Having just joined NATO, the republic undertook to modernize its combat aviation by leasing fourteen Saab JAS-39 Gripen C/D fighter jets for a period of ten years starting in 2004. The lease, which expired in 2014, was extended to 2027, with an extension clause for a further two years.
This solution was intended to be temporary as it was intended to give Prague time to arm itself with new combat aircraft. Which should theoretically be the case, since in July 2022 the Czech government announced its intention to acquire 24 F-35A fighter-bombers to equip two squadrons of its air force.
And this despite a recent offer from Saab, which Prague had offered to keep the 14 Gripen C/D free of charge at the end of the lease in order to preserve the Czech market, on condition that it would then acquire the Gripen E/F. . .
“We believe the new Gripen E is one of the best aircraft in the world, with excellent value for money. No other manufacturer can really compete with us in this area,” argued Fredrik Jörgensen, Sweden’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, last summer. This statement was poorly received, however, as Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová believed it was made “not by a diplomat but by a businessman”.
Only, and while talks with Lockheed-Martin and the administration have begun, it is not certain that the Czech Air Force will be able to have before the expiration of the lease on its Gripen C / D F-35A … Especially since it will also be the Take time to learn the American apparatus [formation des pilotes et des techniciens, infrastructures adaptées, etc].
In the US, deliveries of F-35s are suspended as long as the causes of the accident are one of them [un F35B, à Fort Worth, en décembre] is not formally established. Added to this is the strong demand for this type of device, Lockheed-Martin had chained order intentions in recent months [Suisse, Finlande, Allemagne, etc]. Added to this are the difficulties in supplying components [semi-conducteurs, notamment] are likely to cause delays. Finally, the Block 4 version, which includes all the capabilities listed in the specifications for this aircraft, is not ready yet.
In order not to get stuck in the water, Prague wants to keep its Gripen C/D longer, ie until 2035. According to the Czech press, negotiations have also started on this.
“The negotiations with the United States do not close the way for other platforms. The basic goal of the Czech Republic has always been to be able to protect our airspace with its own means even during the transition to a new platform,” confirmed David Jareš, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic, to the Právo newspaper.
According to an MP who attended a closed-door meeting on the subject, the Czech Defense Ministry plans to use two types of fighter jets simultaneously “for some time.” It remains to be seen whether Sweden will agree to an extension of the Gripen lease… as its July proposal was rejected. According to Právo, this is anything but certain, despite the recent order for 210 CV90 armored personnel carriers from BAE Hägglunds.
Photo: Milan Nykodym – flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0