The Czech Republic’s fleet of leased Saab Gripens will undergo a weapons system upgrade as the NATO nation looks to expand the type’s capabilities to support operations until late in the next decade.
“The upgrade will increase the aircraft’s ground-attack capabilities through the integration of guided and unguided bombs,” says Sweden’s FXM defence and security export agency. New weapon pylons, related software updates and training services are also included in the SKr120 million ($14.2 million) deal, it adds.
Prague signed a 10-year lease agreement for 14 Gripens in 2014, and last year signed a contract extension to continue operating the aircraft until 2027, with the option to extend this by two years. Its agreement included the addition of new air-to-surface weapons covered in the new contract.
Flown from Čáslav air base, the Czech air force’s Gripen fleet has accumulated more than 20,000 operational flying hours since the first example arrived in April 2005. Its inventory includes 12 C-model fighters and two Gripen D trainers.
Separately, Saab has been awarded SKr223 million to develop and produce countermeasures equipment for its new-generation Gripen E/NG, which is on order for the Swedish and Brazilian air forces. Work will conclude during 2020, with the self-protection system also to be compatible with in-service C/D-model examples.