Eight years after introducing the type to provide air policing cover for its territory, the Czech Republic has opted to renew a deal to lease 14 Saab Gripen C/Ds from the Swedish government.
Yet to be finalised, the agreement will extend Prague’s use of the single-engined fighter by a further 14 years, says Sweden’s Defence and Security Export Agency (FXM). Negotiations linked to the deal have been proceeding for more than a year and the proposal also covers undetailed aircraft upgrades, training services and logistics and operational support.
“The next step is for the contract to be detailed and then formalised in an agreement to be signed by both countries,” the FXM says. “We are convinced that we have found a mutually good solution which will meet the Czech air force’s needs, both now and in the future,” says director general Ulf Hammarström.
The Czech Republic originally signed a 10-year lease agreement with Sweden in 2004, five years after its inclusion as a NATO member state. Its Gripens replaced an aged fleet of Mikoyan MiG-21 interceptors.
Based at Čáslav air base, the Czech air force’s Gripen inventory comprises 12 single-seat fighters and two twin-seat trainers.
Prague’s decision to continue operating the Gripen follows a similar announcement by its NATO counterpart Hungary in mid-2012. Also equipped with 14 C/D-model fighters, Budapest chose to extend a lease agreement with FXM until 2026.
Meanwhile, Switzerland is progressing with its plans to field 22 Gripen E combat aircraft from 2018. Both chambers of the nation’s parliament have given their support for an acquisition, with a final vote to be conducted on 27 September.
“If the votes are reconfirmed at the end of the current session of parliament, we have to see if a public referendum on the procurement of Gripen is called,” says Saab Aeronautics head Lennart Sindahl.