Tag Archives: L-159

Aero Vodochody ready for new L-159 production

Czech company Aero Vodochody has produced is first L-159 light attack and trainer jet in 13 years, and is ready for more. The aircraft concerned is a L-159 two seater for the Iraqi Air Force. Aero Vodochody company says it will be turning its focus back on proprietary aircraft and the L-159 could become a flagship of this new approach. And perhaps even a condidate for the O-A competition in the US?

In the next ten years, there will be demand for hundreds of light attack aircraft on the market, Aero Vodochody claims, and the company wants its share.. “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,” described Giuseppe Giordo, CEO of Aero Vodochody.

Giordo later added that South America is an ‘important region’ for Aero Vodochody’s marketing activities for both the L-159 and L-39NG that is currently being developed. Also, Giordo seems to hint at the O-A competition in the US, which seeks a new light attack jet for the US Air Force.

During the last decade, the Czechs  primarily competed in the international market in upgrading, maintaining, repairing, overhauling of existing aircraft and collaborated with others on several projects.

Those collaborations allowed Aero Vodochody to maintain key capabilities, which the company days was recently was demonstrated in the production of the L-159 for Iraq, plus the installation of a brand new wing production facility.

L-159 aircraft is operated by four customers – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Iraqi and US defense firm Draken International. Czech Army has the largest fleet and the aircraft in its service are serving in various missions around Europe and they are also actively participating on NATO exercises. In 2008-2010, Hungary Air Force leased L-159 for pilot training, it was the first deployment of the aircraft by international customer.

In 2014, Aero and Czech Ministry of Defence managed to sell some former Czech jets to Iraq and Draken International.

L-159s leave Czech Republic for Iraq

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.

The delivery continues the build-up of the Iraqi Air Force. Baghdad earlier this year saw the delivery of its first Lockheed Martin F-16s, while acceptance of the first Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50 Golden Hawk is getting closer. Last year saw the delivery of Russian hardware in the shape of Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoots, plus Mi-28 Havoc and Mi-35 Hind attack choppers.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): Czech Air Force L-159s seen at Čáslav airbase. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

A Lion’s Effort into airborne photography

Czech, Hungarian and Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripens fighters show themselves from every angle during exercise Lion Effort 2015 in the Czech Republic these days. In-flight pictures are a top priority for many. However, not all are aware of the effort and preparations that goes into air-to-air footage.

See here and here for more recent air-to-air footage on Airheadsfly.com.

The actual release of the camera shutter is the culmination of a complex process which eventually makes the day for some of the photographers who get the chance to zoom in on the Gripen flying over Čáslav airbase, where over two dozen Saab Gripens operate alongside each other for two weeks.

This photo shoot was attended by a total of five Gripen jets – one Czech and two Hungarian and Swedish each – as well as one Czech Air Force L-159 ALCA and a CASA C-295.

(Image © Martin Král)
(Image © Tomáš Soušek)
(Image © Martin Král)

Preparations begin long before the aircraft are launched. It takes a lot of coordination for the fighter pilots to join up with a Czech Air Force CASA C-295 transport aircraft from Prague-Kbely airbase, carrying the photographers and their equipment – on a space available basis.

Planning the mission involves a pilot briefing to decide which jets will be chosen for the photo session. Subsequently the choreography of the birds is coordinated with the photographers. Together with the pilots they arrange formations that allow unique and visually interesting aspects.

When everything is sorted out and agreed, the participants – jet and transport aircraft crews, the photographers – have to wait for their take off times and hope that the weather will hold.

(Image © Martin Král)
(Image © Martin Král)
(Image © Rostislav Lukáš)

The top priority is always on the safety of all involved. Various other factors need to be taken into account such as the speed, positioning and altitude of the fighters and the photo platform. Therefore pilots have designed each passing manoeuvre and brought it to perfection – all pilots exactly know their role in the photo shoot.

Once airborne the CASA and Gripen pilots maintain radio contact permanently to handle any challenges that may occur. Everyone involved – the jet pilots and the transport aircraft crews as well as ground controllers and ground handling crews – did an excellent professional job. And as you can see for yourself, the results show.

Lion Effort continues until 23 May, when an airshow at  Čáslav celebrates the end of the exercise as well as ten years of flying the Gripen in the Czech Republic.

© 2015 Tomáš Maruščák
Featured image (top): Looking down on three Saab Gripens and the yellow rapeseed fields below. (Image © Martin Král)

(Image © Tomáš Soušek)
(Image © Tomáš Soušek)
(Image © Martin Král)

The Gripens roar during Lion Effort 2015

In two months time, the Saab JAS 39 Gripen will roar during Lion Effort 2015 at Čáslav airbase in the Czech Republic. Taking part will be C and D model Gripens from the Czech Republic, Sweden and Hungary, while Thailand participates without aircraft. South Africa, present with its own aircraft during Lion Effort 2012 in Sweden, will not participate at all.

As Airheadsfly.com found out a year ago, Čáslav is already a Gripen’s lair, with all fourteen Czech Air Force aircraft based here. The Hungarian Air Force is sending aircraft from their base in Kecskemét and Sweden will send Gripen from one of its bases in Såtenäs, Ronneby or Luleå. The tri-annual exercise starts 11 May.

During Lion Effort 2012, Saab Gripens were practically the sole ingredient of the exercise. This time, there is more variety with German Eurofighter Typhoons and Polish Lockheed Martin F-16s also taking part, albeit from their respective home bases. Czech Air Force will L-159 ALCA from Čáslav will also play along, together with Mil Mi-17 Hip and Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopters from 22nd Helicopter Base Náměšt nad Oslavou and CASA C-295 from 24th Transport Air Base Kbely. Cooperation with foreign tanker aircraft is also being discussed.

Czech pilots prepared themselves in February already, practicing air combat against visiting Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons.

Tiger details are to be found everywhere around the 211. taktické letky area at Čáslav. The Tiger marks on this fuel tank are among the more obvious. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Tiger details are to be found everywhere around the 211. taktické letky area at Čáslav. The Tiger marks on this fuel tank are among the more obvious. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Three Hungarian Gripens in one shot. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Three Hungarian Gripens in one shot. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Lion Effort 2015 therefore is the biggest flying exercise in the area this year, and is actually taking its toll on other well known military flying exercises such as NATO’s Tiger Meet, held this year at Konya airbase in Turkey. Both the Czech and Hungarian Gripen squadrons are members of NATO’s Tiger Association, but prefer to take part in Lion Effort 2015 over the Tiger Meet.

The Czech Republic is looking to extend the role of its Gripens with an air-to-ground capability. Recently, the country ordered Litening III targeting pods. In 2014, the Czech Gripens were kept rather busy with guarding Icelandic skies. The Czech lease their Gripens from Sweden at an annual cost of about 58 million USD. Last year, Czech Air Force boss Libor Stefanik stated he would like to see six more Gripens leased, possibly for future cooperation with neighbouring Slovakia, which is also eying Saab Gripens.

The chance of seeing participating aircraft in Lion Effort 2015 from up close occurs on Thursday 14 May during an enthusiast’s day at Čáslav, or on Saturday 23 May during an all out airshow, which also serves to commemorate ten years of Saab Gripen service in the Czech Republic.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

A Royal Thai Air Force JAS39C Gripen in person, and in much colder conditions than its Thai habitat. This pictures was taken in Sweden in June 2012. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
In person: a Royal Thai Air Force JAS 39C Gripen. This picture was taken in Sweden in June 2012. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Nice motion blur on this Swedish Saab JAS 39A, seen in June 2006 at Satenäs in Sweden. The model A Gripen have now been replaced by C models. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Nice motion blur on this Swedish Saab JAS 39A, seen in June 2006 at Satenäs in Sweden. The model A Gripen have now been replaced by C models. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Czech to retain 56 combat aircraft in 2015

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.

Check this out: ↑ Press Play: Czech Gripens GoPro over Iceland

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)

A JAS 39C Gripen just after take-off in the early years of their service life with the Czech Air Force (Image © Marcel Burger)
A JAS 39C Gripen just after take-off in the early years of their service life with the Czech Air Force (Image © Marcel Burger)

An Czech L-159 after take-off (Image © Marcel Burger)
A Czech L-159 after take-off (Image © Marcel Burger)
Czech Air Force Hinds (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Czech Air Force Hinds (Image © Elmer van Hest)