Draken L-159s Debut in the Netherlands

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The L-159s participated in the final part of the FWIT’s air-to-air phase, which lasted until July 14; this year’s course runs between April 24 and November 9.
Kees van der Mark

Four Aero L-159E ALCAs (Advanced Light Combat Aircraft) operated by Lakeland, Florida-based contractor Draken International deployed to Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands during June and July. The jets were at Leeuwarden to participate in the Fighter Weapons Instructor Training (FWIT) course.

The ALCAs arrived at Leeuwarden after a ferry flight from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, on June 22. Their four-day journey included a fuel stop at Prestwick, Scotland. The L-159s were contracted to operate as Red Air assets in the FWIT via Draken’s strategic partner Skyline Aviation, a Dutch company based at Groningen-Eelde. The company has supported the Dutch armed forces for almost 20 years, using a Learjet 36A, a Stemme S15 and two Aero L-39s. The returned to the United States on July 12.

Draken’s L-159Es are former Czech Air Force aircraft built in 2000-2002. Soon after the type entered service, the Czech Air Force fleet was reduced from 72 to 24, with surplus aircraft put in storage. Draken acquired 14 from Aero Vodochody in July 2014, with an option for another 14. Since the first aircraft was handed over on September 30, 2015, 11 have been delivered to Draken, with a projected fleet of 21 by the end of 2017. The aircraft deploying to the Netherlands included N159EM (ex-6034), N258EM (ex-6022), N259EM (ex-6030) and N262EM (ex-6040). N159EM had a white-grey-black arctic camouflage colour scheme applied, while the others were finished in the standard two-tone grey scheme used by the Czech Air Force. During their stay at Leeuwarden, the ALCAs carried both Draken and Skyline titles and emblems.