Czech Republic Selects F-35, Plans To Order 24

The F-35 taking part in the flying display at Farnborough Airshow.
Credit: Mark Wagner/Aviation Images

FARNBOROUGH—The Czech Republic has become the latest European country to opt for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, declaring plans to purchase 24 of the aircraft.

Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová announced July 20 that the government has OK’d the start of negotiations with Washington for the combat aircraft. Černochová said an interministerial negotiating team has been formed to begin discussions for the purchase of 24 F-35As to equip two squadrons.

Such an order would give the Czech Republic the smallest F-35 fleet in Europe, just behind Denmark. But it would still represent a significant boost in capability over its fleet of 14 leased Saab Gripen C/D aircraft. Officials say the decision to buy the F-35 was based on analysis by the Czech Armed Forces, which said that “only the most advanced fifth-generation fighters will be able to meet mission requirements in future battlefields,” Cernochová says.

The aircraft was deemed a “cost-effective solution,” as it is already in service with several European nations and has been selected by others including neighboring Poland. This will “strengthen cooperation, joint training and capability sharing,” officials say.

Černochová added that a decision was being made now because lease arrangements for the Gripen end in 2027.

Prague’s announcement comes just two weeks after the Swedish government suggested that the Czech Republic could keep the 14 Gripens for free.

Prague’s choice of F-35 adds to Lockheed Martin’s growing tally of orders and selections in Europe over the last 18 months including Finland, Germany and Switzerland, as well as additional orders from the Netherlands.

The announcement comes as the F-35 takes part in the flying display at the Farnborough Airshow and as Lockheed executives talk to more potential customers. 

Czech defense officials say growing the country’s fighter fleet is necessary because its quantity of aircraft now “no longer meets the current tasking [levels] ... Given the worsening security situation, the volume of performed missions will continue to grow.”

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.