Andrew Doyle/MUNICH

The Czech Republic is attempting to renegotiate the payment schedule for 72 Aero Vodochody L-159 Advanced Light Attack Aircraft, with the contract set to consume more than three-quarters of the country's defence procurement budget this year alone.

The Czech defence ministry says it wants to reach agreement to stretch payments within the next three months, but is not seeking a reduction in the order's size.

"We need to spend about three months talking with Aero about the possibilities for us in this deal. We have a big problem with our budget," says the defence ministry. "We need to find a good way to maximise the number of aircraft with good financial support." This year the ministry will spend CKr9 billion ($233.1million) on the L-159 from a CKr10.5 billion procurement budget.

Two L-159s were recently delivered to the Czech air force for training and evaluation, although the development programme is not expected to be completed until September. The air force is due to receive 21 aircraft by the end of this year, with the last of 72 on order to be handed over in 2002.

Industry sources suggest Aero and 34%-shareholder Boeing are willing to discuss restructuring payments, although neither company is under contractual obligation to do so.

One solution, say the sources, would be to earmark early L-159s for export and delay the completion of Czech air force deliveries.

The defence ministry also wants to switch some of its orders to the L-159 two-seater, for training duties, but would have to fund certification because only single-seaters are included in the existing contract.

Meanwhile, the government is expected to decide whether to issue a supersonic fighter request for proposals during the first half of this month. This purchase would be funded from outside the defence procurement budget.

Source: Flight International