Czechia CzAF JAS39 9238 EPRA 24Aug13 Mike Schoenmaker 640CzAF Gripens upgraded

The Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV, Försvarets MaterielVerk) finished the MS20 upgrade of all Vzdušné síly armády České republiky (CzAF, Czech Air Force) JAS39 Gripen fighter aircraft. The CzAF operates twelve JAS39C single seat and two JAS39D duals with the 211. tacticka letka (211.tl) at Čáslav air base.

The MS20 upgrade included hardware modifications and new software in the aircraft and support systems. The upgrade greatly enhances the Gripen’s ability to engage ground targets by incorporating unguided and laser-guided bombs into the aircraft payload and the air-to-air capability is enhanced by introduction of new radar modes.

Another key element will be the integration of the targeting electro-optical pod Litening III, which will be used not only for guiding missiles and bombs, but also in aerial reconnaissance and combat. The upgrade also implements the Alliance datalink - Link 16 - as well as cryptomodules for covert communication.

Upgrading the CzAF Gripen fleet to the latest standards is an important milestone for the forthcoming six month lasting deployment of the fighters to Lithuania for the Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission in April this year. The Gripens are now certified for night-time air-to-air (AAR) refueling by USAF tanker aircraft.

The CzAF is leasing the Gripen from the Swedish company Saab since April 2005. The first leasing period was ten years and was extended with another twelve years till 2027. In 2025, the Czech Ministry of Defence (MoD) will make the decision to extend the leasing contract or opt for a new type of fighter, which possibly can be the Saab Gripen E/F.

Photo by Mike Schoenmaker (Scramble Archive)

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