In two months time, the Saab JAS 39 Gripen will roar during Lion Effort 2015 at Čáslav airbase in the Czech Republic. Taking part will be C and D model Gripens from the Czech Republic, Sweden and Hungary, while Thailand participates without aircraft. South Africa, present with its own aircraft during Lion Effort 2012 in Sweden, will not participate at all.
As Airheadsfly.com found out a year ago, Čáslav is already a Gripen’s lair, with all fourteen Czech Air Force aircraft based here. The Hungarian Air Force is sending aircraft from their base in Kecskemét and Sweden will send Gripen from one of its bases in Såtenäs, Ronneby or Luleå. The tri-annual exercise starts 11 May.
During Lion Effort 2012, Saab Gripens were practically the sole ingredient of the exercise. This time, there is more variety with German Eurofighter Typhoons and Polish Lockheed Martin F-16s also taking part, albeit from their respective home bases. Czech Air Force will L-159 ALCA from Čáslav will also play along, together with Mil Mi-17 Hip and Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopters from 22nd Helicopter Base Náměšt nad Oslavou and CASA C-295 from 24th Transport Air Base Kbely. Cooperation with foreign tanker aircraft is also being discussed.
Czech pilots prepared themselves in February already, practicing air combat against visiting Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons.
Lion Effort 2015 therefore is the biggest flying exercise in the area this year, and is actually taking its toll on other well known military flying exercises such as NATO’s Tiger Meet, held this year at Konya airbase in Turkey. Both the Czech and Hungarian Gripen squadrons are members of NATO’s Tiger Association, but prefer to take part in Lion Effort 2015 over the Tiger Meet.
The Czech Republic is looking to extend the role of its Gripens with an air-to-ground capability. Recently, the country ordered Litening III targeting pods. In 2014, the Czech Gripens were kept rather busy with guarding Icelandic skies. The Czech lease their Gripens from Sweden at an annual cost of about 58 million USD. Last year, Czech Air Force boss Libor Stefanik stated he would like to see six more Gripens leased, possibly for future cooperation with neighbouring Slovakia, which is also eying Saab Gripens.
The chance of seeing participating aircraft in Lion Effort 2015 from up close occurs on Thursday 14 May during an enthusiast’s day at Čáslav, or on Saturday 23 May during an all out airshow, which also serves to commemorate ten years of Saab Gripen service in the Czech Republic.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest