Why the Czech Republic Could Soon Purchase New F-35s – It was nearly a year ago that the Russian aerospace industry made a big move with the announcement of its Su-75 “Checkmate.” The Sukhoi Design Bureau has pulled out all the stops to promote its low-cost fifth-generation fighter – including offering attendees at the Dubai Air Show bottles of a “limited-edition” Checkmate perfume. It was quite the gambit to hype the aircraft, which is being offered to foreign buyers.
By contrast, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II continues to gain interest from U.S. partners and allies, with Prague announcing this week that it is mulling an order for twenty-four F-35A fighters.
Czech and Mate!
The Czech Ministry of defense is now exploring options to replace its fourteen JAS-39 Gripen C/D fighters that are currently leased from Swedish manufacturer Saab until 2027, with an option to extend the lease until 2029. Experts from the General Staff of the Czech Army are reportedly preparing a military opinion on the possibilities of future airspace protection after the expiry of the Gripen lease
The F-35A is considered to be among the top contenders, while other options include the updated JAS-39 Gripen E/F, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Lockheed Martin F-16V. The F-35 certainly meets all of the requirements desired by the Czech military, including the ability to provide ground support operations in all weather conditions, day and night, as well as to offer supersonic capabilities for Air Policing operations. More importantly the Czech Air Force is looking to achieve full interoperability with other NATO members.
A possible acquisition of the F-35 would help tie the Czech Air Force, and the Czech Republic, even more closely to the United States and strengthen ties between the two nations. In addition, Poland and Germany are on-board to acquire the fifth-generation, multirole stealth aircraft, while Greece has also expressed interest in becoming a future operator of the Lightning II.
“You’ll hear more about it soon,” J.R. McDonald, the vice president of F-35 business development at Lockheed Martin, told journalists at a news conference earlier this month at the ILA Berlin Air Show trade fair regarding Germany’s acquisition as well as the potential for Athens to adopt the fighter.
“As far as I know, the Czech Republic is closer to making a decision,” McDonald added.
Should the Czech Republic move forward with the F-35, any aircraft it receives would also be equipped with the latest modernization package, which is currently the Block 4. That would provide integration of some new weapon systems in addition to upgrading software and other parts of the aircraft.
Moreover, the integration of other U.S.-origin weapons, the Block 4 F-35s could also employ the Norwegian Joint Strike Missile (an airborne variant of the Naval Strike Missile), as well as the European consortium’s MBDA Meteor, ASRAAM and Spear missiles. It would be a good move for the Czech Republic and for NATO.
“For any nation that is part of NATO or worried about Russian aggression in Europe, there is only one fighter jet worth considering purchasing: the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter,” explained Harry J. Kazianis, President of the Rogue States Project.
Czech and mate indeed.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.