Czech Air Force Libor Stefanik stated on Tuesday 11 November 2014 that his air force needs six more Saab JAS-39 Gripen on top of fourteen aircraft already in service. The reinforcements are needed amidst rising tensions to the east of Europe, Stefanik says. His remark comes at a time when thoughts of a combined Czech-Slovak Saab Gripen fleet are heard more often.
The Czech Air Force has been a profound user of the Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen since 2005, its aircraft individually clocking up more hours in the air than any other Gripens anywhere else. Currently, Czech Gripens are guarding Icelandic skies as well maintaining a 24/7 quick reaction alert at the homebase in Čáslav in the Czech Republic. The Czech lease their Gripens from Sweden at an annual cost of about 58 million USD.
According to Stefanik, the current international security situation calls for six more Czech Gripens for additional training and the ability to provide close combat air support (CAS) to troops on the ground. In the Czech Republic, the CAS role is now fulfilled by subsonic Aero Vodochody L-159 aircraft.
Top government and defense sources say it is unlikely more Gripens are on the cards for Stefanik. His views are described as ‘personal opinions’. No talks with the Swedish arms export authority on any more Gripens are being held.
However, talks are ongoing between Sweden and Slovakia on the lease of Gripens to replace Slovakia’s MiG-29 Fulcrums. A combined Czech-Slovak Gripen fleet seems a very real possibility. Slovakia and the Czech Republic were a single country not to lang ago, after all. Talks of joining military forces are heard every now and then. In any case, Slovak pilots already are regular visitors of the Tactical Simulation Center (TSC) in the Czech Republic, featured in this exclusive Airheadsfly.com story. The center features tactical Saab Gripen simulators.
With his personal thoughts, Stefanik seemingly wants to point out that future Slovak Gripens are also in the interest of the Czech Republic. Point made.
© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest