The Czech Republic has received three new L-159T2 light attack/trainer aircraft from manufacturer Aero Vodochody, a modified variant of the twin-seat version of the type that will replace the incumbent L-39ZA and provide the air force with a more suitable trainer for its fleet of Gripen C/D fighters.
Set to replace the aging L-39ZA fleet at the 21st Tactical Air Force Base at Čáslav this year, the L-159T2 carried out its first flight in August 2018. The new jet is an upgraded two-seater variant of the L-159, three of which were committed to under a 2016 contract and were officially handed over at Aero’s Odolena Voda site on June 4.
The L-159T2 has a new central and forward fuselage, while the rest of the structure is comprised of repurposed single-seat Czech examples. It includes fuel system improvements, night-vision-goggle compatibility, and Leonardo’s Grifo radar that is already integrated into the single-seat version of the aircraft.
Furthermore, the cockpit has a multi-function display and upgraded version of the VS-20 ejection seat, while the aircraft offers single-point pressure refueling capability and carries self-protection systems in the form of countermeasures and a radar warning receiver.
All of this makes the L-159T2 more representative of the fleet of Gripens that student pilots move into.
“The takeover of the L-159T2 represents an important milestone for the Czech air force,” said Col. Petr Tománek, commander of the 21st tactical air force base Čáslav. “The two-seat version of this aircraft will be used for advanced training of young pilots. It will enable them to switch faster to supersonic Gripens.”
Aero Vodochody said that the order includes ground equipment, software, spare parts, and training of ground and flight personnel.
"Delivery of the L-159T2 is an important step in the L-159 program because it significantly expands the capability and technological maturity of this advanced training and combat platform,” said Dieter John, president and CEO of Aero Vodochody. “I believe the L-159T2 service in the Czech air force will confirm the high quality of the aircraft.”
Prague originally ordered 74 L-159s in the 1990s, but later reduced this to just 24, with the remaining aircraft put into storage, and these were subsequently sold to customers including Iraq. Following the production of a one-off twin-seat new-build L-159 for Iraq in 2016 as a result of a shortage in stored aircraft available, Aero Vodochody reinitiated production of the type after a 13-year hiatus, which led onto the development of the L-159T2.
Aero Vodochody was once a prolific manufacturer of aircraft, but following the dissolution of the defense industry when communism ended in the country in the late 1980s, it struggled to regain a presence on the international stage. This was until a few years ago when Penta Investments took over control of the company and brought in new management to facilitate a resurgence in aerospace manufacturing.
Since then, Aero Vodochody has teamed with Israel Aerospace Industries to develop the F/A-259 Striker derivative of the L-159 that includes a new avionics suite and wet wing capability, while in October 2018 it rolled out the new L-39NG light attack/trainer aircraft, the first new type to be produced by the company since the introduction of the L-159 in 1997.
The L-39NG is derived from the L-39 Albatros that gained popularity with many air forces the world over in the 1970s through 1990s, but benefits from a Williams International FJ44-4M engine and Genesys Aerosystems avionics suite. Certification is targeted for the end of 2019.