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Lately, it has emerged that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Slovakia intends to start a procurement programme for a number of modern trainer aircraft, which will allow for the training of a new generation of pilots, who in the next years will start operating a fleet of 14 F-16V Block 70/72 multirole fighter jets, including two twin-seat aircraft.

It is not yet known, what technical requirements will be set for the procurement of new trainer jets, as the Slovak MoD is understood to still be in the process of specifying them.

However, it is expected that new trainer jets will allow the Slovak Air Force to completely replace the currently operated, legacy trainers, including five L-39CM and two L-39ZAM, which are said to be incapable of offering the level of training required to prepare pilots to operate the future F-16s, and should be phased out in the next 5-6 years.

Although it has not yet been determined, what will be the procedure under which Slovakia intends to finalize the new modernization effort, is seems very likely that the MoD will decide to procure the newest generation of the L-39 family of trainers, the L-39NG, which is still being developed by the Czech aircraft manufacturer AERO Vodochody AEROSPACE. The first prototype of this aircraft made the initial flight on December 22, 2018.

According to the manufacturer, the L-39NG is designed as a unified, comprehensive training system for modern air forces. It is based on the aerodynamic concept of the current L-39, but utilizes the latest technologies and equipment. The aircraft’s avionics are prepared to train future pilots of 4th and 5th generation aircraft and can be tailored to particular customer’s requirements. L-39NG features a broad range of simulation technologies, including the integration into high-tech tactical simulation centres with the goal to increase training efficiency.

Late last year the government of Slovakia signed a number of contracts worth nearly $1,6 billion, which cover not only the procurement of new F-16 fighter jets, but also provision of technical, logistical and training support.

Under the terms of these agreements, a group of 22 pilots and 160 aircraft technicians, will undergo the initial training programme in the USA.

Deliveries of Slovak F-16 fighters should commence in Q4 2022, when the first batch of four jets, including two twin-seat aircraft, is expected to land in the European country. The process of introduction of these aircraft into the Slovak Air Force should conclude in 2024.

Michal Jarocki