Lion Effort: getting a grip on Gripen

Lion Effort 2015 officialy kicked off today at Čáslav airbase in the Czech Republic. Pilots from  the locally based 211. taktické letky (tactical squadron), along with colleagues from Sweden and Hungary, are getting a grip on the aircraft they all fly: the Saab JAS 39 Gripen. For the next two weeks, packages of Gripens conduct air-to-air training and exchange tactics, techniques and procedures that allow them to operate alongside each other.

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Taking part are six Czech Gripens, five Hungarian Gripens and no less than 11 Swedish Gripens. Supporting Lion Effort 2015 are Czech L-159 light attack jets, Mi-17 Hip and Mi-24 Hind helicopters, plus a Casa 295 transport aircraft. Acting as opponents are Polish F-16s operating from their home base of Łask, and German Eurofighter Typhoons flying from Lechfeld in Germany.

The 2012 edition of tri-annual exercise Lion Effort saw even the South African Air Force (SAAF) taking part, since at the same time the last batch of South African Gripens came rolling off the Saab production line in Linköping, Sweden. This time, the SAAF choose to stay home. A delegation from Thailand – another Saab Gripen user – is present however, acting as observers.

“It is an honour for the Czech Air Force to host this year’s Lion Effort which also marks ten year anniversary of flying the JAS-39 Gripen in our air forces,” says Czech Air Force commander Brigadier General Libor Štefánik. “Having NATO allies and partner nations flying together is a great opportunity. The air and ground crews will learn from each other and further improve their interoperability.”

Saab itself is not represented at Čáslav and neither is the Força Aérea Brasileira. A delegation from Brazil would not have been strange at all, since the country is to receive the new Saab Gripen E/F in the not too distant future and Brazilians are already flying the Gripen in Sweden. There’s always next time, in 2018.

© 2015 editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A Gripen on the flight line at Čáslav airbase. (Image © Dennis Spronk)