Slovakia is not leasing or buying Saab Gripen fighter jets and neither is it seeking a joint Gripen unit with the Czech Republic anymore. According to local media this week, funds don’t allow for eight JAS39 Gripens to be leased or purchased.
In Slovakia, the Saab Gripen would have replaced a small fleet of ageing MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets that have been in service since the late eighties. The country is now looking to keep eight MiGs in the air for longer, with contacts already with Russian suppliers.
Czech Gripens may still be called upon in case this change of plans leads to reduced serviceability of Slovakian MiGs. The Czechs would be able to guard Slovakian airspace for roughly three months.
UPDATED 4 November | Eight former Czech Air Force L-159 Alca trainer and light attack aircaft are heading to Iraq in November. They will join the Iraqi Air Force in a deal brokered by US company Draken International. A total of 21 Aero Vodochody L-159 will transfer to Draken International, with an initial eight of those moving on to Iraq. Four more are to follow, plus three spares.
UPDATE | The first L-159s left the Czech Republic on Wednesday 4 November, wearing Iraqi markings. See pics below.
The deal has been in the works for quite some time, with negotiations lasting 18 months and signatures finally inked in 2014. The number of aircaft sold varied a little while talks lasted, but both parties settled for 21 in the end. The Czech Air Force still has 24 L-159 Alcas in service with 212 squadron at Čáslav airbase.
For the second time in just one year, Czech Air Force Saab Gripens and their crews made themselves at home in Iceland recently. Flying from Keflavik airbase, they provided Iceland with a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA). The deployment began on 23 July and ended on Friday 28 August with 90 sorties and some 150 hours in the air chalked up. An impression in pics.
The Hungarian Air Force JAS 39D Gripen fighter that crashed at Čáslav Airbase in the Czech Republic this week did not have any technical problems, Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnický told journalists and the national Czech broadcasting company on Friday 22 May 2015.
On Tuesday the two-seat Swedish made multirole fighter went off the end of the runway and ended in the field behind it with the entire cockpit section ripped from the plane, as well as the major part of the tail and many smaller items of the plane. But remarkably most of the wing section and body of the plane were largely intact. Fortunately, the crew ejected just before impact and are okay.
Czech Defence Minister Stropnický did not want to add more details to his Friday statement, apart from it is the preliminary finding by the joint Czech-Hungarian crash investigation board that is working at the scene.
In Sweden the staff and personnel of Gripen manufacturer Saab are reportedly clearly relieved with the news, as no Gripens have crashed yet because there was something wrong with the plane. Of the other five crashes, all with Swedish Air Force aircraft, only one was related to a technical issue, but with the G-suit of the pilot – not with the plane.
The Gripen D that crashed at Caslav did not take part in the Lion Effort 2015 international training exercise at the base, but was a day-visitor with possible senior Hungarian Air Force staff on board. According to eye-witnesses the plane had a way to high speed after it touched down. Why the JAS 39D or the pilot didn’t brake quickly enough, is not known at this time.
Updated 22 May 2015 | A Saab JAS 39D Gripen two-seat multi-role fighter of the Hungarian Air Force has crashed at Čáslav Air Base in the Czech Republic, located about 40 miles (67 km) east of the capital of Prague. The accident on 19 May 2015 happened during tri-annual Saab Gripen exercise Lion Effort 2015.
UPDATE 22 MAY | A preliminary investigation has ruled out a technical failure as a cause of the crash, according to the Czech Defence minister. Read that latest store here.
More info on Lion Effort 2015 is here and great pics – taken last week – are here
The jet went off at the end of the runway at high speed. The crew of two reportedly is okay after ejecting slightly before the aircraft left the runway. The cause of the crash is being investigated.
The plane is a write off. The entire cockpit section was destroyed, as well as almost the entire vertical tail and large other parts of the jet. It is not certain yet if Budapest will ask Sweden to deliver a Gripen D replacement or if the lease contract foresees in a replacement, which in that case has to come from the current Swedish Air Force inventory and could put a strain on Sweden’s own training capabilities.
The Gripen accident is a big smudge on Lion Effort 2015, the international Gripen exercise currently running at the Czech air base. Six Gripens of the locally based 211. Taktické letky (Tactical squadron) as well as five Hungarian Air Force Gripens and 11 JAS 39s jets from the Swedish Air Force plus airplanes from other nations conduct several types of training during a two week period. According to a spokesperson at Čáslav airbase, the crashed Gripen was a visitor and didn’t participate in the Lion Effort exercise.
Like the Czech Air Force, the Hungarian Air Force leases 14 Gripen planes from Sweden. The Hungarian jets would be owned by the country’s tax payers in 2026. The Czech lease the jets till at least 2027. According to some Swedish sources, experts of the Swedish Armed Forces and SAAB are on stand-by or even on their way from Sweden to Čáslav to assist in the investigation.
The crash comes ahead of an airshow at Čáslav on Saturday, which according to the latest information is going ahead as planned.
Saab in Linköping built almost 250 Gripen jets so far. Five of those have crashed. In February 1989 a prototype hard-landed on Linköping-SAAB airport (overcorrections by pilot, who was lighly injured), followed by an air show crash in Stockholm in August 1993 (stall after overcorrection; pilot – the same as during the 1989 crash – again OK).
Three Swedish Air Force Gripens have crashed while in service: in September 1989 (in lake Vänern during a dogfight; pilot ejected OK), in June 2005 in Southern Sweden (pilot error, pilot ejected OK) and in April 2007 when the pilot was apparently ejected by the plane due to unexpected G-suit inflating and deflating. The 2007 crash marked the first for the newer C-model. Today’s Gripen crash is the first one of the jet of a non-Swedish operator.