The L-15 will be competing with America's Textron AirLand Scorpion, Russia's Yakovlev Yak-130, Italy's Alenia Aermacchi M-346 and Korea Aerospace Industries' TA-50 to become one of the four aircraft purchases approved by the Thai government to replace its ageing fleet of Aero L-39ZA Albatros aircraft.
RTAF chief Treetos Sonjaeng reportedly announced the 3.7 billion Thai baht (US$113 million) program on Dec. 13, adding that a decision on the procurement is expected next year.
The main reason for the program is said to be because Thailand lacks the spare parts to maintain its 40 or so L-39ZAs, originally acquired from the Czech Republic during the 1990s. The other factor is the need for a modern platform to expand the RTAF's fleet of 12 JAS-39 "Gripen" fighters delivered between 2011 and 2013, the report added.
Thailand does not have the ability to manufacture its own aircraft, but is hoping that a foreign manufacturer will be able to transfer the necessary technology and knowledge to allow it to maintain and repair the aircraft domestically.
In addition to advanced jet trainers and light attack aircraft, Thailand is also planning to acquire more Gripen fighters and Eurocopter EC725 Caracals, long-range tactical transport helicopters manufactured by Airbus, beginning next year. New fixed-wing and rotary-wing transport aircraft are also said to be needed to replace its old fleet of Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Boeing CH-47 Chinooks.
Chinese Hongdu L-15 Falcon supersonic training and light attack aircraft.