Procurement: East European Jets For Iraq


November 23, 2015: In East Europe the Czech Republic has sold (for about $40 million) fifteen used L-159 ALCA light bombers to Iraq. Not a long ago the first two aircraft arrived on November 5 th and should soon begin combat operations against ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant).

The L-159 ALCA is a derivative of the L-39 jet trainer but configured to perform close air support, tactical reconnaissance, air defense, counter insurgency, border patrol and lead-in fighter and weapons training missions. Unfortunately for the Czechs while the L-39 became one of the world’s most popular jet trainers during the Cold War the successor L-159 ALCA didn’t achieved any export success.

The L-159 was developed by the Czech Republic in the 1990s and only 72 were built. Iraq is buying some of those that the Czech Air Force could not afford to buy (and have been sitting in storage for up to seven years).  The L-159 is an eight ton, single engine aircraft that can carry up to 2.3 tons of weapons. Max speed is 936 kilometers an hour, minimum speed is 185 kilometers an hour. Endurance is about two hours. The L-159 is equipped with combat (air-to-air and air-to-ground) radar but cannot operate at night or in bad weather.  Using guided missiles and smart bombs, the L-159 is pretty effective at ground attack. The L-159 can carry heat-seeking air-to-air missiles and, depending on the skill of the pilot, be effective against older jet fighters. More importantly, such an L-159 would be able to force misbehaving commercial aircraft to land.

According to the contract with the Czech only twelve aircraft (10 single-seat and 2 two-seat variants) sent to Iraq are fit to fly. The other three are to be dismantled for spare parts. Also part of the Iraq sales was ground equipment, training and quantities of weapons and ammunition. Deliveries of these L-159s won’t be complete until 2017. The Czech Company responsible for the sale only eleven aircrafts on hand but was able to obtain four more from the Czech Air Force (so far sole user). 

Thanks to the Iraq contract the Czech industry will have some work to do and saved themselves from the cost of keeping these planes in storage while gaining some profit. On the other hand Iraqis have needed and still need trainer planes for their pilots. Although Iraq ordered south-Korean FA-50 Trainer aircraft these will not start arriving until 2016. Till then Iraq needed some alternative and found it in the Czech offer which was cheap and fast way to reduce trainer aircraft shortage.  -- Przemys&&22;aw Juraszek



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