Fourteen employees of Ukraine’s Odessa Aviation Plant (OAP) have returned home from Uganda after repairing and upgrading six Ugandan training and combat aircraft.
UkrOboronProm on 28 March said a team of experts from the Odessa Aviation Plant was part of an international cooperation programme at Gulu Air Base in Uganda where they repaired and upgraded six Uganda Air Force training and combat aircraft under a contract concluded by the state-owned Progress Specialized Foreign Trade Firm, part of UkrOboronProm. The team included pilots, engineers and designers.
“A few days before the departure to Uganda, because of the threat of the spread of the coronavirus, the borders were closed,” said Ruslan Korzh, Deputy Director General for Aeronautics and Rocket Engineering, who coordinated the return of Ukrainian specialists. Nevertheless, the team was extracted and put into 14-day quarantine.
The financial expenses related to the evacuation of the Odessa Aviation Plant team were borne by the Progress Specialized Foreign Trade Firm, UkrOboronProm said.
The Odessa Aviation Plant was in 2018 contracted to overhaul and modernise eight Ugandan L-39ZA jets. Ukrainian technicians are no strangers to Ugandan L-39s, overhauling four ex-Bulgarian L-39ZAs in 2009/2010. These were modernised by the Odessa Aviation Plant last year, with the first two returning to Uganda in September 2019 and the third and fourth expected in January 2020.
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.
Uganda received its first three L-39ZO trainers from Libya in 1987 and, according to Air Forces Monthly, these are still in service. 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 OAP. Another two L-39s were also acquired over the years, with 14 currently in active service.
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.