The Czech government is expected to decide this week to proceed with its planned acquisition of 14 JAS39C/D Gripen multirole fighters from Sweden, says Czech defence minister Miroslav Kostelka.

Kostelka says a contract must be finalised within weeks if the air force's pilots are to have sufficient time to receive conversion training for the new aircraft. The Czech air force's first Gripens will be delivered in May 2005.

The Czech Republic is also expected to approve a plan to proceed under two contracts: a product agreement with Sweden's Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) for the lease of 12 single- and two two-seat aircraft for up to 10 years for around Ckr20 billion ($764 million); and an offset package worth more than 100%with Gripen International. However, the arrangement could also proceed under a single contract if this is requested, says the FMV.

The Czech parliament is also set to vote on a revised procurement law for the fighter deal, which will enable it to be concluded without the use of a local intermediary and the need for state guarantees.

Given a positive government decision on 10 March, negotiations to conclude the Gripen deal could last up to a further two months, says the FMV. However, afailure to conclude the contract could lead Prague to again look at the possible acquisition of ex-Belgian air force Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters.



Source: Flight International