The Czech government has decided to purchase the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft and start negotiations with the US regarding a deal.
If negotiations succeed ,the fifth-generation fighter jets should replace the Saab JAS 39 Gripens that the Czech Air Force currently uses, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said in a press conference, according to local media.
The Czech government authorized the country’s defense ministry to start negotiations with the US government regarding the procurement of the F-35s, as well as the Swedish government regarding the purchase of CV90 combat vehicles, the ministry’s press release states.
“The F-35 Lightning II will represent a highly competitive aircraft even in 2040, whereas the so-called 4+ generation of fighters will have become obsolete by then,” Czech Chief of General Staff Major General Karel Řehka said, according to the release.
“In addition, the F-35 is not just a fighter – it provides an aerial capability combining a fighter, air defence element, as well as cutting-edge surveillance and command, control and communication centre while being part of a broad network of Internet of Things including unmanned aerial vehicles, and is able to perform missions that are completely outside the capabilities of the current aircraft,” he added.
Czechia has been considering the purchase of F-35s for several months, with the end of a leasing agreement for Swedish-made Gripens nearing its end in 2027.
Currently the Czech Air Force uses 14 Gripens. According to earlier reports, the country plans to replace them with at least 24 F-35s, doubling its number of squadrons.
Fiala did not reveal when talks regarding an official order will begin, nor when the country expects to start receiving the new aircraft.
In choosing the F-35, the Central European country becomes the fourth to choose the model for its air force since March 2022, following Canada, Germany and Greece.