On Wednesday, the government approved the acquisition of 24 F-35 aircraft for 106 billion Czech crowns. Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) announced this, highlighting its solution for the next several decades. These American fighter jets will replace the Gripen aircraft in the future, which the Czech Republic has leased until 2027.
The first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation aircraft, in the latest Block 4 version, should be received by the army in 2029, all delivered by 2035. According to Fiala, the defense ministry’s budget will finance the purchase.
“In comparing the capabilities and lifespan of the aircraft with the price, there is no better solution for fulfilling the tasks of the Czech Army’s tactical aviation for the next decades. This tells our allies that we take the defense of our country seriously and that they can count on us,” stated Prime Minister Fiala.
“The F-35 system is not just about acquiring planes. It represents a significant technological leap for the development of the army, as well as for the Czech economy, academia, and the technological sphere. F-35 also means access to the most modern technologies on the planet,” he added.
General Míka explained his assertion that the price for the F-35 would be lower. It won’t take off from highways.
“There’s no time for further procrastination,” stated Defense Minister Jana Černochová (ODS) regarding the acquisition of the aircraft.
According to her, the lifecycle of the machines is planned for at least until 2069. The purchase will cost 106 billion Czech crowns, with an additional 44 billion to prepare for their operation.
This amount is expected to average under 7.3 percent of the planned annual defense expenditures.
Though, according to the defense minister, this is a high amount that the Czech Republic will have to spend in the coming years to acquire aircraft and related costs, she assured that it wouldn’t jeopardize other military purchases.
“I can guarantee that other modernization projects of the Czech Army, especially the modernization of the heavy mechanized brigade, are not endangered by this project. On the contrary, they complement each other about the capabilities being developed,” reassured Černochová.
The domestic industry is expected to be involved as well. Specifically, Černochová stated that the ministry has prepared 14 industrial projects for Czech companies.
Chief of the General Staff Karel Řehka called the government’s decision “very bold” and appreciated that it corresponds with the army’s recommendation, which demanded acquiring a 5th-generation machine. According to him, the F-35 will replace the Gripens and the L-159 fighters.
“The main features of the F-35 are a combination of minimal visibility to radars and the ability to collect and process data in real-time, which it can distribute to those who need it. We are acquiring a capability that we will need on the battlefield in the future,” added Řehka.
The Czech Republic leases 14 Gripens from Sweden, and their lease is set to end in 2027. However, the ministry has an option for further leasing until 2029.
Given the anticipated later delivery times of the F-35, keeping the Gripens until 2035 will be necessary.
The intention to purchase the F-35 fighters has long been controversial, primarily due to various uncertainties related to the overall costs. The political opposition, in particular, has not hidden its criticism, often pointing out the high prices at a time when budget savings are needed.