Hongdu JL-8 Karakorum by Trumpeter

1/72 scale
Cost: $16.00
Decals: 3 versions (Two Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force, One Pakastani Air Force)
Comments: Highly detailed two-seat jet trainer; engraved panel lines and cockpit detail


In 1986, the governments of the People’s Republic of China and Pakistan decided on a joint venture to build, with American aid, a trainer and light attack aircraft comparable to the British Aerospace Hawk and Germany’s Dornier Alpha Jet. The result was the Hongdu Jiao Lian JL-8 (or Nanchang JL-8 and K-8 Karokorum), a two-seat basic trainer and multi-role/light attack aircraft developed by Pakistan (Pakistan Aeronautical Complex) and the People’s Republic of China (China Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation). The main contractor for the plane is the Hongdu Aviation Industry Corporation. Export versions are designated K-8 Karakorum, after the mountain range that separates China and Pakistan.

Initially, the aircraft was to feature many American parts, including a Honeywell engine and Magnavox avionics, but due to political developments at the end of the 1980s, this plan was scrapped. The K-8 export version did receive the American-made powerplant, the Honeywell TFE731-2A-2A modular turbofan engine with a digital electronic engine control (DEEC) & hydro-mechanical fuel control system. Due to U.S. sanctions against China in the wake of 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and related incidents, most Chinese versions were installed with the Ukrainian Motorsich AI-25TLK turbofan, which was later license-built in China as the WS-11. The JL-8 and K-8 share Martin-Baker Mk. 10L zero-zero ejection seats and state-of-the-art avionics systems for navigation and communication. They are expected to serve in a training capacity well into the 21st century.

The prototype JL-8 was built in 1989, with the first flight taking place on November 26, 1990. The Pakistan Air Force first received fourteen examples of the K-8 in 1994, after which it decided to order 75 more to replace its fleet of Cessna T-37 trainers. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) received its first six jets in 1998. Later Chinese upgrades included indigenous engines. The PLAAF anticipates adding more JL-8’s to its fleet in order to replace older obselete trainers.

Other nations have shown interest in the trainer, and it now also serves in the air forces of Egypt, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. While the plane primarily serves as a trainer, it can also be used in the ground-attack role. In export form the Karakorum-8 (K-8), the Basic Common Advanced Jet Trainer, is co-developed by Aircraft Manufacturing Factory (AMF), Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra, and China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC). 500 examples have been built since 1993.

The JL-8’s decals include green-and-white roundels and the star-and-crescent insignia of the Pakistani Air Force, plus markings for two different versions of China’s Peoples Liberation Army Air Force. Neither the instructions nor the decal sheet give any hint as to a specific Pakistani squadron, however.


Crew: Two pilots in tandem
Length: 11.6 m (38 ft 0 in)
Wingspan: 9.63 m (31 ft 7 in)
Height: 4.21 m (13 ft 9 in)
Empty weight: 2,687 kg (5,924 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 4,330 kg (9,546 lb)
Powerplant: Garrett/Honeywell TFE731-2A-2A turbofan, 16.01 kN (3,600 lb)

Armament: Option for 23 mm belly-mounted cannon
4 underwing hardpoints capable of 943 kg (2,078 lbs.) of ordnance, including PL-7 anti-aircraft missiles, bombs, or rockets


Maximum speed: 800 km/h (497 mph)
Range: 2,250 km (1,214 nautical miles)


The two-piece canopy is crystal clear and free of defects.

The Kit

Trumpeter’s JL-8 comes in gray and consists of 52 injection molded parts. It features engraved panel lines, highly detailed cockpit and landing gear, and boxed in wheel wells. There is engraved detail on the cockpit instrument panels and seats, and a two-piece canopy. Being primarily a trainer, it has few underwing stores except for a pair of fuel tanks and a twin barrel, 23mm cannon in a belly pod just forward of the leading edge of the wings. There are no pilot figures, and decals are provided for one of two PLAAF red and white trainers, or a more colorful red, white and blue Pakistani Air Force version.

The instructions are clear and well illustrated but contain no history whatsoever, and while high quality color illustrations are provided on a separate sheet for help with the different versions of decals, there is nothing to indicate what unit or nation is employing the different versions. Only through online research was I able to establish what Air Force the Pakistani version belonged to. Although the instructions lack historical details, this is a very detailed kit of what is now China’s primary military jet trainer, and a noteworthy addition for modelers looking to add something a little different to their inventory. Highly recommended.


  • Jane’s Aircraft Recognition Guide
  • www.sinodefence.com
  • www.wikipedia.org




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