The government of the Czech Republic approved the purchase of 24 Lockheed Martin F-35 fifth-generation fighter jets. The contract, which also includes training and ammunition, is estimated to be worth around $6.5 billion.
Negotiations had started in July 2022 to replace the 14 JAS-39 Gripen C/D fighters currently on lease from the Swedish manufacturer Saab until 2027, and the locally made Aero L-159A ALCA. The country is currently in discussions with Saab to extend the lease until 2035.
The acquisition of 24 new fighters will create an additional tactical squadron compared to the Czech Air Force’s current fighter fleet. Deliveries should spread between 2029 and 2035, with the air force expecting to achieve full operational capabilities with the F-35 in 2035.
“When starting the negotiations last year, we as the Czech Republic set the condition that 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,” said the Czech Minister of Defense Jana Černochová. “We have 14 industrial cooperation projects ready for Czech companies in less than a year, including the possibility of direct involvement in the global supply chain for F-35 aircraft.”
The Czech aerospace industry recently experienced a revitalization with the resumption of the L-39 Albatros trainer production. Indeed, on April 21, 2023, Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody successfully flew its first serially produced L-39NG jet trainer, 20 years after its last mass-produced aircraft, the L-159 ALCA, left the assembly line.
On September 26, 2023, the Romanian Parliament announced having received a request for 32 F-35A fighters from the Ministry of National Defense.