Chinese Guizhou JL-9 trainer designed and developed with help from Yakovlev OKB of Russia

A number of Chinese media outlets have reported that a Southeast Asian country has purchased the FTC-2000G light fighter - becoming the first foreign client for the combat jet outside Africa. The contract was reportedly signed in January with deliveries expected to begin in 2021. Also known as the JL-9, the fighter entered service in the mid 2000s and is currently in service in Sudanese Air Force as well as in China’s own fleet. The FTC-2000G has improved multirole capabilities over the original FTC-2000 fighter, and is capable of carrying a range of air to air and air to ground munition types including PL-8 and PL-9 missiles.

The fighter integrates a pulse doppler radar, a heads up display and a full glass cockpit, and is prized for its low operational costs and conservative maintenance requirements. The aircraft is one of three classes of very light fighter jets China is offering for export, alongside the JL-8 which has seen widespread sales and the JL-10. The JL-9 primarily serves as a trainer in China's own air force, but is capable of carrying out a range of boat missions. The aircraft was ranked third in the world among fighter-trainers in terms of combat capability.

Cambodia and Myanmar have been highlighted as leading potential clients for the FTC-2000G, with the latter having recently placed orders for Russian Su-30 heavyweight fighters and showing interest higher end Su-57 fighters meaning it will need more advanced trainers to make full use of the new aircraft.

Cambodia has a far more conservative military budget, but could see the aircraft as a stepping stone to developing a fighter capability which it currently lacks. Thailand and Laos have been other major clients for Chinese arms, although they have respectively recently placed orders for the South Korean T-50 and the Russian Yak-130 which fulfil very similar roles to the FTC-2000G. The possibility also remains that the Chinese jets have been exported to an entirely new client - possibly Malaysia or the Philippines - which have both expressed interest in modernising their air fleets and have seen ties to China improve in recent years.

Military Watch Mag