Current naval fighter pilots first train on a land-based trainer, then switch directly to the aircraft carrier based J-15 fighter jet. Learning how to take-off and land on a flight deck less than 300 metres (980 feet) long takes time, and although the PLA Navy has been teaching its own pilots rather than recruiting them from the air force since 2017.