Ghana’s L-39 purchase stalled

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Ghana’s plan to acquire half a dozen L-39NG light combat jets from Aero Vodochody has stalled, with a lack of funds putting the €111 million deal on ice.

In August 2021, Ghana’s defence minster, Dominic Nitiwul, sought parliamentary approval for the €111 million procurement of six L-39NG aircraft along with spares, training, and support. The aircraft were to be acquired through a loan agreement.

At the time, Aero Vodochody said it was negotiating with the Ghanaian Ministry of Defence for the supply of the aircraft but could not comment further. Six months later, negotiations were still underway.

In January last year it was reported that the Ministry of Defence had suspended negotiations whilst a rival bid from the United States was evaluated. Ghana was offered two different aircraft by the US: the Embraer/Sierra Nevada A-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6C Wolverine made by Textron. Although the US offers were not taken up, Ghana’s Parliament has still not endorsed the Czech purchase almost a year later.

It is believed that budgetary constraints have stalled the procurement in spite of a September 2022 visit to Aero Vodochody by Thomas Mbomba, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Ambassador James Nyasembi from Ghana.

Ghana’s L-39NG acquisition may go the same way as Senegal’s. In April 2018 it was announced that Senegal would be acquiring four L-39NGs, but in early 2022 it emerged that the deal had been cancelled after a number of setbacks.

Ghana previously operated eight Aero L-29 Delfin trainers and two L-39ZO ground attack aircraft but today flies four Hongdu K-8 advanced jet trainer aircraft, and five Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano light attack aircraft.

The L-39NG is the latest iteration of the successful L-39 Albatros trainer. The L-39NG programme started in 2014, with four prototypes being produced. Serial production began in December 2022.

The L-39NG is powered by a single Williams FJ44-4M engine with FADEC control and has five hardpoints for 1 200 kg of weapons (three more than previously). Due to a more efficient engine and reduced drag, range is increased by 800 km to 1 900 km. Other changes compared to the standard L-39 are wet wings without wingtip tanks, a 15 000 flight hour service life, lighter and stronger airframe and Health and Usage Monitoring System. The L-39NG uses 50% new parts.

Ghana has since 2017 made use of Czech company LOM Praha for the maintenance of its Mi-17, Mi-171Sh and Mi-8 helicopters and has interacted with other Czech defence companies. A memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation was signed between Ghana and the Czech Republic in 2021. Czech defence industry delegations have in recent years visited Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Togo, where companies such as Aero Vodochody, LOM Praha, Excalibur Army, SVOS, European Air services, and Transcon have offered their products and services.