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Aero restarts L-159 ALCA production, touts Argentina as potential customer

04 April 2017
The first L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) to be built for 13 years made its public debut on 31 March. Source: Alan Warnes

The first L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) to be built for 13 years made its public debut on 31 March. Production of the jet, at Prague-based Aero Vodochody, ceased in 2004 after the last of 72 L-159s was delivered to the Czech Air Force.

In a ceremony attended by Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Aero Vodochody CEO Giuseppe Giordio said the company was now ready to start production. "We know there is a relevant market and we know the L-159 is the only aircraft currently on the market proven in various types of [combat] missions."

The new dual-seat L-159T1 showcased at the ceremony was officially handed over to the Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) on 31 December, but its national colours and serial were covered at the ceremony as the company was keen not to identify the operator. One major improvement is the use of wet-wings (fuel in the wings), which will improve the aircraft's range. It is one of two dual-seaters being used to train IqAF pilots that will be delivered later this year.

During the ceremony it was announced by the Czech Republic's deputy minister of trade and industry, Jiri Havlícek, that Argentina was a new prospect for the L-159. Asked about on Argentina, Giordio said, "We are discussing with Argentina the possibility of supplying new L-159s with updated avionics systems, updated version of Williams FJ-44 engine, and new weapons capability. From an industrial perspective we need to co-operate with FAdeA [Fabrica Argentina de Aviones] but could set up an assembly line if they wanted to purchase enough."

Aero Vodochody is also been working on an upgraded trainer version, labelled the L-159T1+, with new night-vision goggle compatible systems and more importantly a Grifo radar. The first aircraft was on display too, in primer, with all the new systems on board.

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