The Aero L-39 series of advanced jet trainer and light strike aircraft followed along the same lines as its predecessor - the L-29 "Delphin" detailed elsewhere on this site - in terms of development. Designed just three years after the successful L-29 became the frontline advanced trainer for the Soviet Union and associated Bloc countries, the L-39 emerged in prototype form and recorded its first flight on November 4th, 1968 prior to introduction with the Czechoslovakian Air Force in 1972. From then on, the aircraft was equally accepted and successful in the training of a new generation of pilots for the Soviet Empire and its satellite states and supporters. Total production exceeding 3,000 aircraft from 1971 to 1999. It became the first turbofan-powered trainer to enter serial production.
Compared to the earlier L-29, the L-39 was a more simplified approach with modularity in mind, allowing the newer aircraft to be produced more efficiently and quicker than its counterpart. The powerplant increased thrust was added as was a new avionics suite along with a reinforced structure. The tandem, twin-seat aircraft - as in the L-29 before it - allowed for unfettered views out of the cockpit (save for the rear), bringing about a heightened sense of situational awareness. The training derivative was eventually branched into a light strike form and four underwing hardpoints were used to carry various ordnance options including rocket pods, air-to-air missiles, and conventional drop bombs. This was in addition to the standard, centerline-mounted 23mm GSh-23L twin-barrel cannon for close-in work.
Outwardly, the L-39 was a complete revision over the L-29. It sported low-set, straight-edged, monoplane mainplanes with a well-sloped nose assembly. Views were hindered by the raised fuselage spine but this, in turn, allowed for increased internal storage space. Twin, half-moon intakes were set to either side of the slim fuselage which aspirated the single turbofan engine installation. The tail unit included a single vertical tail fin and low-mounted horizontal planes as well as the singular jetpipe. The tricycle undercarriage consisted of a single-wheeled nose leg and two single-wheeled main legs under the wings.
Export numbers for the L-39 Albatross were abundant was the case with the L-29 - though roughly the same set of customers greeted the new machine. Thailand went on to purchase forty of an export model designated with L-39ZA/ART that featured Israeli-produced Elbit avionics. The most numerous in terms of production was the L-39C model which helped drive total production of the L-39 system as a whole past the 3,000 mark.
Variants have included the five prototypes and two static airframes as the L-39X (-01 through -07). The L-39C was the standard trainer for many Soviet entities during the Cold War. The L-39CM became an upgraded C-form for the Slovakian Air Force. The Ukrainians received the L-39M1 with AI-25TLSh series turbofan engines. The L-39V variant covered target tugs for the Czechoslovakian Air Force. A weapons trainer emerged as the L-39ZO. An armed trainer and light attack platform became the L-39ZA which supported air-to-air missile launching. The L-39ZAM was a Slovakian Air Force modernization of the L-39ZA mark.
The L-39 was then offered in a more refined form through the L-59 "Super Albatros" and the line further branched to include the L-159 "Alca". However, these did not go on to achieve the same level of success as the L-39, leaving Aero Vodochody to now offer an all-new, modernized version of the L-39 instead as the L-39NG ("Next Generation"). This was announced in August of 2014 with intended upgrades aimed at the avionics suite and engines (the U.S.-built Williams FJ44 series). The aircraft would serve the current military market as a low-cost advanced jet trainer alternative to more pricier mounts emerging from the West and Russia. The prototype is expected to go airborne sometime in 2016 with the product becoming available in 2018.
July 2014 - At Farnborough 2014, Aero Vodochody launched a Next Generation (NG) offering of its L-39 jet trainer to be designated L-39NG.
September 2015 - The prototype L-39NG completed its first flight.
September 2016 - The L-39NG advanced trained has completed initial testing, paving the way for serial production aircraft. Power will come from the Williams International FJ44-4M series engine with Genesys Aerosystems providing the avionics fit. Deliveries are expected to begin sometime in 2019.
March 2017 - Development of the L-39NG jet trainer is said to be continuing.
July 2017 - Assembly of new L-39NG aircraft as been announced by Aero Vodochody. The first of four aircraft on the line is intended as the series prototype. The fourth example is set to become the pre-series model. A first-flight of one of these new L-39NG examples is scheduled for 2018 with certification planned for 2019 and customer delivery for sometime in 2020.
January 2018 - Aero has secured a deal for four armed versions of is flagship L-39 product to the nation of Senegal. These carry the Williams International FJ44-4M engine. Senegal marks the first customer of this production model.
January 2018 - Pre-series production of the L-39NG jet trainer is underway.
February 2018 - Airframe assembly of the production-quality / production-standard L-39NG is set to begin.
June 2018 - Aero of Czech Republic has announced their intention to offer the United States Air Force its proven line of advanced jet trainers / light strike aircraft through the L-39NG and L-159 offerings.
October 2018 - On October 12th, 2018, Aero Vodochody rolled-out its first L-39NG example. A first-flight is expected before the end of the year.
December 2018 - December 22nd, 2018 marked the first-flight of a pre-production L-39NG aircraft. This specimen flew out of Vodochody Airport and was airborne for twenty-six minutes.
December 2019 - Aero Vodochody completed a first-flight of a second prototype in the upcoming L-39NG series. The flight was recorded on December 9th, 2019, and covered some 32 minutes in the air. A total of three aircraft now make up the development phase to date.
March 2020 - The L-39NG has passed critical fuselage strength testing as it works towards full certification.
September 2020 - The L-39NG has received certification.
November 2020 - Nigerian L-39 jet trainers will be undergoing a life extension program.
November 2020 - The L-39NG has been demonstrated before representatives of Hungary for possible purchase.
February 2021 - Vietnam has contracted for 12 L-39NG variant airframes in a deal announced on February 15th, 2021. The deal marks the largest for the Next Generation variant since its introduction. and covers spares, training, and general support. Deliveries are expected to run from sometime in 2023 until the end of 2024.
- Close-Air Support (CAS)
- Advanced Training
40.42 ft (12.32 m)
31.04 ft (9.46 m)
15.49 ft (4.72 m)
7,341 lb (3,330 kg)
11,618 lb (5,270 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Aero L-39 ZA Albatros production model)
1 x Ivchenko AI-25TL non-afterburning turbofan engine developing 3,792lb of thrust.
391 mph (630 kph; 340 kts)
29,528 feet (9,000 m; 5.59 miles)
1,087 miles (1,750 km; 945 nm)
4,921 ft/min (1,500 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Aero L-39 ZA Albatros production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
Mission-specific ordnance may include any of the following for light-strike duty or weapons training. To include:
1 x 23mm automatic cannon (centerline station), AA-2 "Atoll" short-ranged air-to-air missiles, 57mm or 130mm rocket pods, conventional drop bombs, and / or laser-guided bombs. Also 2 x Wingtip fuel tanks.
Up to 1,102lb of externally-mounted munitions / ordnance.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Aero L-39 ZA Albatros production model)
L-39 Base Series Designation.
L-39X - Prototype models; five built with two static airframes.
L-39C - Basic Two-Seat Unarmed Trainer.
L-39CM - Upgraded C-models for Slovakian Air Force.
L-39NG ("Next Generation") - Model of 2018; modernized offering; Williams FJ44 non-afterburning turbofan engine; updated avionics and fuel system.
L-39V - Target Tug for Czechoslovakian Air Force.
L-39Z0 - Armed Weapons Trainer; fitted with reinforced wings and four underwing hardpoints.
L-39ZA - Based on the L-39 Z0; reinforced undercarriage; provision for reconnaissance pod; increased ordnance load.
L-39ZA/ART - Thailand Export Model; fitted with Israeli-produced Elbit-brand avionics system; 40 examples.
L-139 "Albatross 2000" - Proposed Export Model; fitted with TFE731 turbofan engine generating 4,080 lbs of thrust; avionics by Bendix/King; single prototype completed.
L-59 - Based on the L-39; fitted with uprated powerplant, avionics and a strengthened fuselage.
L-159 - Evolved/advanced L-39 form.
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of a possible 100.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (391mph).
Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
Aero L-39 ZA Albatros operational range when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
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