The L-159 was based on the L-59 airframe combined with Western avionics and weapon systems.
The L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft, is a multi-role fighter built in the Czech Republic. Designed for light attack roles, this aircraft is being actively used by Iraq in its fight against IS terrorists.
In the late 1980s, the Czech company Aero Vodochody developed a new aircraft design based on the basic L-39 Albatros to target the export market. As a result, the L-39MS was born, later known as the L-59 Super Albatros, which was exported to Egypt and Tunisia. In 1993, a modern domestic fighter project was proposed to replace outdated Czech aircraft, and the L-159 subsonic attack aircraft project was approved.
Design work was conducted from 1994 to 1997. The L-159 was based on the L-59 airframe combined with Western avionics and weapon systems. Basically the L-159 has two versions, the single-seat light attack version and the 2-seats in tandem training version.
A total of 72 L-159s were produced between 1997 and 2003 and were delivered to the Czech air force. Due to operating budget constraints, the Czech government reduced their requirement to 24, and the remaining fighters were sold to foreign countries.
Although production of the L-159 was suspended in 2003, in 2017, Aero Vodochody restarted the production line when it saw an opportunity for the L-159 in the export market. With an estimated cost of about $9.5 million for a light fighter, the L-159 is considered to be suitable for countries with limited defense budgets.
Although classified as a new generation fighter, the L-159 is very similar in appearance to the L-39 aircraft of the 1960s. The aerodynamic configuration of the L-159 was similar to the L-39 and L-59, but there were some improvements to improve its combat capabilities. These included strengthening the airframe, and the provision of cockpit armour.
L-159 has a length of 12.72m, a wingspan of 9.54m, a height of 4.87m, the maximum take-off weight is 8 tons.
The L-159’s characteristic long nose has been slightly enlarged to accommodate the Italian Grifo L pulse-doppler radar. The cockpit arrangement and controls of the L159 ALCA correspond to a modern fighter aircraft configuration, with Hands On Throttle And Stick technology and a glass cockpit.
The bubble canopy provides the pilot with great all-round visibility. The Flight Visions HUD is the primary flight instrument and weapon aiming system. The multifunction colour displays are used for the display of flight and navigation information and weapons systems status.
The hands-on throttle and stick control enables both pilots to control the aircraft without removing their hands from the throttle or the control stick.
The tubular fuselage accommodates a single turbo-fan engine and avionics. Two half-moon intakes are located on either side of the fuselage, behind the cockpit. The two straight main wings have six underwing pylons for the carriage of drop-tanks and ordnance.
Compared to the L-59, the number of underwing pylons was increased from four to six and a new hardpoint under the fuselage was added instead of a fixed cannon installation. The tail consists of a single vertical fin with two low mounted horizontal stabilizers. The three landing gear are single wheeled, retracting into the fuselage nose and the main wings.
The aircraft is powered by the non-afterburning Honeywell F124-GA-100 turbofan engine with a maximum thrust of 28 kiloNewtons. Almost 2,000 litres of fuel is stored in eight internal tanks with up to four external drop tanks carried under the wings.
The L-159 can climb at the rate of 47m per second. Its maximum speed is 936km per hour. The range and service ceiling of the aircraft are 2,530km and 13,200m, respectively.
The aircraft’s avionics, based on the MIL-STD-1553 databus, include a Selex Navigation and Attack Suite, Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System and a Global Positioning System. Communications are provided by a pair of Collins ARC-182 transceivers.
Self-protection of the L-159 is ensured by the Sky Guardian 200 radar warning receiver and the Vinten Vicon 78 Series 455 chaff and flare dispenser. L-159A and T2 variants are equipped with the Italian FIAR Grifo L multi-mode Doppler radar for all-weather, day and night operations.
L-159 is capable of carrying external loads up to 2.3t. The aircraft can be equipped with a variety of weapons, including AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, AGM-65 Maverick air-to ground missiles, rockets and free-fall bombs, a gun pod, laser-guided bombs, reconnaissance pods, electronic countermeasure pods and fuel drop tanks.
The system is adaptable for the addition of new weapons, including medium-range air-to-air missiles and special pods for ECM, reconnaissance, night navigation and targeting.
Currently the Czech and Iraqi Air Forces are the main operators of the L-159, with the Iraqi Air Force using it in combat against ISIS. In addition, the L-159 is also used by Draken International in the US as a Dissimilar Air Combat Trainer.
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