Czech Republic joins F-35 program with purchase of 24 fighter jets

Soos Jozsef /

The Czech government officially entered into the F-35 Lightning II program by signing a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) on January 29, 2024, committing to acquiring 24 F-35A fighter jets. This decision positions the Czech Republic as the 18th nation to join the program. 

“This partnership with the Czech Ministry of Defense will deliver and sustain the F-35 aircraft for decades, while providing the Czech Air Force with unmatched interoperability and ensuring it has the capability to counter current and future threats,” US Air Force Lieutenant General Mike Schmidt, the program executive officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office, said. 

Approval of the purchase was issued by the government in September 2023, with the estimated $6.5 billion contract encompassing not only the aircraft but also training, ammunition, personnel training, and service and logistical support. 

The Czech Air Force is set to receive its initial batch of F-35A aircraft in 2031, featuring the latest advanced Block 4 configuration. The acquisition of the F-35s will result in an additional tactical squadron for the Czech Air Force. 

Negotiations to replace the current fleet, including 14 JAS-39 Gripen C/D fighters on lease and the locally made Aero L-159A ALCA, began in July 2022. Discussions are ongoing with Saab to extend the lease until 2035.  

14 industrial cooperation projects are reportedly in discussion, offering Czech companies direct involvement in the global supply chain for F-35 aircraft. 

“We want to discuss the possibilities of industrial cooperation in order to take advantage of the opportunity for the Czech defense industry to cooperate with technological giants, such as Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney,” Czech Minister of Defense Jana Černochová stated. 

The Czech aerospace industry recently experienced a revitalization with the resumption of the L-39 Albatros trainer production in early 2023. 

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