Venezuela Receives 6 K-8s From China

CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP)- The Venezuelan Air Force has received the first six of an order for 18 K-8 Karakorum trainer, or light attack, planes from China, along with control systems to maintain the aircraft.

“Because we are going to transform Venezuela into an economic, social, moral and technological power, we require the ability to defend [ourselves],” President Hugo Chavez said in a March 13 ceremony as he praised his country’s friendship with “socialist and revolutionary China.”

The Venezuelan and Chinese governments negotiated the acquisition in late 2008 as part of Caracas’ move to modernize and replace its aging fleet, which is largely based on U.S. technology.

The K-8s are two-seater aircraft that can reach 40,000 feet. They can be equipped with machine guns and light bombs. The K-8s were jointly developed by China and Pakistan to support ground operations.

Gen. Jorge Arevalo, a regional military commander, said last year that China would make three deliveries of the warplanes in 2010, starting with this first installment.

Russia, China and Belarus are Venezuela’s main military suppliers.

Last year, Caracas said it had obtained a $2.2 billion line of credit from Russia to purchase nearly 100 T-72 tanks and a series of anti-aircraft rocket systems from its strategic ally.