Air Weapons

Aero

L-39/59 Albatros

The Aero L-39 Albatros was the successor to the earlier L-29 and, just like its predecessor, it became the standard trainer for the Warsaw Pact. The Albatros is a cantilever low-wing monoplane with dual tandem seats which is also capable of performing close support missions in both trainer and dedicated light attack versions, it was remarkable thanks to its simplistic modular design which made it easily repairable and servicable to the point that it can operate independently of ground facilities. Production of the basic L-39 continued into the 1990s after it was adopted by a large number of nations including Czechoslovakia, the USSR, most Warsaw Pact nations, and Soviet client states such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam upon which production switched to the more advanced L-59 Super Albatros with a significant influx of Western avionics and equipment.

The first flight of the Albatros was undertaken by the second prototype on 4 November 1968. It entered service intially with the Czech air force in 1972 as the L-39C and was adopted by most Warsaw Pact nations shortly thereafter. Other variants included the L-39V target tug, the L-39Z0 weapons trainer (with combat capability) and the L-39ZA ground attack and reconnaissance version which featured reinforced landing gear and an underfuselage gun pod. The first attempt to install Western avionics and engines resulted in the L-139 which only reached the prototype stage. Nevertheless, this led to a significant upgrade known as the the L-39MS which was ultimately redesignated as the L-59 Super Albatros for export. The L-59 can be recognized by its elongated nose, lengthened fuselage and features a modern cockpit, more powerful engines, plus other structural improvements. Finally, the L-159 ALCA is a modern dedicated multi-role aircraft which is described in a separate entry.

Preceded by:

None

Succeeded by:

None

Datafile

DesignL-39ZA
NameAlbatros
TypeClose Support
Year1974
Crew2
Dimensions
Length12.13 m
Height4.77 m
Wing Span9.46 m
Wing Area18.8 m²
Weight
Empty3,565 kg
Maximum4,635 kg
Wing Loading246.5 kg/m²
Performance
Speed630 km/h
Ceiling7,500 m
Range1,100 km
Powerplant
Engine1 x Al-25TL
Ivchyenko
1,720 kgf
Thrust/Weight0.44
Armament
Guns1 x 23-mm
Payload1,100 kg
Hardpoints4
Production
Built?
Total2,800