The hire of Gripens will terminate in 2027. What are the alternatives?
A seven-year period is not a long time in CAF acquisitions; therefore, it is a high time now to think about what will happen after present JAS-39 Gripen aircrafts rent time expiration. The Czech Republic (or rather the Army) is not owning but only hiring them.
The hire of 14 Swedish JAS-39C/D Gripen fighters is terminating in 2027, the latest in 2029, should the option be used. Until that time all the acquisition processes have to be performed, which does not mean market or marketing research. The Defence department likes to use these terms. Simply it is not possible to underestimate the airspace defence. No one else will do it for us.
We are not talking about NATO member states threat and collective defence use, but about need to protect the space or to check intruders, non-answering aircrafts, etc. These are quite common situations caused very often by malfunction of answering device. Should such aircraft enter our airspace and be “mute” a pair of Gripens is usually immediately sent out in the air after preceding attempts to make contact. And why exactly the Gripens when we also have L-159 Alca aircrafts? A subsonic combat aircraft may hardly supply a role of the fighter jet, that has lower speed than most of modern transport aircrafts. Therefore, it is impossible for Alca to catch such machine up and eventually to escort it. That is exactly the task for Gripens.
And how is the current situation? Notwithstanding performed modernizations consisting in software and hardware upgrades the Gripens will still be quite modern even in 2027, there will be a whole range of other and more efficient technology. What are the options? The current contract may, of course, be prolonged and we will use Gripens further. There is also option of purchase or a possible hire of other machines. Even Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is said to had mentioned possible purchase of aircrafts from Americans during his September visit to New York. The Americans know the situation in Czech very well and they are allegedly prepared to introduce a sale offer for the most modern F-35A lightning II as well as F-16 aircrafts (probably the new version F-16C/D Block 70/72), which would copy the purchase of our Slovak neighbours.
This would create a common room for ammunition purchases, a service cover etc. F-16 machines in their most modern version C/D Block 70/72 are generally deemed to be reliable and efficient machines. The critics say that the fighter has got modern avionics inside the four decades old dragon, however, exactly the dragon reliable construction and lifespan of 12000 hours may lead.
To talk about purchase (or operation) of F-35A Lightning II for CAF is, according to many experts, a complete utopia, not only with regard to the servicing price, but also to very advanced systems that are maintenance-demanding and not always quite reliable.