The serial production of L-39NG trainer aircraft has started in full swing
Yesterday, the Czech aircraft manufacturer AERO Vodochody AEROSPACE held a ceremonial launch of the production of four L-39NG aircraft intended for the Centre of Flight Training (CLV) of the state enterprise LOM PRAHA. The launch of the new production was attended by Viktor Sotona, President of the Vodochody company, Jan Čáp, Vice President of Aero, and Jiří Protiva, Director of the state enterprise LOM PRAHA. The manufacturer signed a contract for the delivery of four aircraft with the state enterprise last November. The signing of the contract is a very important reference for the Vodočod company, while the purchase of the new trainer aircraft enables LOM PRAHA to continue training tactical pilots of the Czech Armed Forces on the same, but more modern, L-39 platform. The first aircraft should be delivered to the LOM PRAHA Air Training Centre at the turn of 2024 and 2025.
The new L-39NG aircraft will be used by LOM PRAHA, or its subsidiary CLV Pardubice, for various types of training, during which pilots learn the principles of jet aircraft use in combat tasks. The acquired aircraft will primarily serve pilots of the Czech Air Force, however, they are also planned for training pilots of other countries in the NATO Flight Training Europe (NFTE) programme. It is within this programme that the Pardubice Flight Training Centre has already been certified as one of the first two approved campuses in Europe.
The introduction of the new type of aircraft into flight training will enable the gradual grounding of the previous L-39C types, which are gradually reaching the end of their life cycle. The estimated value of the contract will be CZK 2.1 billion, of which CZK 1.3 billion is the cost of acquiring the aircraft itself. The rest of the price will consist of related products and services. In particular, after-warranty support, the price of which is guaranteed until 2028. In addition to the aircraft, the SOE will receive special and high-altitude equipment, survival equipment, initial training for pilots and ground staff, ground equipment, initial spare parts and consumables kits, flight planning and analysis systems and a ground training system.
The key location where all fuselage components are assembled is located in Hall 120 of the Vodochody plant. This is where the L-159 aircraft were originally built. The new production line, which was created specifically for the L-39NG, takes advantage of the experience gained in building previous models. "It is part of one of the largest investments in production and assembly, totalling CZK 81 million. The primary investment was in the hall itself and in the production fixtures we have in this hall," said Jan Čáp, who is responsible for the production of L-39NG aircraft at AERO Vodochody AEROSPACE.
At the beginning of this operation, the assembly of individual parts begins, ending with the finished fuselage. In other parts of the plant, the necessary equipment, technology, fuel tanks and the fuselage and wing are assembled. The result of this process is a finished aircraft ready for ground test and then for the so-called inaugural flight. "Aero is actually one of the few companies that has all the essential processes under one roof.
We have everything here from development, through the production of parts to final assembly. As such, we are finishing the production of the aircraft serial numbers 7005 and 7006, which will be handed over to the customer (Vietnam, editor's note) in the coming months," Jan Čáp introduced the L-39NG series production.
The individual fuselages are being developed so that the company meets delivery deadlines. Eighty employees work on site, primarily on the morning shift, Monday to Friday. "The goal is to achieve production of one aircraft per month, say, in the last quarter of this year. The target for next year is one and a half aircraft per month, and in 2025 we would like to get to about two aircraft per month," Stork added.
AERO Vodochody AEROSPACE currently has orders for a total of 34 L-39NG aircraft (Vietnam, Czech Republic, Hungary). According to the company's president Sotona, other contracts are also in the works, for example with neighbouring Slovakia.
We asked Viktor Sotona the following questions:
What does the delivery of four L-39NG aircraft to the state-owned company LOM PRAHA mean for your company?
A domestic reference from a domestic customer is very important to us. Everyone will ask us if we have this aircraft at home, if it is flown by a domestic user. This applies to all manufacturers of military equipment. And the second thing is, of course, feedback from operations, because there is a difference between having aircraft thousands of kilometres from the factory or having them a hundred kilometres from here. That means that we can deal with any kind of things operationally, quickly. We can also make modifications and the feedback is immediate.
The investment in the development of this aircraft has been considerable, when do you expect to see a return on that investment?
When we started the project, we were thinking about some 60 aircraft. But I would not be so optimistic today. We are counting on about eighty aircraft. Even so, that number is easily achievable when we compare it with the number of L-39Cs produced, of which a total of 2,900 have been sold.
As many as 400 suppliers are involved in the production of the L-39NG as part of industrial cooperation. Is it possible to trace the share of Czech companies?
Yes, it is approximately four hundred suppliers, because the aircraft consists of 15 000 components. The share of domestic suppliers is sixty percent. We select suppliers on the basis of references from the past, because many suppliers have worked together to supply parts for the L-159 and L-39. And they are well-known companies such as Technometra, Jihostroj and others. And, of course, there are other promising suppliers in between.
We asked the director of the state enterprise LOM PRAHA, Jiří Protiva, about the following:
What is the delivery schedule for the new L-39NG aircraft?
The first aircraft should be delivered to LOM PRAHA's Flight Training Centre in late 2024/early 2025, and the next aircraft should be delivered quarter by quarter in 2025. This means that in 2025 we should have the entire fleet of four in Pardubice.
What does this mean for the L-39C aircraft? Will they be grounded?
It's not that easy to say. Of course, we have various overlays to meet the requirements of the Czech Army in particular. This means that gradually, as the C's are phased out, the NGs will come on line at the same time.
This contract is worth about CZK 2.1 billion in total. Do you foresee further purchases?
We have already agreed at the beginning and within the framework of the current contract on a possible option. There is an option for four more aircraft. And, of course, we will respond to the requirements not only of the Czech army, but also from outside. And we assume that this option could be exercised.
Mr. Director, how important is the L-39NG for the training of pilots and for the presentation of the capabilities of the LOM PRAHA Flight Training Centre as a whole?
This aircraft is essential for the training of tactical pilots, or tactical air force pilots, and with regard to the eventual rearmament to a new fighter aircraft. It is a platform that we are discussing with Lockheed Martin, which has been agreed as a good basis for training pilots on the F-35.