Guizhou Aviation Industry Corporation (GAIC) rolled out the first FTC-2000 light fighter and advanced trainer destined for an undisclosed export customer, which is believed to be the Sudanese Air Force.
Designated the Mountain Eagle, the FTC-2000 is the export variant of the JL-9, which is a vastly upgraded derivative of the JJ-7/FT-7. In November 2016, Sudan reportedly ordered six FTC-2000s.
It is also GAIC’s first export order. Until now, GAIC’s sister-companies in AVIC maintained the balance of China’s aviation sales, most notably Chengdu (via the F-7 and JF-17) and Hongdu (via the K-8 and L-15).
Notes & Comments:
Like the Aviation Industry Corporation of China’s (AVIC) other export-oriented platforms, the FTC-2000 is equipped with a modern multi-mode radar, integrated avionics suite (with head-up displays, multi-function displays, mission computers and satellite-aided inertial navigation systems), and other onboard electronics, such as electronic countermeasure suites.
However, the FTC-2000 represents the lower-end of AVIC’s portfolio. For example, in contrast to the J-10, JF-17 and L-15, the FTC-2000 is powered by a WP-13 turbojet engine, as opposed to a turbofan engine. It also depends on a mechanical flight control system.
However, its closeness to the Chengdu F-7, an export aircraft in service with several major developing countries, makes the FTC-2000 a smooth upgrade to the legacy MiG-21 derivative. F-7 users can re-utilize existing logistics and maintenance infrastructure to affordably induct the FTC-2000, which – while not as sophisticated as the FC-20, JF-17 or L-15 – still confers the end-user with modern air warfare capabilities.
Besides the role of an entry-level fighter, the FTC-2000 could potentially be marketed as a very low-cost lead-in fighter-trainer (LIFT), particularly for air forces that believe new platforms such as the L-15, L-159, T-50 and others are too costly to operate and acquire for the designated role.
In recent years, AVIC has sold the L-15 and (in partnership with Pakistan Aeronautical Complex) the JF-17 to Zambia and Nigeria, respectively.
Edit: Corrected Gambia to Zambia.