UPDATED 4 November | Eight former Czech Air Force L-159 Alca trainer and light attack aircaft are heading to Iraq in November. They will join the Iraqi Air Force in a deal brokered by US company Draken International. A total of 21 Aero Vodochody L-159 will transfer to Draken International, with an initial eight of those moving on to Iraq. Four more are to follow, plus three spares.
UPDATE | The first L-159s left the Czech Republic on Wednesday 4 November, wearing Iraqi markings. See pics below.
The deal has been in the works for quite some time, with negotiations lasting 18 months and signatures finally inked in 2014. The number of aircaft sold varied a little while talks lasted, but both parties settled for 21 in the end. The Czech Air Force still has 24 L-159 Alcas in service with 212 squadron at Čáslav airbase.
UPDATED 19 June | As always its the orders for airliners that fight for attention at the Paris Air Show, but on the military side, things are happening as well. Most interesting little fact was the apparent first export order – announced on Monday – for the Pakistan-made JF-17 Thunder, although no country was mentioned. Let’s not be surprised however when it turns out to be Myanmar.
Pakistan Air Force officials only described the country that soon may add the JF-17 to its military inventory, as ‘Asian’. The same officials reported that current turmoil in the Middle East has slowed down export talks. The JF-17’s development meanwhile continues, with a possible two seat version on the way.
On the slower spectrum, Mali and Ghana agreed to buy six and five A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft respectively, while Saudi Arabia signed for four Airbus C295W medium transport and patrol aircraft. Perhaps the most prominent deal was the purchase of four Boeing C-17s for the Qatar Emiri Air Force.
As far as helicopters are concerned, Malaysia placed an order with Airbus Helicopters for two AS365 Dauphins for SAR duties.
Unnoticed by many was the first sale for Aero Vodochody of its new L-39NG aircraft. More on that is here.
Dassault’s Rafale was the most numerous aircraft. Three Rafales were on the ground, while a fourth gave a flying display. In the trade halls, models of Rafales in the colours of Qatar, India and Egypt were seen. Given the recent orders from those countries, further Rafale sales are unlikely.
Also in the halls, Alenia Aermacchi was pitching its M-345 jet trainer. France is reportedly interested in this trainer aircraft. Elsewhere, Antonov was pitching its new An178 transporter. The Ukrainian company also announced the An188, a military transport aircraft in the A400M and Boeing C-17 category, powered by four turbofan engines.
The Czech Air Force keeps its active combat fleet on 56 aircraft in 2015, the Czech Ministry of Defence acknowledged.
Spearhead of the force are 14 SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen multi-role fighters, supported by 25 indigenous-developed Vodochody L-159 ALCAs. This brings the total fixed-wing combat aircraft fleet to 39. Closer to the ground 17 Mil Mi-24 and Mi-35 Hind attack helicopters provide a key function on the battlefield, giving the Czech a strenght of 56 aircraft.
Besides the combat aircraft the Czech Air Force in 2015 keeps 9 L-39 advanced training aircraft, 17 transport and observation aircraft (L-410, Yak-40, CL-601 Challenger, A319CJ, CASA/Airbus C295M), plus 35 unarmed transport helicopters (Mi-8, Mi-17 / Mi-171S, W-3A Sokol).
Source: Ministerstvo Obrany České Republiky (MOCR)
Rebels in the Luhansk area in eastern Ukraine are said to be building an air force of their own, using stored or even preserved aircraft. Their material however is outdated and Russian made, albeit that the L-29 Delfin in the YouTube clip below is actually Czech made. The trainer aircraft is apparently brought back to life for service with the Russian-backed Luhansk rebels. Fact is, it won’t last long against Ukraine air force fighters such as the MiG-29 and Su-27 Flanker.
The clip shows a Delfin being towed, started and taken or for what appears a taxi test. The footage also shows a prominently preserved MiG-29 Fulcrum, MiG-25 Foxbat and Il-76 Candid, plus several stored Su-27 Flankers and Su-24 Fencers – which would be more of threat to the Ukrainian government in Kiev.
Quick research by Airheadsfly.com shows the footage was taken at an airbase to the south east of Luhansk, which also houses an aviation museum. In its collection are a number of MiG-21’s, MiG-23’s and transport types.
The rebels claim they now also have a flyable Su-25 Frogfoot, plus a number of helicopters. Their is however no evidence of truth to that story. And the question whether the L-29 in the clip below is actually capable of flight, also remains uncertain. The guy in the cockpit is said to be a volunteer from Georgia, and the clip also mentions the L-29 ‘can be armed’.
Draken International announced on 16 July 2014 it has finalised the expected deal with Czech aircraft manufacturer Aero Vodochody and the Czech Republic Ministry of Defense to purchase and regeneration of up to 28 Aero L-159E ALCA fighter aircraft.
These aircraft, which include some unique modifications, will give the American based company advanced training aircraft with 4th generation sensor capabilities.
Draken International CEO Jared Isaacman states, “This acquisition has been negotiated over the last 18 months and reflects the very finest in cooperation between the American and Czech Republic defense industries. These aircraft, in addition to Draken’s vast existing fleet, will be at the forefront of the advanced commercial air services industry in the United States and for our allies abroad.”
Draken International is a provider of commercial air services based out of the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida. The organization provides the US military and some of its allies with airborne adversary support, flight training, threat simulation, electronic warfare support, aerial refueling, research, testing, as well as other missions uniquely suited to their fleet of aircraft.
With a fleet of over 50 tactical fighter aircraft, the company owns and operates the largest privately-owned fleet of ex-military aircraft in the world. Draken employs military trained fighter pilots including USAF Weapons School Instructors, Fighter Weapons School Graduates, Top Gun Instructors, Air Liaison Officers, Thunderbird Demonstration pilots and FAC-A Instructors.
The Draken L-159E deal was already pre-approved by the Czech government in January this year, and initially 14 aircraft will be moved from storage to the US. The current deal includes the framework for the first Aero Vodochody approved maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operation at Draken International’s Lakeland facility. Draken will also exclusively market the L-159 and future derivatives to customers in North and South American as well as undertake a portion of the aircraft manufacturing process in the United States. Additional services such as flight testing, training, avionics and tactical system integration will also be undertaken by Draken International. This historic partnership represents the first time Aero Vodochody and its aircraft will be marketed, assembled and completely supported outside of the Czech Republic.
Source: Draken International with additional reporting by Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger