Czech aircraft maker Aero Vodochody has sold L-39NG jets to Senegal, which are configured for light attack and training.
Aero Vodochody on 4 April said the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, during national Independence Day celebrations, announced the purchase of the four L-39NGs.
The contract will also cover the training of pilots, including conversion, instructor and combat training, maintenance personnel training, spare parts, ground support equipment and logistic support services.
Senegal’s air force has few fixed wing combat aircraft, its most significant purchase being Super Tucanos in 2013. It has several Mi-35P Hind attack helicopters in service.
“The L-39NG aircraft is the new future of Aero Vodochody, the company that has been producing proprietary aircraft since 1919. The L-39NG is based on successful aero dynamical concept of the current L-39, but is manufactured with the use of new technologies and contains modern systems,” said Giuseppe Giordo, the president of Aero Vodochody. “Currently we also have two additional contracts in a very mature state of negotiation,” he added.
In January, Aero started up the L-39NG pre-series production line. Aero is currently producing a total of four L-39NGs. The first and the fourth aircraft will be used for flight tests, the second one for static tests and the third for fatigue tests. The first flight of the new pre-series L-39NG is planned to happen at the end of 2018 with deliveries expected to start in early 2020. Full scale production is expected by 2022 with 16 units a year.
The L-39NG programme started in 2014. The aircraft 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). Other changes compared to the standard L-39 are wet wings without wingtip tanks, it has a 15 000 flight hour service life, lighter and stronger airframe and Health and Usage Monitoring System. The L-39NG uses 50% new parts and 50% parts taken from the existing L-39.
Aero Vodochody said that, after focussing on aerostructures, the Senegalese L-39NG sale represents the first international sale of new aircraft in 20 years.
The sale of the light attack version of the aircraft is the first of a series the company is seeking to close abroad after bringing in industry veteran Giuseppe Giordo as president in 2016 to help turn the company around.
During the last days of the Cold War in 1988, Aero Vodochody’s factory outside Prague in what was then Czechoslovakia produced a 250 of its Albatros L-39 training jets for Soviet bloc air forces.
Those customers disappeared with the collapse of Communism as successive governments focused on building a market economy and steered away from arms exports, sending the industry into a tailspin. Numerous comeback attempts sputtered for Aero, which halted jet production between 2003 and 2015.
Boeing bought a stake in Aero in the 1990s but sold it back to the government after failing to land new contracts. Czech-Slovak private equity group Penta bought Aero in 2006.
Giordo has overseen the relaunch of the L-159 and has championed the next generation L-39 trainer. It aims to produce up to 26 aircraft annually over the next 10 to 15 years.
In recent years, Aero sold its L-159 light combat aircraft to the Iraq Air Force and US aviation services company Draken International. Those aircraft were originally made for the Czech military in the early 2000s.
Pre-series production L-39NGs will be delivered to the launch customer, Czech state-owned company LOM Praha. Besides LOM Praha, the L-39NG is also being acquired by the Breitling Jet Team and Draken International’s Black Diamond Jet Team.