Combat training F/A-259 - step towards mastering NATO aircraft by Armed Forces of Ukraine

Combat training F/A-259 - step towards mastering NATO aircraft by Armed Forces of Ukraine

Ukrainian aviation industry to start producing aircraft for military purposes in cooperation with Czech colleagues

During his visit to Kyiv on April 28, 2023, President of the Czech Republic Petr Pavel announced his intention to develop cooperation with Ukraine in the defense sector in six areas. The President noted that this cooperation could include partial or complete transfer of technologies and production to Ukraine, as well as an appropriate level of localization.

"We have prepared six key joint production projects based on both Ukrainian and Czech firms," Pavel said.

One of these projects is the production of brand-new F/A-259 combat trainer aircraft (also known as L-259).

The proposal for joint production is a very good option for several reasons. First, if such an agreement is concluded, the Ukrainian military will receive modern training aircraft with which pilots will be able to master almost all models of modern Western combat aircraft. It should be noted that the Czech Republic is the birthplace of combat training aircraft. Almost all military fighter pilots of the Soviet Union, and later of independent countries, began their journey in the sky on Czech L-29 and L-39.

Ukraine needs both combat and training fighter jets, as the existing fleet was outdated before the Russian aggression of 2014. To ensure a high level of security in the airspace, it is necessary to have modern equipment and trained pilots who are ready to pilot newer types of fighters. For example, the American F-16. This also requires the latest training machines. During all the years of independence, our Air Force has not received a single used tactical aircraft. Probably, Ukraine would have already received Western fighters if it had trained and certified pilots and technicians for these types of aircraft.

The signing of a Czech-Ukrainian agreement on cooperation in defense and military equipment production could significantly strengthen Ukraine's defense capabilities, particularly those of its air force. The new F/A-259 training fighters will provide effective training for Ukrainian pilots to operate modern NATO combat aircraft such as the F-16, F/A-18, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and others. This training aircraft can kick-start the future rearmament of our military fleet and the transition to purely Western models. It's no secret that Ukraine has long been in need of brand new aircraft, as the youngest tactical aircraft in our service have been in operation for 30 years.

If the agreement is signed, the Ukrainian Air Force will become universal: it will be able to continue using Soviet equipment, but will also learn to operate and maintain Western equipment.

Since Ukraine already has considerable experience in aircraft construction (in Kyiv and Kharkiv), it will not be a problem for us to quickly establish production. And the involvement of foreign partners will allow Ukraine to gain access to the latest technologies and knowledge.

Finally, joint production will have a positive impact on political relations between the partner countries and strengthen further cooperation in the defense sector. Mutual trust and cooperation in the production of military equipment will lay the foundation for future projects in various fields.

So far, the F/A-259 from the Czech company Aero Vodochody has been realized only on paper. However, according to the plan, the F/A-259 is to become a modernized successor to the existing production model Aero L-159 ALCA. The F/A-259 was first unveiled in 2018 at the Farnborough Airshow in the UK. Both aircraft have an identical design and technical characteristics, with the only differences being in electronics.

The F/A-259 has several basic features, including a fully digitalized cockpit with two multifunctional displays that show all the necessary information. In addition, the "open architecture" of the onboard equipment allows the customer to make any upgrades at will. But the most important is the option of installing an onboard radar with a phased array and a helmet display, which will allow the pilot to search for air targets independently.

The manufacturers claim that the F/A-259 is the most versatile training aircraft for the military. On the one hand, the aircraft is capable of taking off and landing even at "field" airfields with unpaved runways. It is also possible to install a refueling boom during the flight, which increases the combat radius of the machine and allows it to perform more complex missions.

Realizing that the F/A-259 is the successor to the L-159, it is worth noting that the L-159 itself has certain technical characteristics: a fuselage 12.7 meters long and a wingspan of 8.7 meters, a maximum takeoff weight of up to 8 tons and a maximum payload of up to 2.3 tons, a maximum speed of 936 km/h, and a combat range of 790 km. L-159 aircraft are in service in the Czech Republic and Iraq.

The aircraft is a combat trainer, which means it can be armed with anti-aircraft and unguided missiles for use against ground targets, as well as guided and free-fall bombs.

The joint production of F/A-259 aircraft could be an important step in the development of the Ukrainian aviation industry and strengthening the country's defense capabilities.

Bohdan Tuzov, Kyiv

Infographic by Oleksandr Shyngur

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