Aero Finally Shifts Surplus L-159 Jets

 - July 29, 2014, 4:30 PM
The Czech air force ordered 72 L-159s, but took delivery of only 28. Maker Aero Vodochody has found customers for the surplus aircraft. (photo: David Donald)

Czech airframer Aero Vodochody has confirmed two customers for most, possibly all, of the L-159 advanced light combat aircraft (ALCA) that were surplus to Czech air force requirements. American tactical flight support contractor Draken International will acquire up to 28 aircraft, redesignated L-159E. Meanwhile, a deal with Iraq finally reached the contract stage last month, an Aero Vodochody spokesman told AIN at the Farnborough Air Show. He declined to specify the number of L-159s involved–although a total of 28 was envisaged when the deal was first announced in October 2012.

Aero built 72 single-seat L-159s in the late 1990s, powered by a Honeywell F124 turbofan and equipped that company’s cockpit displays, plus a Fiar (now Selex) Grifo-L fire control radar, and electronic warfare systems. But as the Czech air force downsized, only 24 L-159s entered service. Aero subsequently marketed a tandem-seat L-159B version as an advanced jet trainer, without success, except that in 2007, the Czech air force agreed to take six more L-159s that were converted to two-seat configuration and designated L-159T.

Draken International, based in Lakeland, Fla., claims to operate the largest privately owned fleet of ex-military aircraft in the world–a mix of A-4 Skyhawks, Aermacchi MB-339s and MiG-21s. The company is also Aero Vodochody’s distributor and MRO for the Americas, where a significant number of L-39 Albatros two-seat jet trainers are flying with private owners. The Aero Vodochody spokesman told AIN that Draken had agreed to acquire 14 L-159s (including two for spares) and to take options on another 14.

Draken International CEO Jared Isaacman said, “These aircraft will be at the forefront of the advanced commercial air services industry in the U.S. and for our allies abroad.” With Aero’s help, Draken will seek contracts for tactical flight support throughout Europe. The company claims that it can cost-effectively replace frontline combat aircraft on such tasks as “Red Air” (for example, enemy aircraft simulation), training of forward air controllers, chase flights and R&D flights.

At Farnborough, Aero Vodochody announced a new version of the L-39 powered by a Williams FJ44 turbofan and designated L-39NG.