in Defence

ZAF looks east for modernisation programme

Posted 25 May 2017 · Add Comment

The Zambian Air Force (ZAF) is negotiating with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) for the possible acquisition of more advanced fighter and trainer jets, helicopters and heavy-lift transport aircraft, as it forges ahead with a force modernisation exercise. Oscar Nkala reports.

ZAF commander, Lieutenant-General Eric Chimese, has said he hopes to capitalise on cordial business relations with AVIC to acquire “third-generation military jets in
air-to-air, ground attack and trainer configuration”.
Those relations are based on a military training and cooperation protocol, which was
first signed in 1998 and re-affirmed in 2008.
Chimese could not be drawn into disclosing the aircraft models and number of aircraft that he is seeking.
If confirmed, any new order would be a follow-up to six Hongdu Falcon L-15 supersonic lead-in fighter/trainer jets, which were acquired by ZAF from AVIC subsidiary, Hongdu Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG), for $100 million in 2014.
Three aircraft were delivered in July 2016 and three more are due for delivery within the first half of 2017.
Chimese said ZAF needed even closer ties with AVIC, which has, to date, provided the bulk of its military aircraft requirements.
He said the force was determined to modernise national air defences and preferred Chinese aircraft, such as the L-15 ALT, because, while relatively advanced, they cost less and were cheap to maintain.
“As the first African country to have acquired the modern L-15 AFT, our pilots have been introduced into the future of military (fighter) aviation that is sensitive to technology, which is ever changing,” said Chimese.
“The L-15 AFT represents our entry to the modern military aviation world.
“We need to defend the country from all known and evolving security threats if we are to attract meaningful development and investment.”
He said, given the vast size of the country, the air force needed to continuously improve its operational capabilities in order to cover the full length and breath of national airspace. Military collaboration with China provided further opportunities for cooperation in special training programmes, joint operation missions, equipment and
technology transfers with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Among other limitations, the ZAF faces a lack of spare parts and accessories for an aging aircraft fleet. Due to the lack of aircraft, the pilots lack sufficient flying hours. While its troop and cargo transportation capabilities improved with the delivery of five Y-12 and two MA-60 transporters in 2006, the ZAF has a very limited combat
capability.
The force modernisation programme is aimed at replacing a generally obsolete fleet of Soviet-era, American and British-made aircraft models.
The twin-seat L-15 Falcon jet delivered to Zambia is powered to a climb rate of 150 metres per second and up to 1,715km/h by two Russian-made Ivchenko Progress AL-222K-25F turbofan engines, which are fitted with after-burners.
Four under-wing and two wing-tip hardpoints, which can carry up to 3,000kg weapons payloads, including short-range air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, bombs and rocket pods, enable the aircraft to perform its secondary light-attack role.
 

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