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The Czech Gripens have returned from NATO mission after a six month deployment in Lithuania

3 min read

The Gripen fighters of the Czech Air Force, which have been operating in Lithuania for six months, landed on Friday 30th September, at their home air base in Čáslav, Czech Republic. From 1st April to the end of September, the airspace of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia was protected by the Czech Air Force as part of NATO's Integrated Air and Missile Defense System.

At nine o'clock in the morning, the commander of the Task Group of the Army of the Czech Republic in the enhanced Air Policing 2022 mission, Lieutenant Colonel Michal Daněk, handed over the operational task to members of the Polish Air Force at the Lithuanian air base. The Czech task force has been securing the airspace of the Baltic states, which do not have their own supersonic air force. Immediately after handing over the task, the Czech JAS-39 Gripen aircraft took off from their temporary operational base at the Šiauliai air force base in Lithuania and headed for home in Čáslav.

"We have successfully completed our seventh deployment abroad. Despite the fact that during its course the mission was extended from four to six months at the request of the Lithuanian government, we successfully completed the task," said Brigadier General Jaroslav Míka, Commander of the 21st Tactical Air Force Base.

Over 40 Alpha Scrambles

During the six months in the Baltics, the Czech Air Force performed more than four dozen sharp launches, the so-called "Alpha Scramble", and spent hundreds of flight hours in the air, which proves high availability of the Gripen fighters and their continuous readiness to safeguard the airspace of NATO´s Eastern Flank. The Czech Gripen fighters were also stationed in movable shelters, without the need of permanent infrastructure. Notably, the Czech Air Force needed less support personnel than other air forces conducting the same BAP missions.

Photo: István Tőrös, Aranysas
Czech Gripen jet fighter in a movable shelter during Baltic Air Policing in Lithuania 2022. Photo: István Tőrös, Aranysas

In addition to sharp take-offs to intercept various types of aircraft that did not communicate with air traffic control or did not have flight plans or activated transponders, the pilots completed many training missions with alliance partners, not only over the Baltics, but also in the territory of Sweden and Poland, for example. During these flights, the Czech fighters cooperated not only with aircraft but also with naval assets and ground units.

However, some Gripen fighters are staying in Baltics, as on 1st September, the Hungarian Air Force started their own NATO mission in Baltics, meaning the Gripen presence in the airspace of NATO´s Eastern Flank continues.