L-39NG, that's why agreement with Senegal is still pending

L39NG contract Senegal pending
Aero L-39NG trainer/light combat aircraft.

Senegal was confirmed three years ago as a launch customer for Aero Vodochody's new L-39NG trainer/light combat jet, however, the agreement does not appear to have been finalized yet. After the announcement of the deal by the Czech manufacturer on 4 April 2018, no further news was released until early January 2020, when Tomáš Kopečný, Deputy Director of Defence Industrial Cooperation Department, said that "the agreement should be signed within a few weeks and the contract will come into effect by the end of March this year." Since then it seems to be still pending.

The agreement provides that aircraft for the Senegalese Air Force can carry AIM-9L Sidewinder Air-to-Air missiles as well as integrate the Elbit Systems Targo II helmet-mounted system. Although first deliveries were initially scheduled for 2020, the combat variant of the L-39NG is still in development and flight tests are expected to begin later this year. From the start of series production, delivery will take approximately two years.

According to the Czech Republic's MoD, the negotiations are delayed due to the deterioration of the security situation in West Africa. The Malian jihadist group Katiba Macina has begun to settle west of Mali, also putting the security of neighboring countries at risk, in particular Senegal, which has so far been safe from attacks by jihadist brigades. The armed forces of the Czech Republic and Senegal have long been working together to ensure security in Mali through the MINUSMA and EUTM missions.

While on the one hand geopolitical issues slowed down the negotiations, on the other hand they favored the Czech aircraft that in 2018 won over the Brazilian Super Tucano.

"Senegal appreciates the active role that the Czech Republic plays in the region," said Kopečný. "The Senegalese Armed Forces are undergoing a major reconstruction and are increasing their capabilities through a series of acquisitions, which represents a great opportunity for the Czech industry."

The L-39NG deal marks the return of the Senegalese Air Force to jets. After the withdrawal of the Fouga Magister, the nation operated only propeller/turboprop aircraft. In Senegal, the L-39NG will mainly cover the air defense, light attack and COIN roles.

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Written by Matteo Sanzani

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