The Czech government last week gave final approval to a proposed 10-year lease agreement for 14 Saab/BAE Systems JAS39C/D Gripen fighters that will replace its air force-operated Mikoyan MiG-21s in the interceptor role.

The deal had been expected to cost Ckr20.3 billion ($792 million), but negotiations between the Czech defence ministry and Sweden's defence materiel administration FMV saw this sum reduced to Ckr19.6 billion, enabling the Czech air force to spend around Ckr1 billion more to procure NATO-standard weapon systems for the aircraft; most likely from the USA.

Czech pilots will begin training courses in Sweden from mid-2004.

Contracts to be signed include a package of offset agreements worth Ckr25.5 billion - 130%of the lease deal's value - with Saab/BAE Systems joint venture Gripen International. This will include work worth hundreds of million of crowns for ailing Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody.



Source: Flight International