Hongdu K-8: Pilot review of China’s Kick-ass Karakorum jet trainer
We spoke to former PAF Mirage pilot Fahad Mahsood about flying China’s superb K-8 advanced trainer with the Pakistan Air Force.
Describe the K-8 in three words…
Energetic – Powerful – Sustained
What was its role and was it successful?
It is still in used in the PAF and a few countries in the world like Pakistan Air Force, PLA Air Force, Egyptian Air Force, Myanmar Air Force. Extremely successful in the role it plays in transitional training from slow-speed trainers to high-speed fighter aircraft.
What’s the best thing about it?
Its thrust-to-weight ratio is excellent due to its turbofan engine. Engine response is also comparatively a lot better than a lot of jets due to its axial flow compressor.
…and the worst?
Its landing gear lever is too ‘light’ for military standards
What is the cockpit like?
Ergonomically sound and comfortable.
How would you rate it in the following:
A. Instantaneous turn
B. Sustained turn
C. Climb rate
10 – Excellent!
D. Ease to fly
10 – Does extremely well for the purpose of advanced jet training in both air-to-air and air-to-ground capacity
What are the biggest myths about the K-8?
Relatively new aircraft, hence no myths… an open and shut case!
Tell me something I don’t know about the K-8
Its Chinese name is Hongdu JL-8 (Nanchang JL-8)
What should I have asked you?
About its tailslide manuever. Used to go vertical till 0 knots and then let the jet fall on one side, build speed and recover.
How well equipped is it? What avionics does it have?
For training and introductory purpose to air combat and air to ground weapon delivery, very well equipped. Two CFDs (MFDs) give a valid introduction to the student pilots as a pre-LIFT profile.
What was it like to fly the first time?
Fast! Transitioning from a T-37 to this. Mark difference in engine and platform performance.
What systems did it lack?
Airborne intercept radar. Can make a mark difference for getting student pilots hands on to what’s to come next.