The Czech Republic is determined and wants 24 F-35 Lightning II

The government of the Czech Republic has authorized Minister of Defense Jana Černochová to start negotiations with the US government for the purchase of F-35 Lightning II multirole fighters.

“I have been authorized to form an interdepartmental negotiating team and enter into negotiations with the United States government for the acquisition of 24 units of F-35 Lightning II multirole fighters to equip two squadrons,” the minister said. of Defense Jana Černochová after the Cabinet session.

In 2027, the lease of the 14 JAS-39 Gripen C/Ds currently protecting the skies of the Czech Republic comes to an end, and among their possible replacements were the F-35 and the Gripen E.

The last map of Stockholm

Seeing how the Lightning II was positioned as a favorite of the Czech government, Sweden’s ambassador to the country, Fredrik Jörgensen, approached a near-zero cost offer. During an interview, he said that the Czech Republic could keep the Gripens they rented from Sweden for free.

A pair of Czech Gripens.

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See as well: F-35 or Gripen (almost) free: a tempting offer for the Czech Republic

The Swedes argue that continuing the Gripen line involves a smooth transition to the E model. The Czech riders know the machines well, the mechanics know them well and the infrastructure is suited to their use; therefore, the costs and time of such a transition are significantly reduced.

Additionally, sources within government have argued that an hour of Gripen flight costs about $5,000, while an F-35 costs about $30,000, so maintaining 24 of these fighters would consume a good chunk of the annual defense budget, jeopardizing other modernizations and acquisition programs.

Despite these arguments, Prague opted for the Lockheed Martin product.

F-35 Lightning II, the chosen one

As in other competitions (e.g. Finland/Switzerland), the fifth generation fighter eventually won out over its previous generation rivals.

F-35 Switzerland
F-35 during the test campaign conducted by the Swiss Air Force.

“Our decision to select this option is based on the analysis of the Czech Armed Forces, which clearly states that only the most advanced 5th generation fighters will be able to meet mission requirements on future battlefields,” explains Minister Černochová and goes on to say that the acquisition must be decided now because the costs of weapon systems have steadily increased while manufacturing capacities and raw materials are becoming scarce, which is lengthening lead times. “We must not hesitate, because the delays take years”, declares the minister and adds that 2027, the expiry date of the rental contract for the existing supersonic capacity, seems only a long way off.

See also: Switzerland releases details of F-35 and Patriot missile deal

F-35 multirole fighters provide a solution for decades. “The F-35 Lightning II will represent a highly competitive aircraft even in 2040, when the so-called 4+ generation of fighters will have become obsolete by then. Moreover, the F-35 is not just a fighter – it offers an air capability combining a fighter, an air defense element, as well as a state-of-the-art command, control and communications surveillance and center while being part of a vast network of the Internet of Things, including unmanned aerial vehicles, and is capable of carrying out missions that are completely outside the capabilities of the current aircraft,” says Chief of the General Staff Major General Karel Řehka on the requirements of the Armed Forces Czechs.

The reason for the increase in the number of fighters is that the current amount of supersonic fighters no longer meets the current tasks and given the deteriorating security situation, the volume of missions carried out will continue to grow.

Finally, the Czech government’s press release claims that the acquisition of the same fighter jet as the American Poland and other European NATO allies will enhance cooperation, joint training, capability sharing and reduce logistics costs. .

Robert M. Larson