Aero Vodochody takes a breath and starts serial production of L-39NG
After twenty years, Aero Vodochody has started serial production of a new aircraft. This is the L-39NG subsonic aircraft, which is a follow-up to the L-39C type, where the original requirement was to create a successor to the highly successful L-39 Albatros type. The serial production of the L-39NG was inaugurated on 29 November with the assembly of the wing and fuselage. The first machine in the series is expected to be flown by the end of this year.
Video: Report – Aero Vodochody takes a breath and starts serial production of L-39NG / CZ DEFENCE
The development and subsequent completion of the aircraft took almost 10 years, according to company president Viktor Sotona. The cost of this project reached CZK 3 billion. The factory in Vodochody is able to produce a large part of the components for the new aircraft type itself in its own facilities or in cooperation with Czech suppliers. Already at the start of production, Vodochody has 34 aircraft contracted, which provides the company with work for 3 years. According to Sotona, not only traditional users of older Albatros, but also new customers are interested in the L-39NG. Traditional users include African countries such as Ghana. Other users include Vietnam, Hungary and the domestic Centre for Aviation Training (CLV) in Pardubice, where representatives of AERO Vodochody AEROSPACE and the state enterprise LOM PRAHA signed a contract for the delivery of four new L-39NG jet aircraft for basic and advanced training of pilots of the Czech Air Force only on 14 November. The CLV is expected to receive the new aircraft within 28 months of the contract signing.
The L-39NG will be produced in two modifications, namely training and combat. However, according to President Sotona, the greatest interest is in the so-called hybrid, i.e. a training aircraft with the ability to carry selected light weapons. Another of the advantages of the fighter is that they have the option of equipping both western and eastern configurations for their customers in Vodochody. An important part is also the overall commercial offer, where it is not only about selling the actual machine, but also a large number of additional services and servicing. "It's a CRM, a whole system that includes simulators of different types, from full motion simulators to some simpler simulators for practicing procedures. Furthermore, the offer includes a whole system of ground equipment support, spare parts, there is integrated logistics support and other things," Sotona explained to CZ DEFENCE. For the sake of interest, it takes approximately 14,000 parts, 8,500 metres of various cables, 17,500 pieces of rivets and 31,000 man-hours to complete one L-39NG aircraft.
We asked the chief designer of the L-39NG, Jaromir Lang, about the differences between the L-39C and the new L-39NG: "It's a completely new aircraft. We have really taken the design from the cornerstone, the main difference is the materials used. Previously, the 'thirty-nine' was built with original Soviet materials or former Czechoslovak materials and using Czechoslovak standards. The new aircraft uses contemporary materials available on the world market and the construction is carried out strictly according to European Defence Agency standards." Let us add that the technical drawings and documents are similar. The original "on paper" ones are now replaced by 3D visualisations.
According to Jaromír Lang, the aircraft is designed as a two-seater, but according to the specifications and the task, it can only be flown from the front cabin. The L-39NG allows for basic combat equipment, but no sophisticated weapon systems are involved. It can carry basic types of bombs, basic types of unguided or possibly laser-guided missiles, and machine gun or cardboard containers. All military installation can be carried out based on specific client requirements. Pilots will then appreciate the new aircraft's much higher comfort not only in the cabin but also in the feeling of the flight itself. According to chief designer Lang, the L-39NG is tolerant of any pilot error. The pilot's cockpit meets the needs of future pilots of the 4th and 5th generation machines and was designed for subsequent training on F-16 or Gripen types. An important component is the engine from the American company Williams International. "It is an engine that is widely used in civil aviation. Of course, modifications had to be made for this aircraft to enable the engine to withstand the loads of aerobatic flight. At the same time, it has to be able to withstand different positions, because a military engine has to be able to fly in an inverted position, for example on its back. So the oil system has been modified and the engine has been redesigned to withstand the higher cyclic loads in military operation," said Jaromír Lang. The aircraft has a service life of 15,000 hours, which is 3 times longer than previous types.
According to chief designer Jaromir Lang, the competitive advantage of the L-39NG is mainly the honesty of Czech design and Czech production. "A lot of customers are convinced of this. The aircraft is robust and also provides the pilot with a certain level of safety. If something goes wrong, for example, the pilot makes an emergency landing, the design of the aircraft can perfectly protect him in such situations," Lang emphasises. His words were subsequently confirmed by Aero Vodochody's test pilot, retired Captain Vladimír Továrek. "As far as the handling of the aircraft is concerned, it is much more agile than the original 'thirty-nine'. As for the economy of operation, compared to the 39C it is incomparable. The fuel consumption is, let's say, half, maybe two-thirds. The L-39NG is far more comfortable for the pilot to operate. The information support for the pilot in the cockpit is on a completely different level than the original 'thirty-nine,'" the pilot adds. He also praises the cockpit, which is modern, built on multi-function displays, bringing it closer to a modern fighter aircraft, where it is meant to act as an intermediary between the base aircraft and the fighter. As a test pilot, Vladimír Továrek flew a total of 200 hours on the L-39NG prototype and appreciates its safety. "The aircraft is equipped with Martin Becker ejection seats with 'zero-zero' parameters in case of some fatal malfunction, which means that it is able to save you at zero speed at zero altitude. Interestingly, the L-39NG has also already been successfully tested taking off and landing on a grass runway.
Aero Vodochody is a company with a tradition in aviation comparable to other world companies. The tradition of aircraft production dates back to 1919, when the company produced over 11,000 aircraft in its more than 100 years of existence. The company currently employs more than 1,600 people and more than 65% of Aero Vodochody's suppliers are Czech companies. The company's operations are based on three main pillars, namely the development and production of the L-39NG aircraft, aircraft servicing and repair, and aerostructures programmes, in which Aero Vodochody is mainly involved in the supply of components for the Airbus A220 and C-390 Millennium aircraft. The company is currently a member of the Aerospace Industry Association of the Czech Republic. This association cooperates, for example, with the Ministry of Defence on preparations for industrial cooperation of Czech companies in the acquisition of F-35 supersonic aircraft.