Speculation grows around China’s first FTC-2000G export

The global aviation industry and associated communities are buzzing around speculation that either Cambodia or Myanmar is the first export customer for China’s domestically produced FTC-2000G multi-role fighter/jet trainer aircraft.

Speculation started to grow following a report in English-language daily Chinese newspaper, Global Times, stating that the Guizhou Aviation Industry Corporation (GAIC) – the type’s manufacturer – had received its first export contract from an unnamed Southeast Asian nation.

The report did not disclose how much the contract was worth or how many examples the nation had ordered. It only stated that the deal was signed in January and that the first FTC-2000Gs will be handed over early next year, with deliveries concluding in 2023.

In terms of the speculation surrounding Cambodia and Myanmar as the potential export customer, both nations have political interests aligned with China and the air arms of each nation operate Chinese-produced military aircraft. 

FTC-2000G [GAIC] #1
The FTC-2000G in flight. GAIC

The Toap Akas Khemarak Phoumin/Force Aérienne Royale Cambodge (Royal Cambodian Air Force) employs two Y-12 II Turbo Panda twin-engine light transport aircraft and 11 Z-9 Haitun utility helicopters – both of which are produced by China’s Harbin Aviation Industry Corporation. It also operates three Xi’an Aircraft Manufacturing Company (XAMC) MA60s in a medium-lift transport role.

Myanmar operates a lot more Chinese-produced aircraft. The Tatmadaw Lei (Myanmar Air Force, MAF) currently employs four Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation/Pakistan Aircraft Corporation (CAC/PAC) JF-17A Thunder multi-role fighters – with a further 12 aircraft reportedly on order. It also has a pair of two-seat JF-17Bs in its inventory. The air arm also operates at least 30 CAC F-7IIK Airguard fighters – licence-built versions of the Soviet-era Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbed. Alongside the F-7IIKs, the nation employs at least ten examples of a trainer variant, known as the FT-7M. The MAF’s fleet also incorporates four Y-12 IV Turbo Pandas.

Myanmar is also a major operator of Hongdu Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG)-manufactured aircraft, employing at least ten A-5C Fantan ground-attack aircraft along with at least one example of the two-seat Q-5J conversion trainer variant. The MAF also operates other HAIG products in the form of between 30 and 50 PT-6 basic trainers, up to 12 K-8 Karakorum intermediate jet trainers and 18 examples of the more advanced K-8W variant. The service also operates three Shaanxi Aircraft Company (SAC) Y-8D and a single Y-8F-200W Pegasus medium-lift transports – which are based on the Antonov An-12 Cub

Speculation over the recent sale suggests that Cambodia is the inaugural export customer for the FTC-2000G, having just spent approximately US$40m on Chinese military equipment. Meanwhile, with disputes ongoing regarding territorial waters in the region between China and nations including Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines, Myanmar has become increasingly aligned on the side of the smaller nations – leaving Cambodia as the more likely customer. 

The FTC-2000G successfully completed it first flight on September 28, 2018 and made is public debut at Airshow China in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, that same year. Domestically, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has operated an earlier variant of the FTC-2000, known locally as the JL-9, since 2010. Currently the air arm has more than 50 examples in service. GAIC’s FTC-2000G is an improved version of the original platform with additional multi-role capabilities.