Trumpeter 1/72 Hongdu JL-8/K-8 Karakorum

KIT #: 01636
PRICE: 55 yuan RMB
DECALS: 3 options


This little jet trainer started out as a joint program between China and Pakistan - hence the name Karakorum, referring to the Himalayan region where both countries share a border. Originally it would have had some US technology, including engines, but the Chinese government put an end to that with its brutal crackdown on unarmed students in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Subsequent Western arms embargoes meant it had to look elsewhere to finish this plane. The JL-8 is the Chinese version, and the K-8/K-8P are the export versions. China has upgraded its own fleet since the first ones came into service in the mid 1990s.

In recent years, China has sown up a lot of relationships with resource-rich African countries while the West bogged itself down in expensive, lengthy conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though the tide is turning a bit, as the African states discover the downsides to massive Chinese investment, China still has the lead on that continent. It's sold a few of these jets there too - Zambia has 15, pariah-state Zimbabwe picked up 11, and Namibia, Ghana, and Sudan also have a few examples. Because they are simple and cheap to run, and carry 23mm cannon, they are the ideal type of aircraft for basic counter-insurgency operations that repressive governments like Zimbabwe might get involved in. Back in Asia, the Burmese government used its K-8s in this way against the Kachin rebels in the northern winter of 2012-13. Sri Lanka, Bolivia and Venezuela have also ordered small numbers.

The biggest users will eventually be China (120 of 400 delivered), Pakistan (about 100 ordered in total) and Egypt, which has about 120 licence built examples.

The Zambian Air Force is a small air arm with, sources suggest, a low servicability rate. It has on its roster a mix of Mig-21s, 15 K-8s, ancient Macchi 326s, and 23 Y-12 Chinese cargo planes.


This was previewed a while back, right here on MM. Paraphrasing the preview, I can say it's nicely moulded with none of the love-them-or-hate-them Trumpeter rivets and nicely engraved detailing as well. It has a nicely done cockpit with raised detailing on the instruments and side consoles and decent seats with moulded in harness detail. Wheel wells are nicely moulded as are the inside of the gear doors. Typical of many jet kits, the nose wheel is moulded in with the nose gear for added strength. Not much to put under the wings and fuselage though there are two fuel tanks for the wings and an integral gun pod for the centerline. The clear bits are quite clear and so your interior work will be quite visible.

Instructions are well done with Gunze and generic references. Markings are where you'll spend a lot of time. The full color decal and painting guide has three options. Two are Chinese planes with lots of red on a white fuselage. One is the demonstrator or perhaps the prototype as shown on the box art. The second is a more standard looking trainer. The third is a Pakistani plane that looks to be with their display team. While the major blue bits for the scheme are provided as decals, the equally difficult to paint red parts are not.

Really, Trumpeter? Blue but not red? Thanks for that!


This is a nice kit. Obviously I am not expert on the type - I've only seen one in real life at the museum in Beijing and I expect that was a prototype. But the kit looks like the plane. Starting with the cockpit tub, which has nice decals for the various instrument panels, you can put the airframe together pretty quickly. Remember to put the tailpipe in, and the front wheel bay, before you seal everything up. Don't forget a bit of nose weight.

Fit is pretty nice. The intakes give a little grief, but no more than the intakes on just about any other kit I've ever built. A bit of sanding gets them into shape fast enough. Very little putty or sanding is needed anywhere else.

The canopy, nice and clear, is also a good fit. It comes in two pieces. I needed just a tiny bit of filler in the join towards the front, basically in the area where the two pieces meet.

In summary, this goes together with all the ease you'd expect of any modern kit.


Good luck masking those red bits on any of the kit's included schemes, I thought. So I looked around online for alternative versions. There was once a decal sheet for "exotic" K-8s, but the company (El Presidente) seems out of action. By googling for K-8 decals, I found an image of the cover sheet, and decided that the Zambian camo scheme was the coolest (see the profile linked in the references). I fished through my supply of spare decals and decided I had enough to get away with a reasonably close set of markings.

After googling as many pictures of the Zambian planes as I could find, I settled on a rough camo scheme and colours. Though the pictured planes are mostly at least semi-gloss, I went with matt because that's what I had and because that's what those planes will look like before too long! The yellow colour is Tamiya Dark Sand XF-60, the black is Tamiya matt black, and the green is Gunze 303. Should have used a bolder, slightly lighter green.

Underneath, I used a semi-gloss white spraycan from Tamiya. It is, perhaps, a little glossy compared to topsides.

The markings are cobbled together from my modest supply of spare decals and modded a bit with paint. That 828 on the side used to read 902.

The model is missing the Zambian tail flash. All the bits of spare decal I had in the proper colours kept ripping or disintegrating, so after a few frustrating hours, I gave up. Sorry!


This is actually a really good kit. Trumpeter doesn't always hit the mark, at least by the standards of a lot of modellers. But this one, apart from the stupid approach to the decals, bucks that trend and it is a great little kit which I am really glad I bought, and built.


Richard F

December 2014 

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page