Czech Air Force chooses F-35A Lightning II
The Government of the Czech Republic has made a fundamental decision about the modernization of the Vzdušné síly armády České republiky (CzAF, Czech Air Force) and gave Defence minister Jana Cernochová a mandate to start negotiations with the US government for purchasing 24 F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft.
Jana Cernochová said “Our decision for this choice is based on analysis by the military, which clearly states that only the most modern machines of the so-called 5th generation can withstand the battlefields of the future. The decision on the acquisition must be made now, as prices of the technology continue to rise, while at the same time there is a lack of production capacity and raw materials, increasing delivery times. That is why we should not delay because delivery times are in the order of years. The year 2027 is apparently far away”.
At this moment the Czech Air Force is leasing fourteen Saab 39 Gripens, twelve JAS39C single seat and two JAS39D two-seat fighters from Saab Aerospace, Sweden. The Swedish ambassador to Czechia, Frederik Jörgensen, said that the Czech Air Force can keep the leased Gripens for free after the current lease period is over.
The choice for the Lightning II over the Saab Gripen NG did not came as a surprise as media reports already indicated for a longer period that the F-35A is the leading contender for the replacement of the JAS39C/D Gripens. The fact that surrounding countries already operate the Lightning II or have ordered the 5th generation fighter made the choice more easy. When Czechia successfully conclude the negotiations with the US government, the country will be, next to USAF Europe, the 11th operator of the type in Europe. The other countries are: Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom and on order with Belgium, Finland, Germany, Poland and Switzerland.
Photo by Lockheed Martin