The Czech Republic will become the latest NATO member-state to adopt the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter, Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced Wednesday. The Czech government approved a plan to purchase two dozen of the fifth-generation fighters to boost its military capabilities and allow it to operate more easily alongside NATO allies.
“It is an effective solution,” Fiala told reporters. “[The jet] is a system that has a longer perspective than other types of aircraft.”
Prague will receive the first of its Lightning II fighters in 2029, with full delivery expected by 2035.
“For our defense, it is important to boost our ties with NATO allies,” Fiala added. “With this step, we are telling them we’re taking the defense of our country seriously and that they can reckon with us.”
According to Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova, the Central European nation and former Warsaw Pact member state will pay 150 billion crowns ($6.47 billion) by 2034, which includes $44 billion for base upgrades in the Czech Republic, along with fuel, staff training, and taxes. The deal, which also includes munitions, flight simulators, and related equipment, was tentatively approved by the U.S. State Department in June.
Beginning next year, Prague will spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, in line with its NATO pledge.
NATO Loves the F-35
The Czech Republic is now officially the latest NATO member-state to adopt the F-35, joining Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the United Kingdom — as well as the United States — in operating or planning to operate the fifth-generation stealth fighter. In addition, Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Switzerland have selected the Lockheed Martin aircraft for service.
There are more than 965 F-35s now in service around the globe. The Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC) describes the fighter as the backbone of next-generation NATO operations.
“The F-35 will allow other NATO Allies to close the current capability gap with the U.S.,” a JAPCC report stated, while also noting that the “F-35 program pursued a more highly integrated NATO industrial base to maximize the capabilities of the Alliance.”
The Czech Republic selected the F-35 to replace its 14 leased Swedish JAS 39 Gripen fighters.
That lease is set to expire in 2027. As previously reported, Stockholm attempted to counter the decision by offering the fleet of Gripens at no cost. Instead, the Czech Republic opted to follow the lead of other NATO allies and went with the F-35.
However, Sweden did sign another deal with Prague in May that will see the Czech military acquire 246 CV90 armored combat vehicles from the Nordic nation — which is currently seeking NATO membership — as part of a major military modernization that started following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.