Draken L-159E Honey Badger aircraft provided Red Air for USMC air assets during Exercise Winter Fury

Aero Vodochody and IAI partner to offer improved L-159 for OA-X competition

By Dario Leone
Jun 15 2018
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“The L-159 is the most cost-effective and lowest-risk option,” Giuseppe Giordo, Aero Vodochody’s CEO

Aero Vodochody has partnered with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to offer the former’s L-159 for the U.S. Air Force’s OA-X close air support program.

As reported by Flight Global, Giuseppe Giordo, Aero Vodochody’s CEO, said the L-159 is “the most cost-effective and lowest-risk option.”

The two companies also say that – if chosen for the roughly 350-aircraft requirement – they would consider setting up a production line and supply chain for the Honeywell F124-GA-100-powered jet trainer in the U.S.

The USAF has already invited Textron Aviation and Sierra Nevada/Embraer to take part in an evaluation exercise this summer with their Beechcraft AT-6 and A-29 Super Tucano, respectively.

However, Giordo says the USAF “cannot afford the risk of flying with turboprops”, adding: “We do believe that US pilots need to have the best assets in close air support missions. This is not a developmental airplane. It has been used in a real operational war environment and can perform many roles.”

Aero Vodochody and IAI’s Lahav division announced in April that they are to collaborate on a version of the L-159 that will see the jet trainer equipped with a new, “fourth-generation” avionics suite and “other solutions”, believed to be weapons integration systems. The current variant already features IAI equipment, including an Elta Systems radar and optional datalink.

The company restarted low-volume production of the L-159 in 2016 after cancelling the programme in the mid-1990s when sole customer the Czech Republic furloughed most of its fleet of 72 aircraft. However, after a successful decade-long effort to sell the surplus types to the Iraqi Air Force – which has used them in its campaign against so-called Islamic State insurgents – and U.S. adversary training specialist Draken International, Aero Vodochody has built two additional aircraft.

The L-159 is a single-seat, multi-role aircraft capable of supporting a variety of air-to-air, air-to-ground and reconnaissance missions. The aircraft can carry a wide range of U.S. and NATO standard ordinance including air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and laser-guided bombs (LGBs). The L-159 can also carry the Litening Pod and other specially designed Electronic Attack (EA) pods to satisfy a verity of customer requirements.

Giordo says two L-159 production lines could be established – one building the latest version for the transatlantic requirement with IAI and a possible U.S. partner, and the existing facility near Prague focusing on the existing variant.

The partnership with IAI could also potentially include the smaller L-39NG: a re-engined version of its venerable Albatros jet trainer that Aero Vodochody hopes to fly by November and have operational by the first quarter of 2020.

Photo credit: Draken International

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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