Ethiopia selects Chinese L-15 light fighter jet

Ethiopia buy Chinese L15
China’s L-15 lightweight fighter jet.

Ethiopia appears to become the second largest export customer for China's L-15 light fighter after Zambia, according to Military Watch Magazine. The new jet will replace the older MiG-23 aircraft of the Ethiopian Air Force, which form the backbone of the nation's fighter fleet along with the more powerful Su-27 Flanker.

The L-15 is a derivative of the Chinese JL-10 trainer, which first entered service in 2010, and is considered the most advanced of three modern trainer classes alongside the JL-8 and JL-9. The trainer's combat capabilities are superior to those of most other aircraft of its kind, with a Mach 1.4 supersonic speed and high maneuverability. The L-15 fighter inherits the very low operating costs of the JL-10 trainer as well as boasting advanced combat capability and access to superior weapon classes. Other major enhancements include the integration of a Passive Electronically Scanned Array (PESA) radar with a detection range of over 110km and the ability to carry jammers for electronic attack missions.

The L-15 will reportedly integrate PL-12 air to air missiles, which will make in the lightest combat aircraft in the world with access to active radar guided munitions with such ranges and provide a very comfortable performance advantage over the MiG-23 and most aircraft fielded by neighbouring states.

The PL-12 will provide an advantage in engagement range over both the MiG-29 fighters of neighbouring Eritrea, and crucially over the F-16, Mirage 2000 and Rafale fighters of the Egyptian Air Force which rely on the obsolete AIM-7 and MICA missiles. Other than the Rafale, all the aforementioned fighters use mechanically scanned array radars which are considerably easier to jam and less efficient than the mechanically scanned radar on the L-15. Growing tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt make the L-15's ability to counter such fighters particularly valuable.

Written by Darren Bondi

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