Monday, April 16, 2012

Zambian Air Force buys more K-8 trainers from China



K-8 Karakorum has been an export success for Chinese arm industry.

The Zambian Air Force has officially taken delivery of another eight K-8P jet trainers from the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC), bringing the number in service to 15.

The aircraft were delivered to Mumbwa air base in Zambia on March 21 and officially accepted during a ceremony there last Thursday, according to Zambian media. Zambian Air Force (ZAF) commander Lieutenant General Eric Chimese said that the jets will enhance the military wing’s ability to patrol the country and safeguard its airspace.

“Increased mining and economic activities have put pressure on us to monitor who is flying in and out of the country,” he said. “In order for us to remain relevant as an air force, the significance of keeping our aircraft in a state of readiness cannot be overemphasized. As professionals, it is our duty to ensure that aircraft is maintained and ready for use whenever required.”

Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba said during handover that the government was committed to ensuring that peace continued to prevail in Zambia, the Times of Zambia reports. “In accepting the new aircraft, I wish to pledge my government’s commitment to keep the machines in optimum condition by regularly providing resources for spares. This is in an effort to improve standards in the defence forces in order to make them viable and sustainable. I urge you to make maximum use of the equipment and take care of it,” Mwamba said.

“For the lifespan of the aircraft to be guarantee, spares for maintenance need to be provided as and when required. We call upon CATIC to render due and timely support in this regard,” he added.

CATIC vice-president Liu Jianhai said his company had provided Zambia with different aircraft and other services since 1979 and was happy that the good relations between Zambia and China had continued.

In 1999 Zambia received eight K-8s in kit form. “Last year in November, we witnessed the handover of a fleet of upgraded old K-8P aircraft by CATIC. This is in addition to other machines that the government is currently in the process of sourcing from CATIC, such as helicopters,” Mwamba said. “All this underscores the wonderful relations we share.”

According to the Jane’s information group, Zambia’s air force is hampered by a lack of spares and a shortage of flying hours. Although it has sufficient capacity to transport troops and cargo, its combat capability is very limited. Transport capacity was boosted by the delivery of five Y-12 and two MA60 aircraft from China in 2006.

Indeed, China has a close relationship with Zambia, especially after signing a military cooperation protocol in 1998 regarding training of the Zambian Army. The Chinese and Zambian defence ministers met in Beijing in July 2005, agreeing to continue military co-operation.

“It must be borne in mind however that aviation equipment is by nature costly and given our delicate economic situation, re-equipping ZAF to stay abreast with technological advancements in the aviation industry will not be done overnight,” said Chimese.

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