Iraq may buy L-159 jets

After ‘intense’ negotiations during a trade visit, Iraq is mulling the purchase of L-159 military aircraft from the Czech Republic

Dvě letadla L-159 Španělé už mají. Jestli budou létat, se teprve ukáže. foto: © ČTKČeská pozice

Dvě letadla L-159 Španělé už mají. Jestli budou létat, se teprve ukáže.

Iraq will possibly acquire up to two dozen L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft from the Czech military. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki made the announcement after meeting with his Czech counterpart, Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS), who is heading up a delegation to Iraq to promote bilateral economic and political cooperation.

Nečas described the negotiations concerning the L-159 as “intensive,” according to the Czech News Agency (ČTK). The Czech side first announced that it was planning to offer the Czech-made single-seat multirole military aircraft as well as helicopters to Iraq in April.

The L-159 was developed in the 1990s by Czech aviation firm Aero Vodochody and the first units were delivered to the Czech military in 2000. The military purchased 72 units, but only 24 are in operation. Most of the rest are in storage and available for sale. Over the years, several countries have expressed interest in the model, but sales were never finalized.

Over the years, several countries including Albania, Jordan, Bolivia, Israel and Hungary have expressed interest in the model, but sales were never finalized. Spain at the start of 2011 received two L-159 jets as part of a deal in which the Czech side received Spanish-made CASA C-295M tactical military transport aircraft. Arms dealer Omnipol received three L-159 planes as part of the deal, according to press reports at the time.

The L-159 is capable of reconnaissance as well as air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions. It can also be equipped with a number of standard NATO munitions and has sophisticated radar to allow for night missions.

Several other potential deals are also under negotiation. One deal, for example, concerns Czech-made Zetor tractors, which at one time were also manufactured under license in Iraq. “We want to follow up these projects. We are immensely interested in the cooperation,” Necas said, as quoted by ČTK.

The Czech delegation includes Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra and Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kocourek (both ODS). Among the business people on the trip is former Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who is now general director of VAE Controls, which designs and implement comprehensive supplies of technology and control systems for the petrochemical, water management and industrial sectors.

The trip to Iraq was the first by a Czech prime minister since Saddam Hussein’s government fell in 2003. The previous highest ranking official to visit was then-Defense Minister Karel Kühnl (Freedom Union, US-DeU) who in 2005 went to visit with troops deployed there.

Autor

Raymond Johnston

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