The announced sale negotiations of 28 ex-Czech Air Force L-159 ALCA advanced trainer aircraft to military subcontractor Draken International in the USA has brought new hopes to Czech aircraft manufacturer Aero Vodochody. With the American continent opening up to its aircraft, the company now starts developing a new and bigger trainer & light attack aircraft.
Czech media report that the new plane is designated L-169 and that it will be more Czech than the L-159, meaning less foreign components. According to an Aero spokesman the company intends to give the L-169 a bigger range than its predecessor, giving it a main fuel tank capable of 1,300 liters and innerwing storage for another 600 liters. A lot of times extended ranges are met by attaching underwing fuel pods, but they cause more drag and thus increasing the fuel consumption and decreasing the performance somewhat. The L-159 was able to cross 1,570 kilometres (845 nautical miles) on internal fuel and 2,530 km (1,365 nautical miles) with external fuel tanks.
The L-169 will primarily be designed as an advanced trainer, not like the L-159 that was meant to give the Czech Republic an affordable light combat capacity after the break-up of the Warsaw Pact and the limitation of military funds. With the combat role since 2005 taken over by the 14 much more capable Saab JAS 39C/D Gripen fighters, the L-159 has become less popular with its owner. Only 24 of 72 delivered planes are still in use, with the remainder mothballed.
For many of the decommissioned aircraft there seems to be a new life ahead across the Atlantic Ocean. Aero is talking to Florida based Draken International Inc to sell the subcontractor for the US military 28 L-159As from the Czech Air Force storage. “The successful conclusion of the sale and introduction of the aircraft in the USA would mark new phase in the life of L-159 and would bring significant benefits for Aero and other aerospace manufacturers in the Czech Republic, involved in the program”, according to a press release.
Draken International flies more than 50 military jets, including ex-Polish Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21bis, McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros and Alenia Aermacchi MB-339s. Draken is headquartered at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and offers simulation of enemy aerial targets (aircraft, guided missiles), aerial training, tactical training, electronic warfare, in flight refueling and research and testing services to the US military.
Aero Vodochody has a good trainer reputation legacy to keep, with the historic L-29 Delfin and the still popular L-39 flying in both military and civilian roles worldwide.
© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger with source information from Aero Vodochody