Czech Gripen: Successfully fulfilling NATO missions for years
It was 2004 when the Czech Republic signed a lease for 14 Gripen fighters to replace its Soviet MiG-21 fighters. Over the last 16 years, the Czech Gripen fighters have not just safeguarded the Czech skies but participated in several NATO missions as well.
"At that time, it wasn't just about introducing a new type of aircraft. It was about introducing an entire system – flight system, weapons system, along with a completely new work philosophy for pilots and technical personnel," Major General Petr Mikulenka, National Military Representative of the Czech Republic at NATO Headquarters in Europe, said in a Czdefence report last year.
The Czech Gripen's first air policing mission under the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS) was conducted in the year 2009 in Lithuania. The NATO Baltic Air Policing mission had four-aircraft detachments operating from the Šiauliai air base. The Czech Gripen fighters were next deployed in Lithuania again in 2012, and in Iceland in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and in Estonia in 2019 in support of Allied arrangements for air surveillance.
During these missions, the deployed Czech Gripen pilots carry out Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) patrols, air-to-air refueling, and low-level flights above sea, along with joint missions with various alliance groups. The missions usually last for 3-4 weeks.
The Czech Gripens have also participated in exercises like Multinational Air Group (MAGDAY) exercise (under NATO’s Framework Nations Concept), the international live-fly and live-firing exercise Ample Strike, NATO Tiger Meet and NATO Days in Ostrava and Czech Air Force Days.
Reinstating the Czech Republic's commitment to safeguarding its own and its allies’ airspace, Colonel Jaroslav Míka, 21st Air Force Base Čáslav Commander and also first Czech Baltic Air Policing Commander in 2009, said, "The Czech Republic stands ready to defend our nation and our allies. We have proven our commitment and support to NATO through repeated deployments. The very first air policing mission was a challenge for us. We have learned a lot from that deployment, and now, we share the responsibility with our Allies, providing air policing outside our country every third year.”
“Our next deployment is scheduled in Lithuania next year," he added.
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