Hungary orders 12 L-39NG jet trainers

Czech aerospace company, Aero Vodochody has just announced a contract with the Hungarian Ministry of Defence (MOD) to supply 12 L-39NGs to the Hungarian Air Force, with the first aircraft expected to be delivered in 2024. The value of the deal has not been disclosed.

This announcement comes just six months after the Prague-based company was acquired by Hungarian company HSC Aerojet, which is owned by Hungarian businessman Kristof Szalay-Bobrovniczky. The first aircraft is scheduled to be delivered to the Hungarian Air Force in 2024, with eight examples being handed over in the trainer configuration and the remaining four being configured for surveillance operations, fitted with a targeting pod. A company spokesperson declined to name the targeting system included in this deal.

L-39NG [Alan Warnes]
This L-39NG (serial 7004) is one of two prototypes that are currently being used by Prague-based Aero Vodochody. Alan Warnes

Viktor Sotona, president and CEO of Aero Vodochody, said: “We are very pleased that our flagship product, the L-39NG will become an integral part of the Hungarian Air Force. Together with the Hungarian contract, Aero is now contracted to produce and deliver almost 30 brand new L-39NGs and with further serious customer negotiations taking place, this number could rise by dozens more in the coming years.”

The Hungarian Air Force has not operated its own jet trainers since 2009, when it retired the last of its 20-strong L-39ZO Albatros fleet. However, it did train pilots on a leased L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) for three years. The deal is the first European order for the new-generation L-39.

This deal comes 18 months after the launch customer, the Vietnamese MOD, signed a deal for 12 L-39NGs in Hanoi. These aircraft will be configured with Eastern avionics to fulfil the Vietnamese Peoples’ Air Force’s needs for a lead-in fighter trainer to its Russian-built Sukhoi Su-30MK2V Flanker fleet. The first of these L-39NGs are already on the production line, with deliveries expected to commence next year.  Deliveries of the Hungarian and Vietnamese Air Force examples will run concurrently up until the late 2020s.

L-39NG [Aero Vodochody]
The L-39NG is still in the development stage. Seen here is the first prototype during a flight test from the Aero Vodochody factory airfield. Aero Vodochody

So far, the Czech MOD has not ordered the new trainer due to budget constraints. However, it desperately needs a new platform, given that the seven L-39Cs operated by the Centrum Leteckého Výcviku (CLV, Flight Training Centre) at Pardubice to train potential JAS 39C/D Gripen pilots are very close to the end of their useful service life.

There are currently two L-39NG prototypes flying (serials 7001 and 7004), with the first production example for the Vietnamese Peoples' Air Force expected to make its first flight during early 2023. The L-39NG is a modern evolution of the L-39 Albatros, which is still the most successful jet trainer ever built, with more than 2,900 examples being sold to air forces all over the world during the Cold War era.