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The Czechoslovakian L-39 was built as the successor to their earlier trainer, the L-29 Delfin. 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.
Four* variations of the L-39 Albatros were produced:
- L-39C Aircraft for basic and advanced jet training
- L-39V Single-seat aircraft for target towing
- L-39ZO Training aircraft with extended weapon practice capabilities-four underwing hardpoints
- L-39ZA Training and multipurpose light attack aircraft with underfuselage gun pod with four underwing hardpoints.
- Excellent handling characteristics within the whole flight envelope
- Operation capability on grass strips and semi-prepared airstrips
- Excellent visibility from both cockpits
- Easy to maintain and service
- Low operational cost
- High reliability
- The practical suitability of L-39 aircraft for training tasks is demonstrated daily in military service of more than 30 Air Forces in Europe, Asia, Africa and America. The entire L-39 fleet, covering more than 2,800 delivered L-39 aircraft worldwide, has accumulated over 4,000,000 flying hours.
- Engine: One 3,792-lb thrust Ivchenko AI-25-TL
- Weight: Empty 7,340 lbs., Max Takeoff 11,618 lbs. (L-39ZO with four rocket pods)
- Wing Span: 31ft. 0.5in. Length: 40ft. 5in. Height: 15ft. 5.5in.
- 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+
Number Still Airworthy: Unknown number in military service. Approximately 300 flying in private ownership.
* Note: Another variant of the L-39, known as the L-39MS, was produced in very limited numbers and served as a development platform for the L-59. Although it appears externally like an L-39, the airframe, engine, aircraft control, APU and other equipment is different than the L-39. L-39MS models can be recognized by a “4″ in the second digit of the 6-digit aircraft serial number.