China's Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation on May 1 unveiled a new attack variant of the L-15 Falcon advanced jet trainer, known as the L-15B. Hongdu Aviation is part of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).
The L-15B is an enhanced version of the L-15 LIFT (Lead In Fighter Trainer) variant used by both the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force. Both use the Ukrainian Ivchenko-Progress afterburning AI-222K-25F turbofan, giving the L-15B supersonic speed up to Mach 1.4. According to AVIC’s specifications, the L-15B has a maximum takeoff weight of 11.6 metric tons (25,573 pounds) and operational range of 2,600 km (1,616 miles).
The L-15B variant has a larger nose, which houses an indigenous passive electronically scanned array multi-function radar with a range of around 75 km (46.6 miles). It reportedly would give the L-15B high performance in strike and air combat missions.
Other distinct differences are identification friend or foe antennas at the front of the canopy, likened to those found on F-16 and F-18 fighters, and a radar warning receiver on the vertical stabilizer. It is also rumored by Chinese media that the L-15B has replaced the Arinc 429 data bus standard in favor of the Chinese HB6096-SZ-01 standard, which is said to be simpler, stable and less subjected to interference.
Nanchang-based Hongdu Aviation has increased weapon hard points on the L-15B from seven to nine, with a maximum payload of 3.5 metric tons. A sample weapon configuration could be PL-12 radar-guided beyond visual range missiles, LT-2 laser guided bombs and a centerline cannon pod.