Czechs Modify 4 Albatross, Tout The Plane to Colombia
The L-159 is the Czech Republic’s subsonic, fully westernized successor to the popular L-39 trainer & light attack aircraft. The Czech government ordered and built 72 of these aircraft as the backbone of its air force, most of which were single-seat versions. Now that the Czechs fly the JAS-39 Gripen, the entry at GlobalSecurity.org, and the Czech government’s own L-159 page all report that the Czech Republic has been trying to get out of a procurement bind since 2002 by selling off 47 of these aircraft and keeping 24 for operational use (one aircraft has been lost, for a total of 72).
Recently, L-159 manufacturer AERO Vodochody a.s. (AERO) signed a contract with the Czech Ministry of Defense to modify 4 of its operational L-159s into two-seat versions, to be delivered to the Czech Air Force (CzAF) during the year 2007. As AERO’s release notes, this effort will demonstrate the Albatross’ convertability into 2-seat versions that might be suitable for competitions like Israel’s trainer RFP. Or for Forward Air Control (FAC) and attack missions by countries like Colombia, as combat experience demonstrates that a second pilot makes a big difference to an aircraft’s ability to spot and prosecute fleeting targets in a FAC role. Given the aging and difficult-to-support status of Colombia’s Vietnam-era A-37 Dragonfly jets, the L-159 may represent an opportunity… at least, AERO thinks so, and their release has some interesting passages:
“L-159 Effective for 21st Century Threats” states:
“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 mission required of him.”
The release also stresses the plane’s suitability for Colombia’s “hot and high” conditions, and notes the advanced nature and quality of the aircraft’s training and support system.
We’re not sure if the Colombians are actively looking for a light attack/FAC aircraft – though their recent purchase of Brazilian Super Tucano/ALX turboprop trainer and light attack aircraft may take further buys off of the agenda. Especially if they use that buy to replace their A-37s as well as their OV-10D Bronco FAC(Forward Air Control) aircraft.
If Colombia is in the market, however, AERO is doing a good job of highlighting its product’s benefits for that particular customer. Even so, the Tucano’s wider user and production base, and similar role as a dual trainer/ COIN (COunter-INsurgency) aircraft that can use modern weapons, will make it a tough competitor. Given the L-159’s status as a used aircraft and corresponding low price, however, who knows?