Armed Forces Overviews
Czechia

Czech Air Force / Vzdušné síly armády České republiky

roundel_cz.gif
Other Forces
roundel_cz.gif

By Paul van der Linden

The Letectvo a Protivzdusná obrana Armády Českej republiky - the Air Force and Air Defence of the Army of the Czech republic, was formed following the split of the Czechoslovak Republic on Januari 1st 1993. During the last decade a lot of things have changed dramatically. Following the transfer of a large number of aircraft (see table below) to the newly established Slovak Republic during the autumn and winter of 1992, a major reorganisation took place in the Czech Republic with lots of bases being closed or put on stand-by Bechyně, České Budějovice, Havlíckuv Brod , Hradec Králové, Mošnov, Prostějov, Žatec and the remainder realigned Čáslav, Kbely, Líne, Náměšt nad Oslavou, Přerov. Unfortunately this coincided with the retirement of a large number of aircraft and even the complete withdrawal of the An-12, Il-14, MiG-21R, MiG-23BN, MiG-23MF and MiG-29 fleet and more recently, the MiG-23ML and UB, Su-22, Su-25 and Mi-8T. 

In 1998 the name changed from Letectvo a Protivzdusná obrana Armády Ceskej republiky - the Air Force and Air Defence of the Army of the Czech republic, to Vzdušné síly armády České republiky - Czech Air Force. 

A reorganisation which took place during the second half of 1992 and throughout 1993 resulted in a completely new structure of the Czech Air Force which came into effect in the course of 1994. Following a number of unit disbandments which were not related to the split up of the country, one of the first units which closed down as a direct result of the transfer of a large number of its aircraft to the Slovak Republic was the 9. Stíhací - Bombardovací Letecký Pluk (9. SBoLP) - 9. Fighter Bomber Air Regiment, at Bechyně. The unit transferred no fewer then 31 MiG-21MA/MF/UM's to Sliač and Malacky during October and November 1992. Some of the units MiG-21MF aircraft were transferred to the 82. Samostatná Stíhací Letka (SSLt) - 82. Independent Fighter Squadron, at Mošnov after which 9.SBoLP was disbanded on 31 May 1993 along with the co-based 31. Smísená Letka Velení a Pruzkumu (31. SmLtVPz) - 31. Composite command and reconnaisance squadron, which saw it's remaining Mi-2, nine Mi-8T's, two Mi-8PPA's and the single Mi-9 on the inventory being transferred to other units. 

Another base which saw itself being closed was Hradec Králové and the 47. Pruzkumný Letecký Pluk (47. PzLP) - 47. Reconnaisance Air Regiment, disbanded. Of the units fourteen Su-22M-4's and two Su-22UM-3K's, respectively six and one were transferred to Malacky in Slovakia and the remainder to their new home at Náměšt nad Oslavou in March 1993. The remaining twelve of the twenty MiG-21R's which the unit had on strength following the transfer of eight aircraft to Slovakia were transferred to the 28. SBoLP at Čáslav in May 1993 along with the units three MiG-21US where they formed the 3 Pruzkumný Letka. After the co-based Fotoletecká skupina (FLS) - Air photography group, was transferred to Pardubice the base was put on standby and the 47.PzLP disbanded on 31. May 1993. 

The 11. Stíhací Letecký Pluk (11. SLP) - 11. Fighter Air Regiment, at Žatec was disbanded on 31. December 1993 after the units remaining ten MiG-29's of 1. Letka relocated to the 2. letka - 2. Squadron, of the 1. SLP at České Budějovice suplementing the units MiG-23MF's which were retired a year later. The MiG-21's of 2. letka were transferred mainly to the 28.SBoLP at Čáslav during November 1993. 

The final base which closed down after the first phase of reorganisations in the course of 1992/1993 was Ostrava-Mošnov. The base housed the 82. SSLt operating the MiG-21 as well as the 1. Smísený Dopravný Letecký Pluk (SmDLP) - 1. Composite transport regiment, equipped with An-12, An-26, Let 410 and Mi-17's. During the early 90's the squadron operated a mix of MiG-21MA's and MiG-21MF's. The unit transferred 11 MiG-21MA's to Slovakia during late 1992 receiving six MiG-21MF's from the disbanded 9. SBoLP in March and April 1993 in exchange. In late 1993 82. SSLt moved to Přerov where it merged with the MiG-21 element from the 1.LSP as the 4.SSLt. The complement of aircraft belonging to the 1. SmDLP was devided between the various other transport and helicopter units. The unit itself was transferred to Pardubice. 

Other less dramatic changes which took place during 1992 and 1993 were the 1. Letka Velení a Pruzkumu (1. LtVPz) - 1. Command and Reconnaisance squadron, at Lini becoming the 3. Letka of the 11. Vrtulníkový Pluk (11. VRP) - 11. Helicopter regiment, which had moved in from Plzeň-Bory in October 1991. 1.LtVPz officially disbanded on 31. October 1992. Another helicopter unit which disbanded in 1992 was the 52.LtVPz at Havlikuv Brod which did so on 31. December 1992 transferring its Mi-2 and Mi-8 helicopters to other units. Moving in from Slovakia were assets of the 2.Letecký Skolný Pluk (LSP) - 2. Air Training Regiment, at Košice and the 3.LSP at Pieštany, initially to Přerov. In addition the 1.SLP at České Budějovice suplemented its MiG-23MF/ML/UB's with MiG-29's from Žatec, while the 20.SBoLP transferred twelve late model Su-22M-4's as well as two Su-22UM-3K's to Malacky in the Slovak Republic in late 1992 receiving eight dedicated reconnaissance Su-22M-4's and one Su-22UM-3K from the disbanded 47. PzLP at Hradec Králové in exchange. 28.SBoLP at Čáslav gained one additional squadron being the 3.Letka with twelve MiG-21R's and three MiG-21US from the 47.PzLP. 51.VRP at Prostějov gained a squadron of Mi-2 helicopters while 3.DLP at Kbely was augmented with a number of An-26 and L-410 transport aircraft coming from Mošnov. 

1994 saw the second phase of the major reorganisation which resulted in the Czech Air Force as it basicly still exists today. During this second phase the regiment stucture was abandoned and five Air Bases were formed incorporating several squadrons. The first to form was the 4. základna Stíhacího Letectva (4. zSL) - 4. Fighter Air Base, at Čáslav incorporating elements of the 1.SLP at České Budějovice with MiG-23ML/UB and L-39ZA which eventually formed the nucleus of the 41 Stíhací Letka (41.SLt), the 4.SSLt at Přerov with MiG-21MF/MA/UM/US and L-39ZA eventually forming the 41.SLt, and the already based 28. SBoLP with MiG-21MF/R/UM, MiG-23BN/UB and L-29 eventually forming the 43.SLt. 1994 saw the retirement of the MiG-23BN and the MiG-21R with the unit. The 1.Letka of the 1.SLP at České Budějovice moved in in October 1994 with seventeen MiG-23ML's and four MiG-23UB's as well as several L-39ZA trainers. On 1. Januari 1995 the unit consisted of three fighter squadrons (41., 42., 43. Stíhací Letka - 41., 42., 43. SLt) operating 17 MiG-23ML, 4 MiG-23UB, 22 MiG-21MF, 8 MiG-21UM and 11 L-39ZA's. Two Mi-17 helicopters were also assigned. The 43.SLt was disbanded and Čáslav redesignated as the 4. základna Taktického Letecktva (4. zTL) - 4. Tactical Air Base, during the second half of the decade. The MiG-23ML/UB's were retired during 1998 with the MiG-21's moving from the 42. SLt to the 41. SLt. After the Czech Republic joined NATO twelve MiG-21MF's received some upgrades to make them suitable for NATO operations. These aicraft are referred as MiG-21MFN's. 42. SLt began re-equipping with the L-159A ALCA on 29. December 2000 when the first aircraft for this unit were delivered. 41.SLt is expected to replace its MiG-21's by 24 new fighters around 2005. In early 2002 the Czech government chose the JAS-39 as the MiG-21 successor. One additional unit at Čáslav was the Stressová Letka (Stress Squadron) being a trails and demonstration unit operating four MiG-21MF, two MiG-21R, one MiG-21UM and one L-39ZA. The unit moved to Líne in May 1995 where it became the first section of the Letecký Zkusební Odbor - Air Test Unit, the second section being based at Kbely equipped with L-29, L-39MS, Let 410, Let 610, Zlin 242 aircraft and Mi-2 and Mi-17 helicopters. 

The merger of 30.Bitevný Letecký Pluk (BiLP) - 30. Attack Air Rgiment, at Pardubice flying 24 Su-25K, one Su-25UBK and four L-39ZA and 20.SBoLP at Náměšt nad Oslavou with 31 Su-22M-4, five Su-22UM-3K and four L-29's saw the establishment of the 32.základna taktického letectva (32zTL) - 32. Tactical Air Base, on 1. April 1994 at the latter base. The Su-25 Frogfoot were retired in December 2000 and the unit began re-equipping with the L-159A ALCA on 13. May 2001 when the first two aircraft arrived. The last Su-22M-4/UM-3K Fitters were retired on 1 April 2002. after which the squadron reequipped with the L-159A, 

The third major airbase was the 33. základna Vrtulníkového Letecktva (33zVL) - 33. Helicopter Base, at Přerov which was established on 1. December 1994 after 11.VRP moved in from Líne in December 1994 and 51. VRP from Prostějov in October 1994. At Lině remained the 6 Hotovostní Roj - Readiness Flight equipped with a small number of Mi-24's from 331LtBVr. This detachment eventually disbanded on 1 January 1997. After being established, 33. zVR consisted of two squadrons being the 331. Letka Bitevných Vrtulniku (331. LtBVr) - 331. Attack helicopter suqadron, operating 16 Mi-24D's, one Mi-24DU as well as 20 Mi-24V's and the 332. Letka Dopravních a Speciálních Vrtulníku (332. LtDSVr) - 332. Squadron of transport and special assets helicopters, operating 17 Mi-17's, two Mi-8PPA's, one Mi-9 and 20 Mi-2's. The latter squadron also incorporated a dedicated search and rescue unit operating the Mi-2 and Mi-17, the stredisko letecké a požární záchranné služby (LPZS)- based at Lině. Two additional squadrons - 332. LtBVr and 334.VrRoj SOR, were established, and 333. LtDSVR renamed, during the second half of the 90's and the based helicopters reassigned to them. 

Training, liaison and special airborne tasks were combined under the 34. základna Skolního Letecktva (34. zSL) - 34. Training Air Base, at Pardubice by 1. November 1994 following the transfer of the former 30. BiLP aircraft to Náměšt nad Oslavou. After being established three training squadrons were operating 18 L-29's, 17 L-39C, three L-39MS, eight Mi-2 and seven newly acquired Zlin 242 aircraft in the trainingrole. Four Zlin 143M-AF were expected to join the unit during 2001. 1. SmDLP from Ostrava-Mošnov and the FLS from Hradec Králové formed the nucleus of the 344. Dopravni Pruzkumná Letka (334. DPzLt) - Transport - Reconnaisance squadron, operating various liaison and special mission aircraft as well as a small number of Mi-17 helicopters in various roles. The base was redesignated as the 34. základna Speciálniho Letectva (34. zSL) - Special Air Base, during the fall of 2000. Further reorganisations took place recently but details are as yet unknown apart from the 344DPzLt being renumbered into 343DPzLt. 

After being redesignated 6. SmDLP from 3. Dopravní Letecký Pluk (DLP) - Transport regiment, during 1994 the unit was absorbed into the 6. základna Dopravního Letectva (6. zDL) - 6. Air Transport Base, on 1. June 1994. Initially the unit operated a wide variety of aircraft including An-12, An-24, An-26, Tu-134, Tu-154, L-410UVP in the first squadron and Mi-2, Mi-8PS Mi-8T and Mi-17 helicopters in the second squadron. The sole remaining An-12 and Tu-134 were disposed of in 1994 and 1997 respectively. The unit gained quit a few additional aircraft since by means of two new L-410UVP's in 1996, an An-26 in 1998 as well as a number of W-3A Sokols which were obtained from Poland in 1996 by exchanging them with the remaining ten MiG-29's which had been in storage at České Budějovice for more then a year. The W-3 Sokols initially took up residence in the newly formed 63VrLt which was also responsible for the SAR tasks from the LPZS which transferred from Lině after this base was sold to a civil operator at a bargain price on 17 April 1997. The unit reformed at Lině as the Letku Letecké Služby Pátrání a Záchrany on 1 December 1997 after the Czech government bought back a hangar at a much more expensive price. 63VrLt disbanded after this and the remaining four transport configured W-3A's were transferred to the 62VrLt. More new aircraft arrived in late 1998 after the governmental VIP transport task was transferred from the Státní letecký útvar (SLU) Ministerstva vnútra - Governement Air Unit of the Ministry of Interrior, which was disbanded at Praha - Ruzyne in December 1998, to the 61. Letka at Kbely. As a result the unit received a CL.601 Challenger, an additional L-410, two Yak-40's as well as an additional Tu-154M. In addition, one additional Tu-154M was delivered during January 2000 from Russia. 

By 2004 Aero Vodochody had completed delivery of 72 L-159s ALCAs to the Czech air force. However following the disbanding of 32.zTL at Náměšt nad Oslavou in late 2003 only 24 aircraft or so are now remaining in service with 212.tl at Čáslav. In 2005 the last MiG-21s were finally replaced by a batch of fourteen leased JAS-39C/D Gripen fighters which were all delivered between April and August 2005. As a part of its debt payments from Russia the Czech government agreed to receive sixteen factory fresh Mi-35 Hind attack helicopters as well as a similar number of Mi-171Sh transport helicopters. These new helicopters will eventually replace the majority of the current fleet of Mi-17 and Mi-24s. Additional plans to acquire three An-70s as part of the debt payments were abandoned and the Czech air force seems now to focus on the C-27J as a successor for its Antonov 26 transports. In addition there is an urgent requirement to replace the VIP fleet. This process started with the purchase of two A319s which will replace the Tu-154s. The first A319 was delivered in January 2007. 

Abbrevations

  • Dopravní Letka (DLt) - Transport Squadron

  • Dopravní a Pruzkumná Letka (DPzLt) - Transport and Reconnaissance Squadronn

  • Letecká Opravárenská Základna (LOZ) - Aircraft Maintenance Base 

  • Letka Bitevních Vrtulníku (LtBVr) - Attack Helicopter Squadron

  • Letka Dopravních Vrtulníku (LtDVr) - Transport Helicopter Squadron

  • Letka Dopravních a Speciálních Vrtulníku (LtDSVr) - Transport and Special Helicopter Sq.

  • Letku Letecké Pátraci a Záchranné Sluzby (LtLPZS) - Air Search and Rescue Squadron 

  • Stíhací Letka (SLt) - Fighter Squadron

  • Taktická a Pruzkumná Letka (TPzLt) - Tactical and Reconnaissance Squadron

  • Taktická Letka (TLt) - Tactical Squadron

  • Vrtulníková Letka (VrLt) - Helicopter Squadron

  • V cviková Letka (VLt) - Training Squadron

  • Základna Dopravního Letecktva (zDL) - Transport Air Base

  • Základna Speciálních Letecktva (zSL) - Special Air Base

  • Základna Taktického Letecktva (zTL) - Tactical Air Base

  • Základna Vrtulníkovehó Letecktva (zTL) - Helicopter Air Base