Jaroslav Míka: I can imagine the continuation of the Gripen in the Czech Army beyond the horizon of this decade
Colonel of the General Staff Ing. Jaroslav Míka, who is currently the commander of the 21st Tactical Air Force Base Čáslav, has been serving in the Czech Army since 1995, when he joined as pilot. In the years 2001 - 2003 he was the commander of the 6th Section of the Air Group of the 4th Tactical Air Force Base in Čáslav and in the years 2004 - 2007 he served as the commander of the 3rd Section of supersonic aircraft of the 21st Tactical Air Force Base. In 2007, he became commander of the 211th Tactical Squadron of the Tactical Air Force Base and served in this position until 2013. Then until 2015 he was Deputy Commander of the 21st Tactical Air Wing in Čáslav, where he subsequently (2015 - 2016) served as commander. In 2016 - 2018 he was the head of the Combat Training Department of the Air Force Command in Prague and in 2019 and 2020 he served as deputy commander of the 21st Tactical Air Force Base in Čáslav. Since November 2020, Col. Míka is the commanding officer of the 21st Tactical Air Force Base in Čáslav. In foreign missions, Col. Míka participated in Operation Air Policing Baltic States (Baltic Air Policing, Lithuania), where he served as commander of the 1st Czech Army Contingent. We asked the colonel a few questions, not only in connection with his new position.
1) On October 26, 2020, after Colonel Petr Tománek, you took over the position of commander of the 21st Tactical Air Force Base. How does the command suit you, after almost half a year in office as a pilot of the Czech Air Force?
I consider the command of the 21st base to be the peak of my military career so far. Given that commanders at all levels are constantly being prepared to perform their duties, I boarded, as they say, on a “runaway train.” My advantage was the fact that I held the position of deputy commander of the base for more than a year and I had enough time to get acquainted with the style of management and command of the entire base.
To answer from the point of view of a pilot of the Czech Air Force, the base command represents direct contact with flight training and as a base commander I can conduct more intensive flight training compared to holding a position at senior levels in Prague.
2) In what condition is the 21st base now situated, concerning both flying and non-flying personnel. How does the training of recuits run in today's difficult times?
The personnel is more than 90% complete. Looking at this number, the base is doing relatively well. However, if we look at the fullness of individual specialties, there are different current states and predictions of future developments.
For flying personnel, we are facing an insufficient replenishment by new pilots, culminating in the effects of insufficient recruitment and training of new pilots from the training process. The system responded to the situation as early as 2017, and since 2019, new pilots have been studying at the University in the required numbers. The study takes five years, so we will reach the imaginary light at the end of the tunnel in three years.
Training of novices of all specialties takes place for up to three weeks in March 2021 without interruption. Of course, organizational measures had to be taken to eliminate the introduction and spread of the disease among members of the unit. However, this does not mean that we can afford "luxury" in the form of stopping the training of all specialties. After all, we fulfill our priority task of protecting the airspace of the Czech Republic and NATO 24/7 and it cannot be provided for a long time without continuous training of all personnel.
3) Sometimes there is talk of recruiting new pilots among civilians, many airlines have existential difficulties. Are you noticing an increased interest in the service from the ranks of civilian pilots? If so, to what extent is their training easier compared to standard novice army pilots?
The Czech Air Force is noticing an increased interest in the service by civilian pilots. For transport and helicopter air force, their recruitment is underway. In the tactical air force, however, we strictly classify pilots only from among the graduates of the University of Defense. Flying and training on single-seat jet machines has its specifics, which go beyond the mere control of the aircraft in the air. The main goal of a tactical aircraft's flight is not its movement in the air, but let's perceive the tactical aircraft more as a weapon system that moves above the ground. In light of such an approach, the qualification of a civilian pilot is really only one of the required skills for the performance of a military tactical pilot.
Weaker economic performance of civil airlines has a secondary positive impact on tactical aviation. This is mainly due to the greater interest of young people in joining the Army and the interest of soldiers in leaving the Army is declining. Basically, I generalized it, because this effect applies to the whole economy and the whole Czech Army.
4) To what extent is the operation of stand-by aircraft and crews with regard to coronavirus ensured? Do pilots have quarantined regulations, or how is the non-stop service ensured with regard to the protection of our airspace, or the NATINAMDS system (NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defense System)?
Airspace protection is a permanent task for the 21st Base. However, this is not the only task. In order to perform the function of the base as much as possible, we had to take such measures that there is no contact of personnel between shifts, so that in case of a positive case, as few people as possible are infected or quarantined. That is why the whole base worked and still works on shifts that do not mix with each other in at least weekly cycles. Of course, we observed all current hygiene measures within the personnel present.
5) Is Air Policing planned in the Baltics or Iceland, for example, this year, or has the coronavirus interfered with these plans?
The Air Policing mission in the Baltics is scheduled for 2022. Coronavirus has no effect on our deployment. After all, the coronavirus did not affect the fulfillment of the international obligations of the Czech Army as a whole. The Army remained a fully functional organization in this critical period, which also helped and is helping in other areas of our society. Soldiers from our base participated alongside other soldiers in helping the overloaded health and social system, participated in the assistance to the Police at the time of the closure of districts, etc.
6) Colonel, the time is slowly approaching when our fighter air force will face the question of "how to proceed". What do you think about the possible continuation of the Gripen in the Czech Army? In October 2020, your predecessor, Colonel Tománek, stated in an interview with CZ Defense that he clearly did.
I can only confirm the clear YES of my predecessor. I can imagine a possible continuation of the Gripen in the Czech Army beyond the horizon of this decade. However, this is not the only possible variant of equipping tactical air force with supersonic aircraft. Last year, an expert group from the strategic level of the Czech Army was established, whose main task is to analyze the development, needs and deployment of tactical air force beyond the horizon of 2030. This analysis will provide answers to questions about where tactical air force should go, how strong and how equipped it should be.
7) The 21st Tactical Air Force Base now has one runway. Are the current airport capacities in Čáslav sufficient for optimal operation of the fighter air force?
The operation of the fighter aircraft from one runway in Čáslav can be provided without problems, even if we flew more than today. If we are to talk about any limitations regarding the existing infrastructure, the biggest challenge is its modernization and regular investment in maintenance. In the coming years, we will have the necessary reconstruction of our runway, which might no longer meet strict quality requirements to ensure safe air traffic.
8) In your opinion, is the base area sufficiently protected resp. monitored against potential intruders, taking into account that there are no physical barriers on some sections of the large airport perimeter?
Fortunately, I can correct you in this regard. At present, there are physical barriers to the entry of unauthorized persons around the entire perimeter of the base. But as you say, this perimeter is really large. The area of the so-called Force Protection of the base is one of the most important, which must be well set up on the base. Due to the vastness of the area, the most critical parts of the base are provided by other means, such as additional fencing, various sensors, physical security and more. As you can see, the protection of infrastructure, systems, technology and people is a very complex technical, organizational and resource issue.
9) Colonel, the purchase of new L-39NG aircraft is still protracted. The director of the communication department of the Ministry of Defense, Jan Pejšek, recently commented for CZ Defense on the issue of interest in the L-39NG as follows: In the near future, a joint meeting of representatives of LOM PRAHA and Aero Vodochody will take place to address further progress in the matter. The training of Army pilots is not compromised." Can any further extension of the purchase of the above aircraft have any impact on your base?
I am not able to answer this question directly, because these are not aircraft that should serve at our base. The training of new pilots, who then join the service at the air bases, is provided by CLV (Flight Training Center) Pardubice. The contract for the provision of such training is valid until the end of 2025. CLV was and is a reliable partner and service provider. I have no reason to believe that this should not continue to be the case.
10) Do you still have time to sit behind the Gripen stick as part of your workload as a commander?
The work of the base commander is very closely connected with flight training and training of pilots. The base commander is responsible for the quality and safety of flight training in his duties under the regulation. Without active flight training, as a commander, I could lose direct contact with normal air operations and my duties would not be effective. Honestly, I don't mind the obligation to perform flight training at all, quite the contrary. So I have to organize my working time so that I sit behind the Gripen stick.