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Czech L-159s: Cheap to Good Home

L-159A armament

Load ’em up!
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January 11/19: LOM Praha buys L-39NG The Czech company LOM Praha agreed to buy four L-39NG next generation jet training aircraft from Aero Vodochody in 2020. The order ist valued at $49.2 million. LOM Praha military aircraft maintenance, repair, overhaul, and training provider will be the launch customer for the L-39NG and has an option to buy two additional aircraft. The company’s machines are used for pilot training services. The L-39NG is a single-engine two-seated aircraft, that achieves a speed of 750 kilometers per hour. The first pre-serial machine took off for the first time last December. Serial production is scheduled to begin in 2020.

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Runway Buzz: L-159As (click to view full) Czechoslovakia originally ordered 72 of Aero Vodochody’s sub-sonic L-159A single-seat light attack jets. Their preceding L-39/59 Albatros trainer and light attack aircraft family became the world’s most popular jet trainers during the Cold War, and the L-159A Advanced Light Combat Aircraft was positioned as a modern derivative, offering […]


Runway Buzz: L-159As
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Czechoslovakia originally ordered 72 of Aero Vodochody’s sub-sonic L-159A single-seat light attack jets. Their preceding L-39/59 Albatros trainer and light attack aircraft family became the world’s most popular jet trainers during the Cold War, and the L-159A Advanced Light Combat Aircraft was positioned as a modern derivative, offering full combat capability and compatibility with western weapons. The resulting aircraft filled a useful niche for the Czechs, but its overall success always depended on exports.

Unfortunately, the Soviet Union’s demise lost the Albatros family its global market niche, and killed the military aid subsidies that had helped promote it. Worse, the L-159’s program cost grew from CZK 20-30 billion to over 51 billion Koruna. That left the Czech government in a bind. In response, they kept 24-35 jets for operational use, and have been trying to sell off 36-47 of the L-159As (one aircraft has been lost) since 2002. They also moved to privatize state-owned Aero Vodochody, which took place in November 2006.

A few 2-seat L-159T conversions have been performed with CzAF funding, as a demonstration of their potential to become dual-role trainer/attack aircraft. That has helped Aero tout the planes to Afghanistan, Bolivia, Colombia, Georgia, Indonesia, Iraq, and Nigeria. Their breakthrough, such as it is, came elsewhere.

Aero’s Market Conundrum

L-159T and L-159

L-159A on top
new L-159T below
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The L-159s are capable aircraft. They can be fitted with targeting pods and Paveway laser-guided bombs, Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and the usual assortment of guns, rockets, and conventional bombs. They can even operate from austere bases, and are easy to maintain. Countries looking for relatively low cost planes, that offer basic air patrol and advanced counterinsurgency capabilities, will find the L-159A a great fit. When touting the plane for Colombia, the firm noted that:

“An L-159 pilot can prepare and operate this user-friendly aircraft himself with no ground support. The L-159 can take off from any prepared or unprepared airstrip, during the day or night, in any weather regardless of wet or dry, hot or cold, windy or calm. A glass cockpit, equipped as the latest generation of fighters, is protected by advanced armor, Head-Up and Multi-Function Displays or Hands-On-Throttle-and-Stick concept. This gives the pilot complete confidence to successfully complete any FAC [DID: Forward Air Control targeting and attack] mission required of him.”

Aero’s difficulties stem from a variety of factors.

Supersonic snobbery. One problem is that subsonic light attack jets are often undervalued in favor of prestige buys – vid. Sri Lanka’s desire to purchase a small handful of MiG-29s, instead of acquiring far more L-159s in order to defend against terrorists in light propeller aircraft. They ended up receiving Chinese J-7s (MiG-21 copies), which have endurance issues on combat air patrols, and are even less suitable for counter-insurgency roles.

Accepted alternatives. A 2nd problem is that established entries like Brazil’s EMB-314 Super Tucano and BAE’s Hawk 109/209 already crowd the field, and have better long-term prospects in the regions likely to buy a single-seat, subsonic combat jet. The Super Tucano has always doubled as an advanced trainer, and BAE’s Hawk 209 has an array of new and used 2-seat trainer counterparts ready for sale. Aero’s L-159T variant wasn’t market-ready until 2007, and has a thin service record. Meanwhile, the L-39 and L-59 are out of production, making L-159s less attractive to countries who might have bought L-159A ALCAs along with new trainers. In recent years, Indonesia and neighboring Poland both fit the profile of countries looking for trainers with light attack capabilities, but the L-159 wasn’t a factor in either competition.

L-159 Top Armed

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Cold-blooded customers. The L-159’s 3rd problem involves Aero Vodochody’s former customer base. The Czech Republic’s happy return to the family of free nations is its own barrier to sales. Many of the Soviet Union’s former clients, who bought Albatros jets, are deservedly well-known for brutality. This meshes poorly with democratic oversight from a recently-freed people, who will protest exports that are seen as unethical. In the Soviet era, for instance, Syria’s Bashar Assad would have been shipped Czech light attack planes without a second thought, for use against any internal enemies he cared to target. In 2012, there was never any possibility of Assad receiving L-159As, even though Syria flies L-39s, and the L-159As’ near-immediate delivery would have dovetailed with Assad’s top military priority. Syria bought Russian Yak-130s instead.

The American angle. The L-159’s American military technologies, which include its avionics, Honeywell F124 engine, and most of its weapons, require US government approval for export under US ITAR laws. While the Czechs would never sell to regimes like Syria, ITAR’s price was made clear in 2009, when the USA reportedly blocked a Czech attempt to sell a handful of L-159s to Bolivia. Instead, the contract went to a regime that doesn’t ask questions: China sold Bolivia its K-8 trainer/ light attack jets instead.

To add insult to injury, Aero’s lack of a US manufacturing base left it shut out of the US-run Light Air Support contract, which bought 20 planes for the Afghan Air Force. The AAF flies L-39s, and L-159s would have been a good fit, but they’ll be receiving turboprops assembled in the USA instead.

All of this has made for slow sales.

Contracts and Key Events

2014 – 2019


L-159A armament

Load ’em up!
(click to view full)
January 11/19: LOM Praha buys L-39NG The Czech company LOM Praha agreed to buy four L-39NG next generation jet training aircraft from Aero Vodochody in 2020. The order ist valued at $49.2 million. LOM Praha military aircraft maintenance, repair, overhaul, and training provider will be the launch customer for the L-39NG and has an option to buy two additional aircraft. The company’s machines are used for pilot training services. The L-39NG is a single-engine two-seated aircraft, that achieves a speed of 750 kilometers per hour. The first pre-serial machine took off for the first time last December. Serial production is scheduled to begin in 2020.

April 25/18: Exports and upgrades with IAI Chasing fresh exports after its sale of four L-159 aircraft to the government of Senegal earlier this month, the Czech Republic’s Aero Vodochody will team with Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) to improve and market the light attack and trainer aircraft. According to the technical and marketing cooperation agreement announced Tuesday, the team will integrate new avionics and other solutions on the L-159 platform as well as jointly market the aircraft. They will also integrate IAI’s virtual training solutions as part of the L-39NG training system. Financial details were not disclosed.

April 5/17: After a 13-year production hiatus, the Czech Republic’s Aero Vodochody is reported to be in early negotiations to produce and deliver the L-159 light attack fighter to Argentina. One twin-seat L-159 was delivered to Iraq in 2016, and the firm is now looking to sell more units to both Baghdad and Buenos Ares. Argentina has been looking to purchase a cost-effective replacement for retired Dassault Mirage fighters and currently operates 22 Douglas A-4 Skyhawks and 32 FMA IA-58 Pucaras in combat roles, with 22 FMA IA-63 Pampas on order as an interim solution. Recent elections and financial constraints, however, have stalled attempts to purchase second-hand Kfir Block 60 warplanes.

February 12/16: Iraq. The first group of Iraq’s L-159 fighter pilots have completed training in the Czech Republic. The training follows the sale of 15 of the combat aircraft by the Czech government to Baghdad last March as part of attempts by Prague to sell surplus stock and to showcase their export potential. Two were delivered in 2015 with three more expected to be delivered in the first half of this year. The $29.89 million sale came after an initial pitch to sell 28 of the aircraft fell through. The L-159s will be used by Iraq to increase attack capabilities in future missions against the Islamic State.

July 15/14: Draken contract. A pair of contracts on July 4 (Cz MoD to Aero) and July 14 (Aero to Draken) will deliver 14 L-159Es to Draken International in the USA, with offsetting options that could add 7-14 more. Cost is CZK 200 – 250 million (up to $12.5 million), pending a detailed assessment of the aircraft. The options are offsetting, because the Czech government openly states that they’re still negotiating with Iraq to sell 12-15 planes (q.v. June 20/14). If Iraq buys, Draken may be capped at 21 planes. Draken International will assemble and support the L-159s themselves, with exclusive permission to market Aero’s aircraft and associated services like training in North and South America. Draken are also approved by Aero for MRO services at their facility in Lakeland, FL, and will “cooperate in tactical flight support services in Europe.” Not bad for under $13 million, and this excerpt from IHS Jane’s was very interesting:

“Speaking to IHS Jane’s, company officials stated that previous efforts to sell the Czech aircraft to customers in South America had been stymied by opposition from the US Department of State. With a US company now marketing the aircraft and involved in their production, the companies hope that previous US opposition to exports of the aircraft will be turned into support – boosting the prospect of a successful export order. The L-159 has previously been marketed to Colombia and Uruguay, among others.”

As DID has pointed out (q.v. March 17/09), American hostility to the Bolivian government is what killed that sale, and Colombia followed a regional trend in choosing Brazil’s Super Tucano instead. What’s so interesting is the apparent belief that ITAR protectionism is that much of a problem.

Draken hopes to leverage the L-159s alongside its MiG-21s, A-4s, and MB-339 jets in potential contract wins for US AFSOCOM JTAC training, USMC close air support training, and USN aggressor training. Sources: Aero Vodochody, “Aero Vodochody and Draken International signed an agreement on strategic partnership” | Draken International, “Draken International Signs Historic Agreement With Aero Vodochody & Czech Republic Ministry of Defense” | Ceske Noviny, “Aero signs contract on sale of Czech aircraft to U.S. firm” | IHS Jane’s, “Farnborough 2014: Draken buys L-159s, to market aircraft in the Americas” | Radio Praha, “Czech military signs long-awaited deal to offload surplus combat aircraft”.

Draken International: 14 + 7-14 options

June 20/14: Iraq. The Iraqi government has lost Kirkuk to the Kurds, and lost most of the northern and eastern Sunni areas to hard-line Islamist forces that are backed (for now) by local Sunni tribes. At this point, Iraq needs any flying attack platform that can be delivered quickly, and weapon compatibility with its existing armed Mi-17s would be a plus. Unsurprisingly, Czech Republic’s Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky says that they are in talks to sell 7 of their 17 Russian-built Mi-24 attack helicopters to the Iraqi Defense Ministry.

The Czechs, keen to push an advantage, are also discussing a sale of L-159 light attack jets. Aero Vodochody had lost that contract to Korea’s KAI (q.v. Dec 12/13), but the FA-50s won’t even begin arriving until 2015 – 2016. The Czechs have about 8 jets in storage that they could deliver fairly quickly, and that may be enough for Iraq’s immediate needs. If Iraq wants more, restarting the L-159 production line won’t solve their problem in time. If the Czechs divert L-159 planes directly from their own air force, on the other hand, they could offer almost immediate delivery as part of a helicopter/jet package deal. The Czechs would then be able to choose whether to refurbish the 8 stored L-159s for their own use, and/or backfill CzAF stocks with the new L-169 that’s in development. We’ll have to see what gets negotiated, if anything. Sources: Defense News, “Iraq Eyes Czech Mi 24 helos To Combat ISIL Militants”.

Jan 2/14: Approved. The Czech government approves the sale of 28 L-159s to US training firm Draken International (q.v. Nov 29/13), and releases details. The sale breaks down as 24 intact aircraft, plus 4 broken down for use as spares. Draken will have to pay Aero Vodochody for any work involved in restoration to operational condition, and the price will fall somewhere between $21.72 – $25.8 million, depending on the condition of the 24 planes.

The Czech government touts this as a good deal, and cites a 2012 public tender for 8 planes whose highest offer was just 1/3 as much per plane. Technically, legalities mean that the buy is being conducted through Aero, which isn’t receiving a commission for its role but can expect support contracts. Another 8 L-159s are left in Czech storage as immediate delivery options, and Aero Vodochody has suggested that the Draken deal could boost the L-159’s export potential in Latin America. The firm wants to stay in the military jet business:

“Aero [also] announced in December that it wants to develop the L-169, a new fighter/trainer jet to follow on from the L-159. One of the major advantages of the new model should be extra fuel capacity which will increase the plane’s range by around 600 kilometers compared with the current versions. Other updates and modifications could easily be added on, according to the manufacturer, with 2015 earmarked as a possible launch date for the new plane.”

Sources: Czech Ministerstvo obrany, “Vlada schvalila prodej letounu L-159, prodlouzeni pronajmu gripenu prerusila” | Radio Prague, “Czech government approves deal to offload excess fighter jets”.

Draken International deal approved, L-169?

2012 – 2013

Stalled deal in Iraq; Offer to Poland withdrawn; Renewed interest from Colombia; Possible sale to an American training firm.


Czech L-159As
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Dec 12/13: Iraq. Iraq signs a $1.1 billion deal to buy 24 FA-50 light fighters from Korea Aerospace Industries, and KAI expects a 25-year, $1 billion support deal to follow shortly. These “T-50IQs” will reportedly serve double duty as the IqAF’s advanced jet trainers, once pilots graduate from Iraq’s T-6B turboprops.

The deal is a big save for KAI, after Aero’s L-159T was apparently picked. Increased instability in the region may have helped revive their interest, as it will take more than the IqAF’s 36 ordered F-16IQs to provide even reasonable airspace control. A supersonic “F-16 lite” provides Iraq with better air defense, though it may come at the cost of some counterinsurgency strike performance relative to the L-159. Sources: Korea Times, “Korea exports 24 attack jets to Iraq” | Reuters, “S.Korea’s KAI sells fighter jets worth $1.1 billion to Iraq” | Yonhap, “S. Korea to export 24 FA-50 light attackers to Iraq”.

Iraq loss

Nov 29/13: Draken International. The Czech government and Aero Vodochody confirm that they’re pursuing 3-party negotiations to sell up to 28 surplus L-159As to the US military training firm Draken International Inc. The base price would be around CZK 434.4 million (about $21.5 million) toal, which is very low, but would relieve the government of storage costs. Interest is described as serious, and if a contract can be finalized, the Ministry plans to submit relevant export documents to the Czech government early in 2014.

The Lakeland, FL firm owns the largest fleet of privately owned tactical aircraft in the world, and already operates 5 L-39s alongside 23 ex-Polish MiG-21bis/UM supersonic fighters, 11 ex-RNZAF A-4K Skyhawks (modernized to F-16 MLU equivalent interior), and 9 ex-RNZAF MB-339CB trainers. The MiG-21s offer unique capabilities, but 28 L-159s could make the L-139s, MB-339CBs, and even the A-4Ks expendable. That would allow the firm to sell its spares inventories and/or airframes, while consolidating support costs onto a newer and more economical platform. An L-159 buy could also serve as the catalyst for a firm expansion, as all of Draken’s inventory is new. The firm only began flying fighters in April 2013. Sources: Aero Vodochody, “L-159 sale under negotiations” | Czech MoD, “Tiskova konference ministra obrany”.

Nov 14/13: Colombia, again. Colombia bought 25 “Drakos”/ Super Tucano tuboprops in 2005 as training and counterinsurgency aircraft, but they don’t seem to have that type on the shortlist to replace their aged Cessna A-37 Dragonfly light strike jets and Rockwell OV-10 Bronco armed Forward Air Control platforms. Instead, initial candidates are reportedly all jets: the L-159, BAE Systems’ Hawk (which also comes in light attack versions), and the Alenia/Embraer AMX. Brazil’s AMX fleet are receiving upgrades, but the type is out of production, and was only sold to Brazil and Italy. One wonders whether the Italians are looking to sell their fleet. Sources: IHS Jane’s 360, “Colombia looks to procure new fighter type”.

June 10/13: Poland. Aero Vodochody publicly drops out of the Polish competition. The reasons are simple: Poland was changing specifications, and demanded a bank guarantee of over CZK 180 million (about $9.4 million) without clearly saying what would cause forfeiture, and wasn’t responding to their questions. Aero adds that:

“Terms of the tender documents were not sufficiently specified, the tender specification was ambiguous and contained contradictory information, even errors, which the authority admitted [but did not fix]…. The tender documentation was by the Polish party continuously changed, the latest changes came shortly before bids submission [on June 7/13] and some of them were not delivered in writing by the closing date for tender bidding.”

If true, “unprofessional” would be a fair term for Poland’s handling of their competition. The tender later stalled, and won’t see an award until some time in 2014.

May 15/13: L-159. After a top-level meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas announces that a series of Czech government ministries had teamed up to make a comprehensive offer of Aero’s L-159 to Poland, for its trainer and light attack tender. The L-159 would be new to the competition, which is currently on its 2nd go-round. Necas added that:

“This [potential sale] enjoys the full support of the Czech government; we are prepared to provide even the planes the military of the Czech Republic owns for training…”

That could be very useful, given the state of Poland’s TS-11 trainers, and the Czech Republic is certainly a convenient location. Prague Post. Read “Poland Seeks Advanced Jet Trainers/ Light Fighters” for full coverage.

Feb 22/13: Iraq. Czech media are saying that the Iraqi L-159 deal has failed, implying that Aero Vodochody doesn’t want to invest in an entire production line for 24 planes. That’s an odd explanation, since the company presumably understood the contract it signed.

Aero CEO Ladislav Simek has confirmed that the contract hasn’t taken effect yet, though some preparatory steps have been taken within the supply chain. Meanwhile, they’re negotiating “some commercial and technical details,” and a new contract might be expected, including the accompanying weapon deals.

Talk of a new contract is a significant setback. Former Czech defense minister Alexandr Vondra makes a point about needing “patience, patience and patience again… [with Arabs, who] have a different notion of time than we in Europe.” Even so, Iraq needs to grow its air force, and delaying too long will create problems. Prague Monitor | Read “Iraq’s New Trainers: The Czech Is On The Way” for full coverage.

Nov 23/12: Crash. A CzAF L-159 crashes while returning to Caslav air base in Kolin, central Bohemia. from a training session when it crashed in a field west of Kolín shortly before six pm on Thursday, bursting into flames on impact.

The plane had just 800 hours of flight time on the air frame, with no problems registered, and had received regular maintenance just 30 hours beforehand. The 34-year old pilot, who was killed in the accident, had over 1,000 flight hours to his credit, with at least half in the L-159. It’s just the 2nd crash in the fleet’s history, but the fleet is temporarily grounded as a precautionary measure. Sources: Radio Prague, “Plane crash sees fleet of L-159 fighter jets grounded”.


Oct 12/12: Iraq. Iraq signs a $1 billion deal with the Czech Republic to deliver 28 L-159 trainers and light attack aircraft, and train Iraq’s pilots. Local Iraqi TV says that they’ll also set up a T-72 tank upgrade facility within Iraq, which may have been the decisive edge that helped them clinch the L-159 deal.

Aero Vodochody has confirmed that all of Iraq’s planes will be 2-seaters. The initial 4 will be converted from stored L-159As to L-159T trainers, retaining their previous attack and air policing capabilities. Those 4 are scheduled to arrive within 7 months. Another 24 new 2-seat L-159BQ jets will be delivered later, built to Iraq’s full specifications. They’re expected to begin arriving within 26 months, which is to say by December 2014.

Iraq is beginning to have obvious trouble with its airspace, as flights from Iran to Syria are taking place without any ability to stop them. It’s a convenient excuse for buying the jets, anyway. Iraq’s government, and its Shi’ite majority, both remember the Sunni Muslim terrorists who infiltrated Iraq from Syria, and caused so much trouble during the civil war. A government of those people next door is seen as an even worse outcome than Assad, though other factions within Iraq will see this situation differently. Meanwhile, Iraq needs advanced jet trainers, and also needs aircraft that can back up its handful of F-16s in basic air policing and ground attack roles after 2014. Aero Vodochody pre-announcement | Ceske Noviny in Czech and English | Agence France Presse | AP | Lebanon’s Daily Star | Russia’s RIA Novosti.

Iraq: 28 L-159s

Jan 24/12: Iraq. In the wake of a visit by Iraqi defense minister Sadoon Al-Dulaim, the Czech Ministry of Defence says that:

“The Iraqi Defence Minister did assure me that the Republic of Iraq is still interested in this type of aircraft,” [Czech defense minister Alexsandr] Vondra said, adding that besides the L-159s he offered support with training of ground and flying personnel, capabilities of VOP Sternberk [DID: link to company website added], education of Iraqi students at the University of Defence in Brno and experience in the field of protection against mass destruction weapons, and demining capabilities as well.”

In other words, no decision has been made. In the L-159’s favor, Iraq is a former L-39 customer, who needs ready jet trainers and light combat aircraft in a hurry. It has no serious combat aircraft of its own yet, and the failure of the US government to secure an agreement that would have kept the USAF on station leaves the defense of its airspace in question. In the medium term, it also needs a jet trainer to act as a last-stage lead-in for its future F-16 pilots.

June 2011: Iraq. Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that the Iraqis may have made an oil-for-aircraft deal to buy Korean T-50 family jet trainers, some of which could also serve as effective light fighters. If so, this indicates serious budget issues, and makes the reported deal for Aero Vodochody L159T jet trainers questionable. Will the L-159’s potential Iraq deal become yet another canceled Czech?

2009 – 2011

Deal with Bolivia blocked. EADS swap.


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May 23/11: Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says that a deal for Czech L-159s is close after a meeting with his Czech counterpart Petr Necas. This is the first trip to Iraq by a Czech prime minister since Saddam Hussein’s government fell in 2003, and the delegation also includes Czech Defence Minister Vondra. L-159 negotiations were described as “intensive” but not final in Czech newspapers.

The Czech delegation is busy with a range of initiatives, and one noteworthy non-defense deal involves Czech-made Zetor tractors, once known in Iraq under the Antar trademark, and license-built in Iskandariya, Iraq. A deal appears set to re-open that assembly line, and the size of Iraq’s agriculture sector makes it an attractive opportunity on its own merits – even if Zetor/Antar isn’t done as a defense deal industrial offset. Ceska Pozike | Ceske Noviny || Russia’s RIA Novosti.

April 19/11: Iraq. After a meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in Prague, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg confirms that:

“The Czech Republic will offer Iraq L-159 combat aircraft, and we are also ready to take part in the upgrading of Iraqi [Mi-17] helicopters, [which the Czechs also fly].”

Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas will visit Iraq on May 23-24/11 to promote closer economic cooperation with Baghdad and sign an agreement on mutual protection of investments. Ceske Noviny | Russia’s RIA Novosti.

Oct 25/10: Iraq. Prague Monitor and Iraq Business report that the Czech Republic might sell up to 25 used Aero L-159d to Iraq. Iraq has been holding a competition for 24 jet trainers between Korea’s T-50, the UK’s Hawk, and Italy’s M-346.

If the L-159 has become a focus, rather than just a competitor, it’s likely that the price of new aircraft proved prohibitive, and that Iraq is now looking at value over newness. Time will tell.

April 20/09: EADS Swap. A deal is finalized with EADS. The Czech government will buy 3 C-295M light transports, and exchange 5 L-159s for a 4th C-295M. Flight and ground maintenance training are included in the package, and the deal has been approved by the resigning Czech government. The ministry has reportedly set aside CZK 3.5 billion ($73 million equivalent) for the whole project, with delivery expected between 2009 – 2011. Read “Czechs Replacing Their Airlift Fleet.”

Ceske Noviny adds that the Defense Ministry is negotiating with the USA for 4 C-130 Hercules medium tactical transports, with the aim of buying 2 in flyable condition and 2 as a source of spares. This implies that the aircraft would be used C-130H models, rather than the new C-130J.

EADS swap: 5 L-159s

March 17/09: The pro-government La Prensa newspaper reports that the USA has refused export permission for the L159’s to Bolivia. The cited source is a Ministry of Defense spokesman.

Under American law, military exports also require US government permission for any resale. That includes the American equipment installed in these jets. Evo Morales is a close ally of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, hence hostile to the United States. Read “Czechs Bounce, So Bolivia Goes Chinese” for more.

No Bolivia deal

Jan 13/09: Bolivia’s air force declares that it will purchase 5 single-seat L-159 light attack fighters and a twin-seat L-159T under the Air Surveillance and Control modernization program. Bolivian President Evo Morales has signed decree 29852, an order that includes the 6 planes, a flight simulator, pilot and maintenance training, spare parts, and other standard support.

Despite Morales’ ties to volatile Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, American consent was reportedly forthcoming for re-export of the L-159’s advanced electronics. The deal was reportedly worth $57.9 million, and will be paid in 4 installments: $11 million in 2009, and 3 more $15.6 million payments from 2010-2012. After that report, however, matters became less clear very quickly.

Bolivia: 6 L-159s

2006 – 2008

First flight and deliveries.

AN-26 Czech Runway

Czech AN-26
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March 28/08: Bolivia. The Czech daily Lidove Noviny reports that the 6-month negotiations with Bolivia have failed, because the country does not have enough money for the 6-10 planes planes involved. Ceske Noviny report [English].

Nov 23/07: AERO Vodochody a.s. officially delivers all 4 L-159 advanced training aircraft, version T1, to the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic. Aero Vodochody.

4 L-159Ts delivered

July 2007: EADS swap? The The Prague Monitor reported that the jets’ eventual fate may be a swap for transport aircraft. Discussions were reportedly underway with EADS-CASA around an exchange for the C-295M light transport aircraft that serves with a number of air forces around the world. The Czech Republic’s Soviet-era AN-26 “Curl” aircraft are wearing out quickly, and will need to be replaced by 2015.

March 8/07: L-159T. First flight of the new L-159T1. Aero Vodochody.

L-159T 1st flight

Jan 29/07: L-159T. AERO Vodochody a.s. finishes assembly of the 1st of 4 L-159T1 two-seat training aircraft for the Czech Air Force (CzAF). First flight is planned for March. Aero Vodochody.

June 26/06: L-159T. AERO Vodochody a.s. signs a contract with the Czech Republic to rebuild 4 L-159As into L-159T trainer aircraft, plus related spare parts delivery, ground support equipment and documentation, and schooling of the ground and flight personnel.

Czechs: 4 L-159As to T model

Additional Readings & Sources

Thanks to subscriber Inigo Guevara, author of Harpia Publishing’s Latin American Fighters, and Iraq Order of Battle author DJ Elliott, for their assistance.

* Czech Ministry of Defence – Subsonic Aircraft L-159 ALCA .

* Aero Vodochody – L-159 Program.

* DID – Iraq’s New Trainers: The Czech Is On The Way. Apparently not… Iraq eventually bought TA-50s from Korea.

* DID – Czechs bounce, So Bolivia Goes Chinese.

* DID (Nov 2/06) – Czech Government Sells AERO Stake for $587M.

* DID (July 5/06) – Czechs Modify 4 Albatross, Tout The Plane to Colombia.

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