Aero L-159 Alca

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L-159 ALCA
Aero L-159 (6063) in flight (1).jpg
Czech Air Force L-159A ALCA
Role Light attack / advanced trainer
Manufacturer Aero Vodochody
First flight 4 August 1997[1]
Introduction April 2000
Status Operational
Primary users Czech Air Force
Iraqi Air Force
Produced 1997–present[2]
Number built L-159A: 72
Unit cost
US$9.5 million (2015) [3]
US$13 million (2003)
US$15–17 million
Developed from Aero L-59 Super Albatros

The Aero L-159 ALCA[nb 1] is a light subsonic attack jet and advanced trainer developed in the single-seat L-159A and two-seat L-159B versions respectively, produced in the Czech Republic by Aero Vodochody. In 2003, the Czech Air Force elected to reduce its own fleet of 72 L-159A aircraft to 24 and has re-sold most of the redundant aircraft to both military and civilian operators, namely the Iraqi Air Force and Draken International. Since 2007, several L-159A aircraft have been rebuilt into T1/T2 trainer derivatives. The L-159 has seen active combat use by the Iraqi Air Force against ISIS.

Development[edit]

The first L-159 prototype (5831) in the Prague Aviation Museum

Immediately after the 1989 Velvet Revolution, the Czech president Václav Havel declared a demobilisation of the Czech defence industry.[4] Nevertheless, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Czech company Aero Vodochody continued developing the basic L-39 Albatros design with a view toward greater export. The resulting L-39MS, later designed as L-59 Super Albatros, featured a more powerful turbofan engine, advanced avionics, and has been bought in quantity by Egypt and Tunisia.[5] In 1993 a group of Czech military experts launched a project of production of a modern domestic fighter to substitute the obsolete Soviet aircraft.[4] Since the proposed Aero L-X supersonic fighter development proved to be financially demanding (up to 2 billion USD), the less costly L-159 subsonic attack aircraft was approved for procurement instead.[6]

Conducted between the years 1994 and 1997, the technical development of L-159 ALCA in Aero Vodochody consisted primarily of building one L-159 two-seat prototype based on the L-59 airframe utilizing western engine, avionics and weapon systems,[7] with Rockwell Collins (eventually Boeing) as the avionics integrator.[1] In 1995, the Czech government ordered a fleet of 72 L-159A single-seat aircraft at a cost around 50 billion CZK. The contract was signed on 4 July 1997. The number of aircraft to be delivered was based upon the size of the Czech Air Force at that time, taking into account the necessity to replace MiG-23BN and Su-22 fighter-bombers and Su-25 attack aircraft. Due to the cost of the project, the Czech government decided that a strategic partner, the Boeing Company, would be invited to join with the Aero Vodochody in the venture in May 1998.[8] However, in October 2004, Boeing withdrew from the company and the government announced that the Aero Vodochody was to be privatised. In October 2006, it was sold to Penta Investments.[9]

The maiden flight of the first L-159 prototype (5831, "376 white") occurred on 2 August 1997 with a two-seat version. On 18 August 1998 the single-seat L-159A prototype (5832, "356 white") first flew; it was completed to Czech customer specifications. 10 April 2000 marked the first delivery of L-159A to the Czech Air Force.[1] Prototype (6073) of the two-seat L-159B variant first flew on 1 June 2002.

In 2009, Aero Vodochody selected V-Dot Systems (split off from Boeing) as the L-159 avionics integrator.[citation needed] V-Dot will replace the Honeywell multi-function displays (MFD) and upgrade the mission processors to support new functions.

Design[edit]

L-159 cockpit with the original Honeywell 4x4 inch MFDs

The L-159 ALCA is designed for the principal role of light combat aircraft (single-seat L-159A variant) or light attack jet and advanced/lead-in fighter trainer (two-seat L-159B and T variants).[10][11] Design of the L-159 was derived from the L-39/59 in terms of aerodynamic configuration but a number of changes were made to improve its combat capabilities. These include strengthening of the airframe, reinforcing of the cockpit with composite and ceramic ballistic armour and enlargement of the aircraft's nose to accommodate the radar. Compared to the L-59, number of underwing pylons was increased from four to six and a new hardpoint under the fuselage was added instead of GSh-23L cannon.[12]

The aircraft is powered by the non-afterburning Honeywell/ITEC F124-GA-100 turbofan engine with a maximum thrust of 28 kN. Almost 2,000 litres of fuel is stored in eight internal tanks (six in the fuselage, two at the wingtips) with up to four external drop tanks (two 500 L and two 350 L tanks) carried under the wings. The lightly armoured cockpit is equipped with a VS-2B ejection seat capable of catapulting the pilot at a zero flight level and zero speed. The aircraft’s avionics based on the MIL-STD-1553 databus include Selex Navigation and Attack Suite, Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (INS) and Global Positioning System (GPS). Flight data are displayed both at the FV-3000 head-up display (HUD) and two multi-function displays (MFD).[10][11][13]

Communications are provided by a pair of Collins ARC-182 transceivers. Self-protection of the L-159 is ensured by the Sky Guardian 200 radar warning receiver (RWR) and the Vinten Vicon 78 Series 455 chaff and flare dispenser.[14] L-159A and T2 variants are equipped with the Italian FIAR Grifo L multi-mode Doppler radar for all-weather, day and night operations. All variants of L-159 are equipped with a total of seven hardpoints (one under-fuselage and six under-wing mountings), capable of carrying external loads up to 2,340 kg. The aircraft can be equipped with a variety of weapons ranging from unguided bombs and rocket pods to air-to-ground and air-to-air guided missiles or with special devices to conduct aerial reconnaissance or electronic warfare. For example, it is capable of carrying advanced targeting pods including the AN/AAQ-28(V) LITENING.[10][11][13]

Operational history[edit]

Czech Air Force L-159A with its armament
PL-20 gun pod

Czech Republic[edit]

The Czech Air Force is the primary operator, receiving the latest avionics upgrades. In 1995, the Czech government ordered 72 aircraft, but after review, opted to reduce the fleet size to 24 with the remaining aircraft to be placed in storage.[2] As of 2016, the Czech Air Force has 16 L-159A and 5 L-159T1 aircraft in service.[15]

Iraq[edit]

In 2015, Iraq signed a deal for 14 L-159 aircraft (12 L-159As and 2 L-159T1s).[2][16] The first two Czech L-159s were delivered to Iraq on 5 November 2015.[17][18] In May 2016, L-159 aircraft were used by the Iraqi Air Force to attack ISIL positions in Fallujah.[19] In October and November 2016, L-159 aircraft operated by Squadron No 115 were deployed in the battle against the ISIS at the Southern outskirts of Mosul.[20][21]

Spain[edit]

In 2009, EADS-CASA of Spain exchanged with the CzAF four CASA C-295 for three L-159As, two L-159T1s and 130 million Euros.[22] Later the two L-159T1s were returned by EADS-CASA to the Czech Republic as compensation for the C-295M not meeting the counter measures requirements of the CzAF at the time of delivery.[23] This problem has been solved by EADS-CASA three years later and the remaining three L-159As resold by EADS-CASA to Lewis Fighter Fleet LLC.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

Draken International Inc., a civilian U.S. company that cooperates with the US military for the training of American pilots, will buy 21 planes in total.[24][25][26][27] Aero Vodochody handed over the first L-159 aircraft to Draken International on 30 September 2015.[28]

Lewis Fighter Fleet LLC has purchased 3 L-159A aircraft.[29] These aircraft were bought from EADS-CASA in July 2013.

Variants[edit]

L-159A
L-159B
L-159T1

L-159A[edit]

The L-159A ALCA is a single-seat light multi-role combat aircraft designed for a variety of air-to-air, air-to-ground and reconnaissance missions. The aircraft is equipped with a multi-mode Doppler Grifo-L radar (a variant of the Grifo-F x-band multi-mode, pulse-doppler radar),[30] for all-weather, day and night operations. It can carry a wide range of NATO standard stores including air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and laser guided bombs. The L-159A is in operational service with the Czech and Iraqi air forces. There are two different configurations being used by the Czech Air Force – using the Honeywell 4x4 inch MFDs or the Vdot 5x6.7 inch MFDs. Avionic upgrades are designed and developed by V-Dot Systems Inc.

L-159E[edit]

The L-159E ALCA is the export designation of L-159A in service with Draken International.[31]

L-159B[edit]

The L-159B, also known as L-159B Albatros II,[32] is a two-seat version primarily designed for Advanced and Operational/Lead-In Fighter Training. The L-159B configuration can also be tailored to customer specific requirements and adapted to needs of basic training as well as combat missions including air-to-ground, patrol and reconnaissance missions. On 23 July 2002, the Czech military signed a letter of intent on acquisition of the first two L-159B aircraft. However, due to the budget constraints the trade did not materialize. The only prototype has been rebuilt by Aero Vodochody into L-159T2X demonstrator. The aircraft's designation was changed on 14 December 2015.[33][34]

L-159T1[edit]

The L-159T1 is a two-seat trainer derivative used by the Czech Air Force. All L-159T1s are modified L-159A airframes taken from storage. Unlike L-159A, they have just one MFD in each cockpit and no radar. L-159T1 S/N 6069 made its first flight on 8 March 2007 and the first batch of four aircraft was handed over to the Czech Air Force on 23 November 2007. Another two aircraft were delivered in August and December 2010, respectively. L-159T1 S/N 6069 was transferred to Aero Vodochody on 30 June 2015 as a part of the Iraqi contract which included handover of four actively used aircraft – three L-159A and one L-159T1 – to the Iraqi Air Force.[33]

L-159T2[edit]

The L-159T2 is a two-seat trainer derivative based on the designs of the L-159T1 and L-159A. Instead of mirroring the instruments to the rear seat like the L-159T1, the new two-seater will have independent instruments. The avionic systems will be interchangeable with the L-159A and use the same software configurations. Avionic upgrades are designed and developed by V-Dot Systems Inc.[citation needed] The Czech Air Force has ordered 3 L-159T2 aircraft scheduled to be delivered in November 2018.[35]

Operators[edit]

Military operators[edit]

 Czech Republic
 Iraq
  • Iraqi Air Force – 12 L-159A and 2 L-159T1 aircraft ordered; 6 L-159A and 1 L-159T1 in service as of September 2016.[2]

Civilian operators[edit]

 United States

Evaluation-only operators[edit]

 Hungary

Accidents and incidents[edit]

On 24 February 2003 L-159A (No. 6056) crashed during weapons trials of the podded 20mm cannon "Plamen", pilot killed.[38]

On 22 November 2012 an L-159A from the Czech Air Force (No. 6061) crashed during training flight in central Bohemia. Pilot (First Lieutenant Ondřej Sovina) was killed.[39][40]

Specifications (L-159A)[edit]

Aero L-159 Alca scheme.jpg

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004,[41] Czech military web pages[42][43]

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

Avionics
Grifo-L Radar

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Acronym for Advanced Light Combat Aircraft. Also known as L-159 Alca.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Frawley, Gerald (2002). The International Directory of Military Aircraft, 2002/2003. Fyshwick, ACT: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-55-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d Stevenson, Beth. "Aero Vodochody produces new-build L-159 trainer for Iraq". FlightGlobal. Flightglobal.com. Retrieved 19 December 2016. 
  3. ^ "Iraq receives first L-159 jets from the Czech Republic". 
  4. ^ a b Born, Hans; Caparini, Marina; Haltiner, Karl; Kuhlmann, Jürgen (2006). "The domestic subsonic L-159 ALCA fighter". Civil-Military Relations in Europe: Learning from Crisis and Institutional Change. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780203964927. 
  5. ^ Fredriksen, John C. (2001). International Warbirds: An Illustrated Guide to World Military Aircraft, 1914-2000. ABC-CLIO. p. 5. ISBN 9781576073643. 
  6. ^ "Aero L 159". Československé letectví. Retrieved 15 March 2017. 
  7. ^ "Aero L-159.5831, výr. č. 5831". VHU. Vojenský historický ústav Praha. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  8. ^ "L-159 ALCA (Advanced Light Combat Aircraft)". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 15 March 2017. 
  9. ^ "L159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA), Czech Republic". airforce-technology.com. Retrieved 15 March 2017. 
  10. ^ a b c "L-159 ALCA". Ministry of Defence. Ministerstvo obrany. Retrieved 15 March 2017. 
  11. ^ a b c "L-159 Aircraft". Aero Vodochody. AERO Vodochody AEROSPACE a.s. Retrieved 15 March 2017. 
  12. ^ Hillebrand, Niels. "Aero L-159 ALCA (Advanced Light Combat Aircraft)". MILAVIA. Retrieved 15 March 2017. 
  13. ^ a b "Aero Vodochody L-159E ALCA". Draken International. Retrieved 15 March 2017. 
  14. ^ Puttré, Michael (2004). Puttré, Michael, ed. International Electronic Countermeasures Handbook. Artech House. p. 106. ISBN 9781580538985. 
  15. ^ a b Soušek, Tomáš (August 15, 2016). "The Czech Air Force". In Čadil, Jan. Czech Air Force Yearbook 2016 (in Czech and English). Prague: L+K magazine and Magnet Press, Slovakia. pp. 4–8. ISBN 978-80-89169-35-1. 
  16. ^ "Czech government approves sale of fighter jets to Iraq". Reuters. Prague. March 9, 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-09. 
  17. ^ "First Czech redundant L-159 aircraft delivered to Iraq". České noviny. Czech News Agency (CTK). Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  18. ^ Jennings, Gareth. "Iraq receives first L-159 jets from the Czech Republic". IHS Jane's 360. IHS. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  19. ^ "A new formula in the battle for Fallujah". AlJazeera. 2016-05-25. 
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  21. ^ https://twitter.com/i/web/status/789417239497805825
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  23. ^ "Do ČR se vrátil L-159 jako kompenzace za letouny CASA" [In the Czech Republic returned L-159 as compensation for aircraft CASA]. ČT24—Česká televize [CT24 - Czech TV] (in Czech). Ceskatelevize.cz. 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  24. ^ "USA´s Draken to buy 21 L-159 planes, gets 8 planes by year´s end". ČeskéNoviny.cz. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-04. 
  25. ^ "Czech L-159s: Cheap to Good Home". Defense Industry Daily. 5 January 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  26. ^ "Czechs to deliver military planes to U.S.". The Daily Star - Lebanon. Lebanon. 2 January 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  27. ^ "Aero Vodochody Relaunching L-39". Aviation Week & Space Technology. New York: Penton Media. 176 (27): 10. 4 August 2014. ISSN 0005-2175. 
  28. ^ Vrublová, Tereza. "Aero Hands Over First L-159 Aircraft to Draken". Aero Vodochody. AERO Vodochody AEROSPACE a.s. Retrieved 23 February 2016. 
  29. ^ "3 Aero L-159 ALCA prodány do USA" [3 Aero L-159 ALCA sold in the USA] (in Czech). Forum.valka.cz. 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  30. ^ "GRIFO - A family of pulse Doppler radar" (PDF). Galileo Avionica. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2004-11-02. 
  31. ^ http://www.drakenintl.com/catalog/aircraft-inventory/all-mission-sets/aero-vodochody-l-159e-alca-advanced-light-combat-aircraft
  32. ^ http://technet.idnes.cz/podivejte-se-na-vyrobu-cvicneho-letounu-pro-armadni-piloty-p43-/vojenstvi.aspx?c=A070419_223149_tec_reportaze_rja
  33. ^ a b Čadil, Jan (2017). "Aero L-159T2 ALCA". Letectví + Kosmonautika (in Czech). Vol. 93 no. 1. MAGNET PRESS, SLOVAKIA. pp. 40–44. ISSN 0024-1156. 
  34. ^ http://www.vydavatelstvo-mps.sk/letectvi-kosmonautika/236-aero-l-159t2-alca.html
  35. ^ "Aero bude dál servisovat armádní stroje, získalo zakázky za 2,5 miliardy". iDNES.cz (in Czech). MAFRA. 2016-09-23. Retrieved 21 December 2016. 
  36. ^ "Make / Model Inquiry". FAA REGISTRY. Federal Aviation Administration. Retrieved 27 March 2017. 
  37. ^ Fojtík, Jakub (October 2015). "Nové zálety a dodávky - Vojenská divize Aera" [Recent test flights and deliveries - military division of Aero]. L+K (10): 4–9. ISSN 0024-1156. 
  38. ^ "Pomníky letců - Pomníky letců - Česká republika - České letectvo - 24.2.2003 - kpt.Petr Vašíček" [Memorials Flyers - Flyers Memorials - Czech Republic - Czech Air Force - 24 February 2003 - kpt.Petr Vasicek] (in Czech). Pomnikyletcu.cz. 2003-02-24. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
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  40. ^ Lazarová, Daniela (23 November 2012). "Plane crash sees fleet of L-159 fighter jets grounded". Radio Prague. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  41. ^ Jackson 2003, pp. 100–101.
  42. ^ http://www.212sqn.cz/index.php?action=technika
  43. ^ http://www.lznamest.army.cz/l-159-alca-0
  44. ^ Including tip tanks.
  45. ^ http://www.212sqn.cz/index.php?action=technika
  • Jackson, Paul. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004. Coulsdon, UK:Jane's Information Group, 2003. ISBN 0-7106-2537-5.

External links[edit]