25 years since the first flight of the L-159 jet. This “workhorse” aircraft continues to be in great shape
Vodochody, August 2nd, 2022 – Today marks the 25th anniversary of the first take-off of the L-159 Alca prototype from the airport in Vodochody. During its service, this aircraft has earned international recognition and respect. Due to its timeless design, the L-159 continues to be a regular part of training and combat missions.
The L-159 ALCA is a light multi-role fighter that marked a qualitative leap in the development and production at Aero Vodochody in the late 1990s. This included changes in all aspects of the aircraft design, integration of new avionics systems including the glass cockpit, self-protection systems and integration of western weapons systems including the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AGM-65 Maverick, and laser-guided bombs.
Among its great advantages, especially compared to competitors and supersonic aircraft, are low operating costs and ease of day-to-day operation. The aircraft can support ground troops, destroy a wide variety of land and sea targets, provide air defense against slow moving targets, and serve in pilot training. In addition, the aircraft has the capability take off from airfields with unpaved runways, a feature with an ever-increasing importance. There is a reason why L-159 aircraft are called workhorses of the skies.
"In the second half of the 1990s, the L-159 development project was a huge motivation for us at Aero, mainly due to the possibility of using advanced western technologies in the aircraft design, which we gained access to after 1989. Thanks to the huge commitment of the project team, in less than five years from the start of the project, we managed to get the first prototype aircraft into the air. Its potential even today, after twenty years of service, is still far from being exhausted," recalls Martin Mamula, who has been with the L-159 project from the beginning.
The L-159 Alca is the most common type of aircraft in the Czech Air Force, which has a total of 24 aircraft at its disposal. It participates in a large part of training missions within the NATO alliance. The L-159 aircraft proved its operational capabilities in Iraq. Here, it has flown hundreds of combat missions and has proven itself in destroying Islamic State ground targets. Excellent results have also been achieved by the "Alcas" of the American company Draken International, which are used in the role of aggressor in the training of various branches of the US armed forces. The recently announced cooperation with Draken Europe brings proven training methods from the US to European soil. The L-159 will be used as the aggressor in training the RAF's best pilots, including pilots of the F-35 fighter jet.
"The recent signing of the cooperation agreement with Draken Europe has clearly shown that our “Alcas” continue to be demanded around the world, and not just because of their unmatched price/performance ratio. We firmly believe that a decision will soon be made to modernize it within the Czech Air Force. The plane can still play a very important role in the future and to ensure security in the Czech Republic and in the world," mentioned Viktor Sotona, President and CEO of Aero Vodochody.
The cockpit is designed like the F-16, including the HOTAS control philosophy. This allows the pilot to operate all critical systems without taking his hands off the controls. The aircraft is also equipped with a powerful radar. Discussions are currently underway to extensively upgrade the aircraft in operation, especially its avionics. The upgrade will extend the life of the aircraft by decades. This step is also necessary to maintain airworthiness in the training of future pilots of the Czech Air Force.
"All of the operational pilots from our base have been trained on the L-159 aircraft. The Alcas also have one other undisputed first. At the time of its introduction, it was our Air Force's first aircraft with a western philosophy of design and avionics. Thanks to this aircraft we successfully integrated our air force into NATO," says General Jaroslav Míka, Commander of the 21st Tactical Air Base Čáslav. "We are relying on the L-159 for the training of the next generation of our pilots," added Gen. J. Míka.
The L-159 Alca is a product that Czech industry can be proud of. Its extended service life after modernization will ensure its competitiveness in many global markets where Aero wants to focus its business activities.
Lukáš Hora, PR Manager