TechLithuania gifts its sole combat jet to Ukraine, bolstering air training and defense

Lithuania gifts its sole combat jet to Ukraine, bolstering air training and defense

L-39 Albatros aircraft
L-39 Albatros aircraft
Images source: © Licensor

5:03 PM EDT, April 22, 2024

The latest batch of Lithuanian military aid to Ukraine brings an unexpected addition. Vilnius has chosen to donate its entire combat aviation fleet, which consists of a single L-39ZA Albatros aircraft. Let's explore the capabilities of this unique machine.

Developed in the 1960s by Czechoslovakia, the L-39 Albatros served both as a training and light combat aircraft. It became the standard training aircraft for Warsaw Pact countries, except for Poland, which developed its own TS-11 Iskra. More than 2,900 L-39s were produced, highlighting its widespread adoption and use.

The L-39 has evolved through various versions, including the L-59 Super Albatros and the L-159 ALCA, with the latest model, the L-39NG, still in production. This two-seater, single-engine plane measures about 39 feet long and 31 feet in wingspan. It has a maximum takeoff weight of roughly 12,800 pounds, with around 2,646 pounds designated for armament across five hardpoints. The L-39NG variant can reach up to 559 mph and operate at altitudes up to 37,730 feet.

Lithuanian Military Aviation

Following the USSR's disintegration, Lithuania retained two L-39 aircraft, one of which was lost in a 2011 air collision with a French Mirage 2000. The surviving Albatros played a role in pilot and air traffic control training. With the NATO Baltic Air Policing program covering Lithuania's airspace security, this last Albatros was retired in 2019 and transported overland to Ukraine. The Ukrainian air forces, familiar with the Albatros for training purposes, now add this aircraft to their fleet.

The L-39ZA Albatros Aircraft

Lithuania gifted the Albatros L-39ZA model, tailored for training and combat roles. This variant features a strengthened undercarriage and an increased weapon capacity of about 2,844 pounds. It is also equipped with a double-barreled GSz-23 cannon in a pod under the fuselage, capable of carrying short-range air-to-air missiles such as the R-60 or K-13.

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