China has delivered its first six Hongdu K-8 jet trainers to Venezuela, which has expressed interest in acquiring more and also buying the company's more advanced L-15 model.

A delivery ceremony was held at an air base outside Barquisimeto city on 13 March, with President Hugo Chavez as guest of honour.

China Aviation Industry Corporation, which makes the K-8, says the other 12 aircraft on order for the nation's air force will be delivered in July.

Speaking during the delivery event, Chavez said Venezuela plans to buy as many as 40 K-8s, and is also considering buying L-15 advanced jet trainers and other equipment from China.

 Hongdu K-8
 © Rex Features
China has delivered its first six Hongdu K-8 jet trainers to Venezuela

Chavez says the USA's 2006 arms embargo against the country has led it to turn to China and Russia instead. Venezuela in recent years has also bought Sukhoi Su-30MK fighters from Moscow.

Although delivered for training purposes, the single-engined K-8 can also be used as a light attack aircraft. Venezuela's air force uses Rockwell OV-10 Broncos in this role, which it plans to retire.

Its current trainer fleet includes Embraer EMB-312s and 1960s-era Aermacchi SF260s.

Source: Flight International