Venezuelan Hongdu K-8VVs forward deployed in March to Isla de la Margarita (Image © AMB Milicia)

Hongdu K-8 star of Venezuelan readiness exercise on Isla de Margarita

The Hongdu K-8VV (“Karakorum”) light attack and jet trainer aircraft was the star of a recent readiness exercise by the Venezuelan Air Force, officially called the Aviación Militar Nacional Bolivariana de Venezuela.

For the occasion at least three K-8VVs forward deployed to Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi Airbase on 21 March 2015. Part of Del Caribe Santiago Mariño International Airport the base is located on the popular tourism magnet of Isla de Margarita, part of the Nueva Esparta state. Located 195 miles (315 km) east of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, the airbase is a 170 miles (270 km) away from to Grenada – the biggest next main Caribbean island – and roughly the same flying distance to Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago.

Although no data was released on the number of flights, the military militia of three islands that make up the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta got a great change of refuelling and servicing the planes, and performing the airbase services needed to make an operational deployment of the light attack planes possible.

Two squadrons
The Venezuelan Air Force ordered 26 Hongdu K-8VV Karakorum, with reportedly at least 18 operational divided over the two squadrons of Grupo Aéreo de Caza 12 (12th Air Combat Group) at LT Vicente Landaeta Gil Airbase in Barquisimeto. The official main task is close-air support and counter-insurgency, but by forwarding them for the exercise to Isla de Margarita the Venezuelan leadership also promotes the jets as defensive asset to protect its interests.

Compared to the original JL-8, the Venezuelan versions of the Chinese made aircraft have improved improved cockpit avionics, a HUD and no US controlled parts. The first Hongdu KV-8VV arrived in March 2010. Since then not everything went as smoothly as wished for, with at least three aircraft lost so far.

The JL-8 was a joint effort by China and Pakistan. Starting in 1986 the aircraft had a lot of American made parts, including the Garrett TFE-731 engine and cockpit systems. After four prototypes the initial low-rate production resulted in 24 aircraft in 1992, with six for the Pakistan Air Force and 18 for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). During the last two decades more than 500 have been produced. Pakistan operates at least 60 of them, while China has orders for 400 aircraft. Version have been exported to Egypt (118 aircraft), Myanmar (60), North Sudan (17), Zambia (15), Namibia (12), Zimbabwe (11), Bangladesh (9), Sri Lanka (7), Bolivia (6) and Ghana (4).

© 2015 editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Venezuelan Hongdu K-8VVs forward deployed in March to Isla de Margarita (Image © AMB Milicia)