Aero Vodochody L-159
Variants: L-159A, L-159B, L-159T, L-159T1 / L-159BAT
The L-159 'Albatross II' was developed from the L-39 Albatross family for a Czech Air Force's requirement in the early 1990s. Based on the L-59, the tandem canopy was retained, the back seat of the single-seat L-159A being occupied by an additional fuel tank. This enabled Aero to offer a two-seat combat capable version, designated L-159B, for training and operational conversion.
Compared to the L-59, a number of changes were made although the aerodynamic configuration was retained. The airframe was strengthened and the cockpit area was reinforced with composite and ceramic ballistic armour to offer the pilot better protection. The aircraft's nose was enlarged to accomodate the radar, and the fuselage was extended behind the cockpit, making the L-159 0.52m (1ft 8in) longer than the L-59. One centre-line weapon pylon was added and the number of underwing pylons was increased from four to six.
The engine was replaced with the US Honeywell/ITEC F124-GA-100 non-afterburning turbofan, of 6,300 lb of thrust (28,58 kN), providing about 66% more thrust than the L-39's AI-25TL turbofan, and almost 30% more than the L-59's Slovak ZMK DV-2 turbofan. Providing a better thrust-to-weight ratio and the ability to carry full weapon loads, the new engine makes the aircraft faster and more capable in the combat role.
The L-159A is fitted with the Italian FIAR Grifo-L multimode pulse Doppler radar. The radar has five air-to-air modes including track-while-scan with four air combat submodes, and is able to track up to eight targets simultaneously. For ground and maritime attack it has nine air-to-surface modes. The L-159B it features a full cockpit including HUD repeater panel. Both versions are fitted with lightweight fully automatic VS-2C zero-zero ejection seats and a canopy jettison system.
The L-159 has the digital MIL-STD-1553 integrated avionics system with two multi-function colour displays and analogue instruments for backup. The cockpit is NVG-compatible and has NATO-compatible radios for secure communication. For navigation it uses a Honeywell GPS navigation system, with Ring Laser Gyro INS as backup. The Head-Up Display is the FV-3000 by Flight Vision, and the L-159 provides Hands On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) functionality.
The L-159 is capable of carrying a wide range of NATO-compatible weapons. The short-range air-to-air AIM-9M Sidewinder and the air-to-ground AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles have been integrated. Unguided weapons include Mk.82 bombs, CBU-87 cluster bombs and LAU-5002 rocket launchers. The aircraft is also capable of carrying a podded 20mm cannon.
The Czech government signed a contract with Aero on April 11, 1995, to fund 25% of the development cost and stated a requirement for 72 single-seat L-159A, but this many aircraft far exceeded the requirement, and there were no orders for the L-159B.
The first prototype (L-159T serial 5831) was rolled out on June 12, 1997, and first flew on August 2, 1997, flown by Aero's chief test pilot Miroslav Schutzner. The second prototype (L-159A serial 5832) made its first flight on August 18, 1998. Again flow by Schutzner, it was the first single-seat aircraft to fly with the space of the rear cockpit being occupied by test equipment. In 2002, the third L-159 protype performed its maiden flight on June 1. Designated L-159B, '6073' was a two-seat version designed for advanced training and operational conversion.
The first L-159A arrived at Çáslav AB on December 27, 2000, joining the 42 Fighter Squadron. Economic conditions resulted in defence cutbacks, putting the L-159As into storage. 212 FS remained as the sole L-159 unit with just 18 L-159A ALCA and six aircraft as reserve. The Czech Air Force ordered the conversion of a number of L-159A single-seat aircraft into L-159T1 two-seaters.
The Czech MoD signed a contract for four conversions of surplus L-159A aircraft to two-seat L-159T1 trainers on June 26, 2006. Two days later the first L-159A arrived at Aero's plant, serialled 6069 it is one from the 24 at Çáslav AB. It was completed in early 2007 and made its first flight on March 8, 2007. The three others converted to L-159T1 are 6067, 6071 and 6072. All four L-159T1 were officially accepted back into service on November 23, 2007.
L-159T1 is the designation introduced by the Czech Air Force, Aero Vodochody also referred to the conversion as L-159BAT ("B from A for Training"). The L-159T1 conversion replaces the front fuselage with a new one providing the second cockpit. The new version lacks cockpit protective armour, but closely resembles the L-159A on all other areas to provide a good conversion trainer.
Aero Vodochody has failed to attract any customers and the Czech MoD also failed to find any takers for its surplus of 47 L-159A ALCAs. Despite this, Aero Vodochody continued to develop the L-159 offering new capabilities including aerial refueling capability.
Aero L 159 ALCA
Engine: Allied Signal / ITEC F 124 GA-100, 28.58 kN / 6,300 lb turbofan
Length: 41.765 ft / 12.73 m
Height: 15.682 ft / 4.78 m
Wingspan: 31.299 ft / 9.54 m
Wing area: 202.363 sqft / 18.8 sqm
MTOW: 17640.0 lb / 8000.0 kg
Weight empty: 9172.8 lb / 4160.0 kg
Internal fuel: 1596 kg / 5,159 lb
Max fuel: 2973 kg / 6,554 lb
Max. speed: 505 kts / 936 km/h / 582 mph
Initial climb rate: 9251.97 ft/min / 47.0 m/s
Service ceiling: 43307 ft / 13200 m
Wing load: 87.33 lb/sq.ft / 426.0 kg/sq.m
Range int. fuel: 1570km / 850 nm
Max range: 2250km / 1,215 nm
Armament: 7x ext.
Max. stores: 2340kg / 5,159 lb
Design load: +8/-4 G