After 40 Greek F-35s, the US sells 24 to the Czechs plus much more

In a landmark move, the Czech Republic has successfully finalized discussions with the United States regarding the acquisition of 24 F-35A Lightning II fighter jets, truly top-tier, fifth-generation combat aircraft. The announcement was made by the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Defense via their official website. 

F-35 Lightning II fighter jet
Photo credit: Twitter

On Monday, January 29, the Czech Republic’s Defense Minister, Jana Chernohova, and the US Ambassador, Bijan Sabet, signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two nations. This Memorandum outlined the agreed-upon purchase of 24 F-35A fighter jets, a decision that the Czech government had greenlit just a few months prior, in September 2023. 

The decision to upgrade to these advanced jets was not made lightly. Instead, it reflects a continued effort to bolster and modernize the Czech armed forces in response to escalating threats from the Russian Federation. As per the plan, this substantial procurement process will span over an eleven-year timeline. Production of the first jet will begin in 2029, with delivery scheduled for 2031. This production cycle will continue until 2035, ensuring the provision of these top-grade fighter jets.

US is talking about an 'interim' F-35 'between Block 3 and 4'
Photo by Aijaz Rahi / AP

Infrastructure and Pilot Center

By the time we reach 2034, the Czech Republic’s government projects that it will have dedicated a hefty sum of $6.47 billion towards the advancement of aircraft and related infrastructure. This budget also includes allocation for the procurement of missile weapons and a robust, well-equipped technical base. 

In a spirit of unity, last week saw the finalization of an industrial cooperation agreement tied to the acquisition of the F-35A Lightning II. As it stands, there are 11 joint ventures in motion with Lockheed Martin and a further 3 with Pratt & Whitney that promise a total value of 15.3 billion kroner. Stepping up to take on roles in this initiative are 13 committed Czech companies and universities. 

New Czech simulator of F-15E provides high level of immersion
Photo credit: Vrgineers

These entities will contribute in four diverse areas: the manufacturing of components, research and development ventures, pilot training and support, and the maintenance and repair of the F-35. Here’s an exciting advancement – one of only two European-certified F-35 fighter pilot training centers is set to be established right here in the Czech Republic.

Pilot training

The agreement involves an exchange of technical knowledge and groundbreaking pilot training approaches, highlighted by the addition of F-35 simulators. This venture opens doors for the Czech company to expand beyond training Czech Air Force pilots, to instructing hundreds from various European nations. Hence, this pilot training program could lead to significant financial benefits for LOM. 

F-35 (AF-7) flies for 50 minutes and initiates stealth version 4
Photo credit: ViperWing

The F-35A training for Czech pilots will be divided into three clear stages. The primary training will begin in the Czech Republic, employing the L-39NG trainer aircraft. Following this, the Czech pilots will move to the United States to garner practical expertise on F-35A fighters. Provided the Czech Republic Ministry of Defense gives approval, the final part of the training will commence at the airbase located in the Czech city of Chaslav. 

LOM and VR Group are just two of eleven Czech businesses chosen to participate in an industrial collaboration with Lockheed Martin. Among the other participant companies, PBS Velka Bites is expected to secure a contract by the end of the year.

Missiles too

Su-30 has used Khibiny EW during an interception of the Italian F-35
Photo by Todd R. McQueen

Let’s take a moment to reflect back to June 2023, when the US State Department gave the go-ahead for the potential sale of F-35 fighter jets to the Czech Republic. It was a significant moment indeed. Included in this potential deal were an impressive 70 AIM-120C-8 air-to-air missiles, 50 combat, and 18 AIM-9X Block II/II+ missiles. 

Currently, the Czech Air Force is flying high with 14 Gripen aircraft—leased from Sweden—serving as the leading edge of the country’s combat aviation. These fighters aren’t set to retire anytime soon either. In fact, they’ll be in service until 2035. Why, you might ask? That’s the timeline set for the complete rollout of the F-35A.

The Greek F-35s

UK boasted: 'This is an F-35B, fully loaded, maximum effort'
Photo credit: Twitter

The green light for 24 F-35 fighter jets to be added to the Czech Republic’s arsenal arrived swiftly on the heels of the White House approving a similar agreement for Greece – a 20 + 20 F-35s deal. In the case of Greece, an $8.6 billion deal for 40 F-35A fighter jets is currently under review. The new fighters are slated to supersede their existing F-4 and Mirage-2000 fleets, enhancing their airborne capabilities. 

Having addressed the formal aspects, Greece now holds its breath as it waits for the U.S. Congress to approve this arrangement. Depending on the final decision of the involved parties, it’s possible that the deal could be implemented with less capital outlay than initially calculated. 

Once this step is completed, the ball is in the U.S. Congress’s court for a 15-day evaluation period. Assuming no red flags are raised within this duration, the sale proceeds. It’s worth noting that the review window is 15 days for NATO members and double that time, 30 days, for non-NATO nations, as per the established legislation. 

Six Australian F-35s fly over Nevada in 'world's toughest dogfight'
Photo credit: RAAF / X

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee are responsible for evaluating this type of arms deal. They hold the power to scrutinize, and if necessary, dispute international arms sales – a weighty responsibility indeed.

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