The Chief of the Senegalese Air Force, General Joseph Mamadou Diop, has flown the Aero Vodochody L-39NG for the first time. Senegal is the launch customer for this model, with four on order.
Aero Vodochody said Diop made an hour-long flight with test pilot Vladimír Továrek on 6 October.
“I am glad I had the opportunity to try the aircraft on my own. It was a great experience, Aero test pilot Vladimír showed me the great manoeuvrability of the aircraft and I also admired beautiful Czech landscape from the new full glass cockpit providing great view,” said Diop.
“We are very confident about the L-39NG aircraft. The project runs according to our plan, we are finishing a second aircraft dedicated to flight tests in early November and we will complete the certification for Advanced and Basic Trainer configuration in the third quarter of 2020 and for Light Attack a year later. It was a logical step to offer our customers the opportunity to fly the aircraft and convince them of its unique performance and outstanding capabilities,” said Dieter John, President & CEO of Aero Vodochody.
The L-39NG is the latest iteration of the successful L-39 Albatros trainer. The first prototype L-39NG (7001) is undergoing flight testing. Aero Vodochody is currently finishing production of aircraft 7003 dedicated for fatigue testing and 7004, the pre-serial aircraft that should join 7001 in flight testing in the following months. 7002 has been undergoing static testing.
Senegal announced its order for four L-39NGs, configured for light attack and training, in April 2018, with the aircraft to be delivered in 2020 and 2021. 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 aircraft will be fitted with AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles for an air-to-air capability. These will be mounted on the wingtips where the fuel tanks of previous L-39 versions were fitted. Senegal’s L-39s will also be fitted with the Elbit Systems Targo II helmet-mounted system.
The L-39NG programme started in 2014, with four prototypes being produced. 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, a 15 000 flight hour service life, lighter and stronger airframe and Health and Usage Monitoring System. The L-39NG uses 50% new parts.
At the moment the Senegalese Air Force doesn’t operate any jet aircraft. Its only ground attack platforms are old Mi-24/35 and Mi-17 helicopters. There were talks with Embraer in 2013, toward purchasing Super Tucano turboprops, but the deal was never finalized.