Single engine advanced trainer, built in Czechoslovakia and used by Russia, the Eastern Bloc and many of the world’s Air Forces. This is the primary trainer for the MIG 29. It was also used for light attack and reconnaissance.
The Czechoslovakian L-39 was built as the successor to their earlier trainer, the L-29 Delphin. Design work began in 1966, and the first prototype made its initial flight on 4 November 1968. The idea of the design was to marry an efficient, powerful turbofan engine to a sleek, streamlined fuselage, resulting in a strong, economical performer which would become the next standard jet trainer for the Warsaw Pact. Full-scale production was delayed until late 1972 due to apparent problems with the design of the air intakes, but these difficulties were overcome and the type went on to be a great success with the Soviet, Czech and East German air forces, among others.
Three main variants were produced. The L-39C was built as a pure trainer and was used by numerous air forces throughout Eastern Europe beginning in 1974 and continuing through today. The armed weapons-trainer variant is called the L-39ZA, and a close-support and ground-attack version is called the L-39ZO . In addition to those mentioned above, the L-39 has been exported to numerous countries, including Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Iraq, Libya, Estonia, and Kyrghyzstan. A modernized derivative of the Albatros, the L-59, is still being built in the Czech Republic. Another modernized, but very different version, the L-39MS, actually has much more in common with the L-59 than the L-39, despite its designation.
As of this writing, the L-39 is the most popular jet warbird in the world, with over 220 believed to be actively flying in the USA alone.
One 3,792-lb thrust Walter Titan turbofan (Ivchenko AI-25-TL built under Czech license by Motorlet).
Empty 7,340 lbs., Max Takeoff 11,618 lbs. (L-39ZO with four rocket pods)
- Maximum Speed at 19,600 ft: 485 mph (Trainer version, clean)
- Maximum Speed at Sea Level: 435 mph
- Ceiling: 37,730 ft. (Trainer, clean)
- Range: 528 miles with internal fuel; 995 miles with external tanks
- Armament (L-39ZO): Up to 2,425 pounds of weapons on four underwing hardpoints, including bombs, 57- or 130-mm rocket pods, gun pods, a five-camera reconnaissance pod, or two fuel drop-tanks. Centerline point carried a pod-mounted 23-mm twin-barrel GSh-23 cannon with 180 rounds
- Number Built: 2800+