The Czech Air Force Marks 15 Years of Gripen Operations
The Swedish and the Czech government signed an MoU for the lease of 14 Gripen fighters in June 2004 to replace their old Russian technology. And in less than a year, on 18 April, 2005, the first six single seater Gripen C fighters landed at the 21st Tactical Air Force Base in Caslav.
The training of the first eight Czech pilots and 20 ground personnel was conducted between August 2004 and January 2005. The entire training program was completed in record-breaking time with the Czech pilots flying their first solo Gripen flight in October 2004.
In the last 15 years, Czech Gripen fighters have safeguarded the Czech airspace, flown close to 30,000 flight hours, and successfully participated in several NATO air policing missions and international exercises. In fact, Czech Gripens’ last NATO mission concluded in January 2020. The four-month long mission to protect the Baltic airspace of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania had the participation of five Czech Gripens and 75 air and ground personnel, mostly from the 21st Tactical Air Force Base Čáslav.
As a part of the Baltic mission, Czech Gripen pilots conducted Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) patrols, aerial refueling, and low-level flights above sea. They also participated in joint missions including Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) as part of two alliance groups led by Canada and Germany in Latvia and Lithuania, respectively.
In 2014, the Czech Republic announced an extension of Gripen lease until 2027. Under this contract, the aircraft have been upgraded to the MS20 version. The most prominent aspect of the upgrade is an enhanced air-to-ground capability featuring unguided and laser-guided bombs into the aircraft payload. Even the air-to-air capability has been improved by introducing new radar modes.
Czech Gripens play an important part in European Union Battle Group exercises and NATO’s integrated air and missile defence system. With continuous upgrades and added capabilities, the fighters will keep protecting the Czech and NATO alliances’ airspace for years to come.
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