Aero Vodochody contracted to overhaul and modernize Bulgaria’s fleet of L-39ZA Albatros

Aero Vodochody has been awarded a four-year contract to upgrade and overhaul the L-39ZA Albatros fleet of the Bulgarian Air Force.

The Czech manufacturer announced the contract on January 5, which sees the first two L-39ZA aircraft crated from Bulgaria to its facilities at Vodochody Airport in Prague-East District as early as the end of January and the contracted work will commence immediately.

The current deal will see the first two L-39ZAs – along with their AI-25TL engines and Safir auxiliary launch units – be completely overhauled. As well as Aero, strategic partners of the company will compete parts of the work. An example is LOM Praha, known for its specialized work on Eastern Mil series helicopters will overhaul the AI-25TL engines.

A Bulgarian Air Force L-39ZA Albatros and its two crew taxi out for a training sortie
A Bulgarian Air Force L-39ZA Albatros and its two crew taxi out for a training sortie Aero Vodochody

The L-39s will be partially modernized via Russian avionics being replaced with Western avionics which will see an increase in navigation, communication, identification and recording capabilities. The work is expected to be complete on the first aircraft by 2024 and is expected to fly back to Bulgaria singly. The overhaul will see the aircraft be restored to 7.5 years or 1500 flight hours between overhauls.

Filip Kulštrunk, Vice President of Sales at Aero Vodochody said: "I am delighted with the successful completion of the tender and the opportunity to support another of the users of our legendary L-39 Albatros aircraft. We are systematically working to strengthen and develop relationships with the current users of our aircraft. Thus, Bulgaria joins the ranks of customers who have opted for overhaul and partial modernization of their aircraft."

An interesting fact about the Bulgarian L-39 fleet is that it was withdrawn form service in 2008 and later returned to service five years later in 2013 after a subsequent overhaul. This new contract will see that service continue for the years to come and train Bulgaria’s next generation of fighter pilots as the Eastern European country looks to accept eight F-16V Block 70 Fighting Falcons to replace its outgoing fleet of MiG-29 Fulcrums.