Ghana’s L-39NG procurement in doubt

Ghana’s Ministry of Defence has suspended negotiations with Czech aircraft builder Aero Vodochody for the acquisition of six L-39 NG light attack/trainer aircraft while a rival US bid was evaluated. 

The L-39 trainer cum light attack aircraft in flight
Questions over future for Ghana's L-39 light attack/trainer aircraft orders.

Ghana's defence minster, Dominic Nitiwul, had sought parliamentary approval for the €111,393,400 m procurement of six L-39NG aircraft (together with associated products and services and a ground-based training system) as recently as 2 August. The aircraft were to be acquired through a loan agreement. The proposal was referred to the Defence and Interior Committee of the House by the Speaker, Alban Bagbin.

The L-39NG is an advanced derivative of the original L-39 Albatros, offered as an upgrade configuration with a new engine and avionics (as the ‘Stage 1’ L-39NG), and as a newly built aircraft (the ‘Stage 2’ L-39NG) with some design improvements including a new wet wing lacking the original aircraft’s distinctive wingtip fuel tanks, and with two additional hardpoints on the end of its wings where those fuel tanks were located on the original L-39.

Both versions use the more powerful and more efficient Williams FJ44-4M engine with FADEC control. The increased efficiency of this engine, combined with weight and drag reductions and the new fuel system give the new-build Stage 2 version a maximum range of 1,900 km without external fuel tanks, 800 km more than the L-39.

The Stage 2 L-39NG uses 50% new parts, and has a new lighter and stronger airframe

with a claimed 15,000 flying hour service life (three-times longer than the L-39). The aircraft has a Genesys Aerosystems avionics suite and a modern glass cockpit, and incorporates a Health and Usage Monitoring System. Aero Vodochody claims that the aircraft will have similar operating costs to a turboprop trainer.

The L-39NG programme was launched at the Farnborough Airshow in July 2014, and following the costruction of the L-39CW technology demonstrator, four L-39NG pre-production aircraft were produced, leading to international type certification in September 2020. The new variant is being offered in Advanced and Basic Trainer and Light Attack configurations.

Ghana previously operated eight Aero L-29 Delfin trainers (now all retired) and two L-39ZO ground attack aircraft. Today the Ghanaian Air Force operates a small fleet that includes four Hongdu K-8 advanced jet trainer aircraft, and five Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano light attack aircraft.

Jon Lake

Jon Lake

Jon is defence editor for both Arabian and African Aerospace magazines.