Two pilots from the Czech Republic air force have taken part in the service's first ever air-to-air refuelling exercise, operating Saab Gripen fighters behind the Swedish air force's Lockheed Martin KC-130H tanker.
Performed recently over central Sweden, the manoeuvres involved two aircraft from Caslav air base, piloted by Maj Jaroslav Tomaňa and Capt Petr Dřevecký. Both had received special training at the Swedish air force's Ronneby air base before conducting the activity.
"The first Czech Gripen air-to-air refuelling campaign took less than a week. Initial sorties were made in a two-seat Gripen, with a Swedish instructor," says Saab. "During the rest of the week the missions were flown in single-seat Gripen." Dry and wet contacts were made during the exercise (Saab released image taken by Milan Nikodym).
Seeing pictures of the campaign reminded me of comments made by a senior Swedish air force official at last year's Paris air show. While giving an operational overview about the Gripen's debut appearance as a tactical reconnaissance aircraft during the NATO-led operation "Unified Protector" over Libya, he explained how the service's lone 1969-era KC-130H and one qualified crew had also been made available to the alliance at short notice.
His colleagues greeted news of the surprise commitment by saying words to the effect of "are you crazy?" The aircraft went on to provide valuable support to Gripens operating from Sigonella, Sicily during the early stage of the multinational campaign.