Aero Vodochody boss optimistic about Iraq L-159 decision

Moscow
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Iraq is understood to be close to a deal to buy about 24 surplus L-159 light combat aircraft from the Czech Republic.

Ladislav Simek, chief executive of Czech aerostructures specialist Aero Vodochody, which built 72 L-159s for the country's air force a decade ago, said he is "quite optimistic" about an imminent agreement from Baghdad. "It is a long process, but we hope to finalise this year," he said.

Aero Vodochody has been responsible for maintaining and, in co-operation with the Czech government, trying to find new homes for surplus L-159s since part of the fleet was furloughed, largely unflown in active service, in 2005.

 
© Aero Vodochody
The Czech air force uses just 24 of its original 72 L-159s, including four T1 trainers

Speaking at the MAKS air show in Moscow, Simek said he also believes there is "a good chance" of selling the L-159 to Poland. Warsaw is seeking 16 lead-in fighter trainer and light-attack aircraft, with the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 and Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 also in contention.

Prague held on to 24 of its Honeywell F124-100-powered aircraft, including four two-seat T1 examples, which it now operates alongside 14 Saab Gripen C/Ds.

Since building the L-159s, Aero Vodochody has been repositioning itself away from a vertically-integrated airframer towards aerostructures, and being a risk-sharing partner on a number of civil and military programmes with Alenia Aeronautica, Boeing, Bombardier and Sikorsky.

Earlier this year it signed a deal with Embraer to design and manufacture the fixed leading edge on the Brazilian company's KC-390 transport/tanker.