Gripen: The Best Choice for the Czech Air Force
In a recent interview by czdefence.cz, Petr Tománek, commander of the 21st Tactical Air Force Base in Čáslav, gives a detailed account of the Czech Gripen, and sheds light on what it is like to operate the multi-role combat aircraft.
Gripen’s role in the 21st Tactical Air Force Base
According to Petr Tománek, the 21st Tactical Air Force Base is the backbone of the Czech Republic Air Force. Alongside ensuring the protection and sovereignty of the Czech Republic airspace, the 21st Tactical air Force Base also plays a major role in the Collective defence of NATO; 2 Gripen C fighters are allocated to the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence (NATINAMDS). The Collective defence of the NATO asserts that an attack against on ally is an attack against all allies.
“An equally important task is that of supporting task force groups of the ground forces. There are strikes on ground targets day and night, in all weather conditions. All this means about 1,200 personnel, 14 Gripens, 24 L-159s, and hundreds of pieces of security equipment. Annually, we have around 5,000 flight hours,” Petr Tománek says.
Changes and modification of the Czech Gripens over the years
During the 15 years of operation in the Czech Republic Air Force, the 14 Gripen fighters have undergone mostly software modifications. According to Petr Tománek, the latest transition to the E20 edition, which began in 2015, is considered the most significant update so far.
With this modification, the Czech Gripen fighters now have the ability to perform air-to-ground missions while using the new Litening 4i targeting containers. Gripen’s diagnostic ability to detect malfunctions and faults has also been significantly enhanced.
“The JAS-39 Gripen has a very well-designed diagnostic system that significantly assists in the localization of faults. Any replacement of parts of the plane is carried out by experienced aeronautical technicians of the Czech Republic, but the repair of these parts is carried out by the manufacturer,” he says.
Additionally, the Gripen pilots also now have the option to use night vision goggles or crypted communication of the Link-16 standard. “Other improvements were mainly related to the optimisation of the on-board and aircraft maintenance systems,” he adds.
Gripen was the best choice for the country
When asked whether he thinks whether Gripen was a good choice for the AČR (Army of the Czech Republic), he gives an affirmative yes and adds that he doesn’t know a single pilot or a technician who would say otherwise.
“In 15 years of operation, we flew approximately 30,000 flight hours without air accidents or disaster. We carry out continuous surveillance tasks within NATINAMDS (mentioned 2 JAS-39 aircraft on standby),” he says.
“We were able to secure the Air Policing missions of the Baltic States and Iceland in parallel (to the Czech airspace). We're introducing the ability to use precision ammo, data link etc. All this under the specified terms of the rental agreement. Cooperation with the Swedish side is at a very high level,” he adds.
Read the full interview here.