The Czech air force has provided details about the operational performance of its 14 leased Saab Gripen C/D fighters, while the Swedish company's Gripen International marketing arm has also updated the progress of a 130% offset package linked to the deal.

Assigned to the air force's 21st Sqn at Caslav air base, the Czech Republic's Gripens are used both for training and frontline purposes. Two aircraft plus one reserve are held at permanent quick-reaction alert status, with each armed with a cannon and two Raytheon AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

Czech Gripens Dino Kucic 
© Dino Kucic/Aerosvijet Croatia

Czech Gripens had by 9 June performed more than 6,180 sorties and logged 6,050 flight hours, and "every aspect is according to the plan", says Caslav base commander Col Petr Mikulenka. Average flying time per pilot per year is now 120-150h, but this is increasing as the air force takes on a more active role within NATO. The biggest problem facing 21 Sqn is a lack of pilots, with only 20 now available to operate the fleet.

Three Czech aircraft are in Belgium for tactical exercises alongside the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon, and others will visit France later this year for another multinational exercise.

Its Gripens are also next in line to provide air defence cover for the Baltic states, with several to be deployed to Lithuania for four months after Polish air force RSK MiG-29s complete their current commitment.

Gripen International officials on 9 June announced in Prague that 44% of the Czech programme's total offset value has now been confirmed, with the Ckr2.6 billion ($166 million) approved for 2007, taking the total amount committed so far to Ckr11.3 billion. The Czech Republic's 10-year contract with the company, Saab and Sweden's Defence Materiel Administration had been scheduled to deliver 48% of its offset pledge by the end of next year.


Source: Flight International