The transfer aircraft, fuselage number IQAF-5901, was produced as one of the last L-159s in 2003. Four years later, it underwent a conversion to the two-seat L-159T1 design. In 2015, it became one of four L-159s released directly from the Czech Air Force’s in-service fleet in order to rapidly strengthen the Iraqi Air Force (IQAF). It was used to train Iraqi pilots on the territory of the Czech Republic after maintenance was performed at Aero and handed over to the IQAF in 2015. In this role, its intermediate repair resource was exhausted, followed by an overhaul performed at Aero under an aftermarket support contract for the Iraqi L-159 fleet.
Aircraft manufactured or repaired at Aero are delivered to customers in shipping containers, aboard transport aircraft, or flown to their destinations, as in the case of Iraq. The last L-159 aircraft to Iraq flew the route of Vodochody Airport, Plovdiv in Bulgaria, and Malatya in Turkey, from where the escort aircraft also returned to the Czech Republic. The L-159 then proceeded to an Iraqi base where it was handed over to the 115th Squadron at Balad.
Flying a military aircraft from the Czech Republic to Iraq is not a simple matter, with overhaul sorties followed by supplementary flights to check the flawless operation of the on-board systems, especially the fuel system, and quite extensive preparations. These include obtaining diplomatic permissions for the military aircraft to fly over from the countries through which the route passes – Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey -, insuring the aircraft and crew, hiring an escort aircraft, and assigning mechanics to operate the L-159 during stopovers. Necessary spare parts, ground equipment, and tools are also provided and carried on board the escort aircraft. The overflight to Iraq is also complicated by the partial closure of airspace on the Turkish-Iraqi border and combat operations on Iraqi territory may also restrict the overflight. Therefore, security analyses are part of the overflight.
The L-159 is a subsonic light combat aircraft. The L-159 aircraft has over 20 years of successful service with the Czech Air Force. In addition, the Iraqi Air Force also has Czech Aero light combat aircraft in its fleet. They have also been used for training purposes by Draken Europe, where they play the role of aggressors in training pilots of the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon and state-of-the-art F-35 fighter aircraft. The aircraft’s strengths include its low operating costs and its ability to perform combat and training tasks with ease of maintenance. This makes the L-159 an excellent platform for advanced and combat pilot training for fourth and emerging fifth-generation fighter aircraft.