Czech airframer Aero Vodochody—which built its first aircraft in 1919—has received EU/NATO certification to EMAR 21 standards for its L-39NG new-generation trainer/light attack jet in the baseline trainer version. The program began in 2014 and the first of four prototypes flew in December 2018. The second followed a year later, while the other two performed static and fatigue testing, which the company completed in July last year.
Aero Vodochody now has the first examples in serial production for launch customer Vietnam, which is buying 12 for advanced and weapons training. It will complete the first two before the end of the year, although one will initially be retained in the Czech Republic for the supplemental type certification flights associated with the armed version. The other will be used for initial maintainer training before both get handed over to Vietnam's air force in 2023.
Hungary, which has ordered 12 for training and as light attackers, follows. Four of them will be configured for reconnaissance/forward air control with an L3 Wescam MX-15E electro-optic turret mounted beneath the fuselage in a permanent installation. A further order from a third customer is due to be announced soon.
In another development, Aero Vodochody signed an MoU this week with U.S. company Patriots Global Training, which has used first-generation L-39s for 22 years to provide military pilot training, including for the U.S. Air Force’s partner nation training program. That effort could expand to as many as 250 aircraft, and Patriots is pitching the L-39NG as an ideal, cost-effective training mount for this requirement. The MoU covers the establishment of a regional maintenance and upgrade hub for L-39s and, if an order was large enough, the aircraft could be manufactured in the U.S.
Although it shares its external shape with the original L-39, of which nearly 3,000 were built, the NG is essentially an all-new aircraft. It is powered by a Williams International FJ44-4M turbofan and features a Martin-Baker CZ16H ejection seat, 15,000-hour airframe life, single-piece forward canopy, and new avionics. The latter include state-of-the-art training functions such as virtual radar and the simulation of mission systems and weapons.
The baseline L-39NG has two underwing hardpoints for drop tanks, while the armed version has a centerline and four underwing hardpoints for weapons carriage, including a centerline gun installation such as FN Herstal’s HMP 0.5-in a machine gun pod. Total payload is 1,650 kilograms.