Ukraine received Lithuania’s latest round of military assistance on 20 April 2024, in which the Baltic nation offered its only L-39ZA Albatros, manufactured by Aero Vodochody.

This disassembled Albatros comes as the latest form of aid to Ukraine, which the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence (MoND) says has reached over €1bn ($1.06bn) to date. Among other types of assistance, Lithuania has provided much-needed 155mm ammunition, M577 armoured personnel carriers, drone jamming equipment, power generators, thousands of Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle rounds, and much more.

The MoND also leads a significant coalition working group tasked with de-mining Ukrainian land, which the World Bank claims a full de-mining package will cost over $37bn; this is significantly more than the land is actually worth.

L-39ZA – a versatile platform

According to the MoND, this Albatros aircraft has offered its pilots more than 20 years of training, “with an emphasis on their combat readiness for adverse weather conditions during any part of the day”.

Disassembled L-39ZA aircraft unloaded in Ukraine. Credit: Lithuanian MoND.

The L-39 Albatros is a two-seat, single-engine aircraft that entered service in the Czechoslovakian Air Force in 1974. It was the first airplane to be powered by turbofan engines and was later upgraded to the L-59 Super Albatros.

It is a versatile jet trainer that can also provide strategic reconnaissance and light-ground combatant support.

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L-39ZA is an armed variant based on the L-39ZO – a weapon trainer aircraft capable of carrying a 1,150kg payload. The ZA variant is fitted with a 23mm Gsh-23L twin-barrelled cannon – which can fire munitions at a rate of 150 rounds per minute – and it also carries K-13 or R-60 air-to-air missiles.

The Ukrainian Air Force will have no problem incorporating this platform into its force structure as the service also operates an unknown number of Albatros units. The air force posted an image of two units taking flight on 16 April on the social media platform X.

Two Ukrainian Air Force L-39 Albatros light attack and trainer aircraft, 16 April 2024. Credit: Ukraine Air Force via X.