The Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted multiple nations to fortify their defenses. In a new development, the Czech Republic has officially decided to join the “stealth league.”
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The government of the Czech Republic has submitted a letter of request to the United States for the procurement of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The decision was made official by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) on October 3, Janes reported.
The Czech Ministry of Defense noted that the letter of request for an offer is a non-binding solicitation that expresses interest in starting negotiations for the purchase. The decision comes at a time when many European countries have increased their defense spending in the wake of Russian aggression.
“The Czech government has authorized the MoD to negotiate the acquisition of aircraft following the expiring lease of 14 Swedish Gripen aircraft,” the MoD said, adding, “Handing over the letter [of intent] is a necessary prerequisite for further negotiations for the American side.”
Petr Fiala, the prime minister of the Czech Republic, declared in June that his country would purchase the F-35 stealth fighters.
An interdepartmental negotiating team was appointed in August, and the Czech and U.S. expert teams’ first talks began in September. The MoD says that its officials will talk about the specifics of buying and using the aircraft in October.
After Poland, the Czech Republic will become the second NATO ally in Eastern Europe to purchase stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin.
The F-35 fighter jet will replace the 14 Saab JAS 39 Gripens that the Czech military currently employs. Prague will continue operating the Swedish fighter jets until the end of 2027, when the lease on the Gripen C/D aircraft expires, as previously reported by EurAsian Times.
Additionally, in July, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of over $8 billion worth of F-35 aircraft to Germany, moving closer to providing Berlin with new fighter aircraft.
Currently, the Czech Gripen fleet’s main role is air defense. The jets cover both neighboring Slovakia and the Czech Republic locally by the bilateral agreement. They have also been rotated into the airspace of the Baltic States. Additionally, Hungary uses Gripens for its air force which it has now upgraded.
The Czech Republic announced its interest in the F-35. As the #F35 continues to grow as the foundation of NATO and European alliance’s next generation of air power, it will ensure national security for decades to come.
— F-35 Lightning II (@thef35) July 20, 2022
As a result of Prague’s expulsion of numerous Russian diplomats and its assertion that Russian military intelligence was to blame for the explosion at an ammunition stockpile in 2014, relations between the two suffered severe damage last year.
Antagonism between the two nations has only grown since the invasion of Ukraine. The sense of insecurity in the East European region has prompted countries like Poland, which share a border with Ukraine, to purchase American stealth fighter jets.
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The F-35 program was announced after the Czech government made it clear that it didn’t want fighter jets on lease. As a result, according to an earlier report by the EurAsian Times, the Swedish ambassador to the Czech Republic, Fredrik Jörgensen, said that Sweden was prepared to provide the country with a free transfer of the Gripens it has leased from Stockholm.
The Swedish defense giant – SAAB, which had previously lost out to Lockheed’s F-35, particularly in the Finland and Canada deal, made a last-minute case for its fighters by highlighting its ability to deliver the aircraft more quickly.
The newest Gripen E was also made available to the Czech Republic by the Swedish ambassador.
“Our decision to select this option is based on the analysis by the Czech Armed Forces, which clearly articulates that only the most advanced 5th-generation fighters will be able to meet mission requirements in future battlefields,” Jana Černochová, the Czech Defence Minister, said.
The fifth-generation F-35, as opposed to fourth-generation alternatives that would become outmoded fairly quickly, will allow the Czech air force to remain relevant for decades to come, according to Maj. Gen. Karel Rehka, chief of general staff for the Czech military.
The U.S. and Lockheed Martin, who recently won big contracts from Canada, Finland, Switzerland, and Germany, have gained yet another success with Prague’s decision to officially purchase the F-35.
To replace its fleet of Russian-origin aircraft, Poland, the neighbor of the Czech Republic, agreed to purchase 32 F-35A Lightning II aircraft for $4.6 billion in January 2020. The contract included training and logistical support.
Europe’s F-35 customers include Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the United Kingdom. Germany, Greece, and Switzerland, non-NATO members, have also chosen U.S. aircraft, and these countries are expected to follow the Czech Republic soon.
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