Hongdu JL-8 is an intermediate jet trainer aircraft. The K-8P is Pakistan specific variant which is manufactured by Aircraft Manufacturing Factory (AMF) in Pakistan Aeronautical Complex under license. In Pakistan, K-8’s are employed in Advanced Jet Training Wing at Pakistan Airforce Academy Asghar Khan to provide training to PAF Cadet Pilots after they complete their Primary Flight Training on Mushak and basic flight training on Cessna T-37 Tweety. After completing their advance jet training (AJT) general duty pilots go for fighter conversion in fighter conversion unit (FCU).
The K-8 is powered by Garrett TFE731-2A-2A turbofan engine, it gives a top speed of 800km/h, it can climb up to 45,000ft with a climb rate of 100ft per second. The K-8 has a range of 2100kms plus and endurance of 4.5 hours. It has a full glass cockpit enclosed with a plastic bubble-shaped canopy. Large multifunction displays are fitted at the front and back. Heads up display (HUD) is present in some K-8 aircraft that assist in aiming weapons and flight characteristics display. It has two tandem seats to accommodate student and instructor pilot, It has a good field of view. Seats are Martin-Baker MK-10L zero zero ejection seats. K-8 incorporates Rockwell Collins EFIS-86 (Electronic flight instruments system), VHF/UHF radios and navigation avionics.
The K-8 has 5 hardpoints and can carry over a 1000kg of payload. 23mm cannon pod can be mounted on centreline hardpoint below the fuselage. 2 hardpoints on each wing can carry a variety of armaments including rocket pods and unguided bombs. It can also carry Infrared homing within visual range air to air missiles. K-8 can be employed to combat role both air to air and air to ground, but as per available information, it does not incorporate any countermeasures, neither active nor passive. It is not known whether it can carry any countermeasure pod or countermeasure dispenser externally.
There are over 80 K-8s operational in PAF, in Pakistan Airforce Academy Asghar Khan Risalpur where PAF cadet pilots are trained. Another most notable unit comprising K-8s is PAF’s No.1 “ Rahbars “ Fighter Conversion Squadron and Sherdils aerobatics team of PAF. K-8s are flown in combat training exercises and was also spotted flying from Civilian highways as part of PAF’s High Mark exercises. In the last High Mark exercise, it was seen flying with two Aim-9 missiles on its wing pylons. It has also been spotted multiple times in the air to ground firing exercises. This clearly indicates PAF is willing to employ its K-8 fleet to combat duties in case of requirements. In High Mark exercise it was spotted carrying Aim-9 sidewinder missiles that indicates PAF might put its K-8s to interception missions as well however K-8 cannot match the performance of a fighter jet but it can very well outmatch UAVs and Helicopters.