Czech aircraft manufacturer Aero Vodochody formally revived the production line of its L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) on Friday, March 31.
In its news release, Aero says it projects a light combat aircraft market amounting to “hundreds” of aircraft over the next decade. Aero introduced the L-159 in 1997 with the aim of providing a dual-use light multi-role fighter platform and advanced jet trainer.
Though there were (and still are) dozens of legacy Aero L-39 users, especially in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern and Central Europe, Aero did not secure L-159 customers outside of the Czech Republic. Consequently, Aero did not produce a L-159 from 2003 to 2016.
However, in recent years the L-159 began eliciting interest from several air arms, including an air combat training company (i.e. Drake International), for training and close air support (CAS) missions.
Iraq procured mothballed Czech Air Force L-159s and even procured a new-built unit from Aero, which prompted Aero to consider reviving the L-159 program. In December, Aero expressed confidence in the market and said it began negotiating with its suppliers in preparation for potential orders.
In terms of sales, Aero CEO Giuseppe Giordo stated:
“We know there is a relevant market and we know we have the right product. L-159 is the only aircraft in its category, that is currently on the market and it is proven in various types of missions. So now it is the right time to start offering L-159 again and giving a new future to this aircraft.”
Speaking to Czech media, Aero reportedly said it is in talks with three potential customers, including Iraq, for new L-159 sales. The company added that it could begin manufacturing L-159s within ‘several months’ of a new sale.
Aero will likely aim the L-159 for the advanced trainer (e.g. lead-in fighter-trainer) and entry-level fighter markets, which should confer it with a large addressable market, especially in the developing world. In fact, several major air forces may also find interest in the L-159 as a trainer provided it maintain competitive acquisition and lifecycle costs.
The L-159 ALCA is powered by one Honeywell ITEC F214-GA-100 turbofan, which has a thrust-rating of 28 kN and provides a maximum cruise speed of 936 km/h. With five external hardpoints, the L-159 has a maximum payload of 2,340 kg. The L-159 is capable of deploying air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions. The L-159 has a flight ceiling of 13,200 metres. The L-159 can be bought in both dual and single-seat formats.