Uganda strengthens its L-39 fleet


The Uganda People’s Defence Air Force is operating a growing number of L-39 jet trainers, taking delivery of second hand examples and refurbishing its existing fleet.

Seven of its L-39s were on display in November 2019 when President Yoweri Museveni visited Gulu Air Base for the graduation of 18 cadet pilots and 20 technicians.

Uganda received its first three L-39ZO trainers from Libya in 1987 and, according to Air Forces Monthly, these are still in service. Some 15 years later, Uganda received four ex-Bulgarian Air Force L-39Zas, which were overhauled in the Ukraine in 2009/2010. These four were recently overhauled and modernised by OAZ (Odessa Aviation Plant) in the Ukraine, with the first two returning to Uganda in September 2019 and the third and fourth expected in January 2020.

Uganda also acquired a single ex-East German L-39ZO on the civilian market and in 2018 three ex-Bulgarian L-39ZAs and one ex-Romanian aircraft joined the fleet after being overhauled and modernised by OAZ. Another two L-39s were also acquired over the years, with 14 currently in active service.

The 5 November 2019 graduation ceremony also saw Cessna 172 piston engine trainers take part. These Skyhawks were acquired new in 2017 for training.

The L-39s serve as lead-in trainers for Uganda’s five Su-30MK2 multirole fighters and have been seen armed with rocket pods and twin-barrel 23 mm cannons.

Uganda received its Su-30MK2s in 2011-2012 and these are armed with R-73 (AA-11) short-range air-to-air missiles and KAB-500/1500 guided bombs.

Other aviation assets acquired by the Ugandan military over the last five years include a single Diamond DA 42 light aircraft from Austria, a single Mi-24/Mi-35P combat helicopter from Belarus, and five second hand UH-1H Huey II helicopters from the United States, which were modernised before delivery.