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L-159 ALCA (Advanced Light Combat Aircraft)

The L-159 Combat & Training System includes the L-159 advanced light combat aircraft, integrated logistics support, mission planning and debriefing and ground based training system. L-159 aircraft mates Aeros long-term experience in development and production of military jet aircraft, in the category of which Aero represents historically the largest producer in the world, with latest advances in avionics, engine and aircraft systems technology.

Another development of the successful L-39 series is the L-159 ALCA. On the basis of the L-39, Aero developed the L-139 trainer with Allied Signal TFE731 engine and digital avionics as well as the L-59 with the DV-2 powerplant. The L-139 Albatross 2000, which first flew on May 10, 1993, was a straight forward development customized with a Allied Signal (Garret) 4,080 lb thrust, TFE-731-4-1T engine and US avionics to meet the basic and advance training requirement for the US Air Force/Navy, Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS). However, it failed to be nominated, so the project was terminated.

The latest extrapolation is the L-159 ALCA (Advanced Light Combat Aircraft) for the Czech air force, which flew in August 1997. The L-159 is designed to carry a number of Western weapons systems, including the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile , Maverick air-to ground missile and laser-guided bombs. AERO Vodochody was to deliver 72 L-159 light attack aircraft to the Czech Air Force by the year 2002. At the same time the company would continue its effort to secure the aircraft's export on the global market. The L159 advanced subsonic jet trainer and light attack fighter was in full production at Aero Vodochody's facility in the outskirts of Prague.

The Czech government acquired a fleet of 72 L-159 planes in 1997 at a cost around 50 billion crowns. At that time, the Czech Republic was not yet part of NATO, and army strategists believed a strong air force was a necessity. An agreement for the delivery of 72 L-159 subsonic combat aircraft with the AERO Vodochody Company was developed as a result of a long-standing mutual interest between the company and the Czech Air Force. The number of aircraft to be delivered was based upon the findings of domestic and foreign experts, taking into account the size of the Czech military at that time and the assessed security risks, and the available funding. Even for its time this first Czech subsonic combat aircraft acquisition project was considered to be very ambitious.

Due to the cost of the project, the Czech government decided that a strategic partner would be invited to join with the AERO Vodochody company in the venture. Subsequently, the Boeing Company joined the project as the strategic partner. In May 1998 Boeing Cesk s.r.o. agreed to purchase 35.2% of the Aero Vodochody's share capital for CZK 950 million (approximately U.S.$32 million). Around 200 subcontractors from all over the Czech Republic took part in the L 159 project headed by Aero Vodochody. The largest number of companies (58) is based in Prague. 26 companies are from Northern Moravia, 14 companies from Northern Bohemia, and 10 companies from Southern and Western Bohemia. 28 companies are based in Central Bohemia, Eastern Bohemia and Southern Moravia.

In April 2002, on behalf of and support to AERO Vodochody's pursuit of overseas markets, the Boeing Company, minority shareholder of Aero, successfully obtained an export authorization in the form of a data marketing license for the L-159 aircraft to India under US export licensing regulations for marketing and sales of military equipment. The license allowed Aero to provide sufficient technical data to the Ministry of Defense of India to make a decision to purchase L-159 aircraft. Furthermore it allowed for in-country (in-India) flight demonstrations of that aircraft. This follows a decision by the US Government to ease the sanctions for military sales to that country.

A total of 19 L159 Alca aircraft had been delivered to the Czech Air Force Base Namest nad Oslavou in May 2002. Czech pilots receive fully functional aircraft that are comparable with NATO standards and their training can begin immediately. The first test flight of the new L159 B, advanced jet training aircraft from AERO Vodochody took place on Saturday, 1 June 2002. The Czech military took delivery of the last of these aircraft in February 2003.

In May 2002 the new Czech defence minister, Jaroslav Tvrdik, announced that the Ministry of Defence may dispose of up to half of the 72 Aero Vodochody L-159 ALCA light combat and training aircraft it had on order. Although the Czech government was obligated to purchase 72 aircraft, given the economic situation the MoD may sell up to 36 aircraft because the Czech Air Force would not be able to afford them.

In 1998, the government signed a contract with Aero Vodochody and Boeing for 72 L-159 aircraft. The contract was signed in US dollars and since then the value of the Czech koruna compared to the dollar had fallen, substantially increasing the cost of the procurement.

Because the security and political situation in Europe and the world had changed significantly since the time the contract for procurement of 72 subsonic aircraft had been prepared, because the Czech Republic became a NATO member in 1999, and since a new concept for the build-up of the Czech military had been initiated, it was later decided to put into operation only 24 of the L-159s and to initiate a public tender for the procurement of 14 supersonic aircraft. The Czech government decided on 7 July 2004 that 47 of the L-159 ALCA aircraft could be sold. One aircraft was lost in the course of testing.

During 1998 - 2005 the total cost of this project was 42,673,530,000 Czech Crowns for aircraft and logistical support, and also for the development of the PLAMEN machine gun (to include ammunition). Also included in the cost was a flight simulator type KTL-159, other special equipment, and facilities for training systems. All contracted aircraft have been delivered. Most of the logistic support package has been delivered, with the remainder delivered to the Czech Air Force before the end of 2005.

For much of a decade the Czech army had been touting its excess L-159 fighter and trainer aircraft for sale to foreign armies or companies. During that time the planes have been wrapped in protective covers in hangers and accumulating ever growing storage costs met by the Ministry of Defense.

In November 2013 the Czech Defence Ministry said it was close to a deal to sell most of its surplus combat planes. The potential buyer, the US firm Draken International, was reportedly interested in acquiring 28 L-159 planes that would be used as practice targets for US pilots. If agreement was reached, the Defence Ministry will receive around 500 million crowns for the planes.

After years of unsuccessful efforts to sell the domestically produced L-159 combat aircraft to countries from Poland to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Czech Defence Ministry said that, at long last, it was very close to a striking a deal. The US firm Draken International, which provides aviation services for the American military, wants to buy 28 planes the Czech army acquired in 1997 but no longer required. The Czech army would be left with six aircraft which ministry officials said would be kept as a source of spare parts for those planes that are in service.

In service and airborne L-159 aircraft will be a lot better publicity for Aero Vodochody than a large slice of its production sitting in hangars. Aircraft in use rather than the equivalent of military mothballs will also boost the spares, maintenance and service market for the models which represent a valuable ongoing earner for the manufacturer and other companies.

The Czech Republic's Aero Vodochody aircraft company unveiled its first upgraded Aero L-159 ALCA light attack jet after an almost 15-year pause in production, local media said 31 March 2017. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who attended the plane's demonstration flights, said talks were already underway to supply L-159s to at least three potential customers, including Iraq. "The L-159 attack aircraft is the only one of its type to be used on several continents and the only one to have been tested in various missions. So it is time to again offer the L-159 and give the plane a new future," company CEO Giuseppe Giordo said, as quoted by the Lidovky news website, while presenting an upgraded L-159 to an audience near Prague.

Aero Vodochody showcased the modernized plane at the LIMA-2017 aerospace exhibition in Malaysia in March 2017. The company said it was seeking clients both in the private sector and among the armed forces. The aircraft was previously produced between 1997-2003 and is currently in service with the Czech and Iraqi air forces. Hungary's air force previously used the plane for several years. The US aircraft leasing company Draken International also purchased almost two dozen planes. The L-159 was used in combat against Daesh in Iraq.





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