Czechs sign Gripen lease deal

DESPITE political controversy over the proposed Czech Republic Air Force lease of Saab JAS 39 Gripens, on June 14 Sweden and the Czech Republic signed the CZK 19.65 billion ($750 million) contract. FMV, the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration, signed the agreement, covering lease of 14 Gripens for a period of ten years, in Prague with its equivalent department in the Czech Ministry of Defence.

At the same time, an offset and industrial co-operation agreement was signed to the value of 130 per cent of the value of the aircraft lease agreement. After a series of negotiations, the final lease contract value had been cut down from the original figure of CZK20.3 billion ($777.5 million), giving a reduction of CZK650 million ($27.5 million). Under the terms of the agreement, the Czech Republic will lease 14 Gripens, comprising 12 of the latest, single-seat JAS 39C and two twin-seat JAS 39D variants, from 2005 until 2015.

The agreement follows an original offer submitted by FMV in October 2003, after which negotiations began in January 2004 and the deal was given the go-ahead by the Czech government on June 9. Equipped to the latest standard and fully NATO-interoperable, the aircraft will feature full-colour cockpit displays and air-to-air refuelling probes.

Deliveries to the Czech Air Force base at Caslav will take place between April and August 2005, replacing MiG-21MFN/MF/ UMs of 41 Stihaci Letka (Fighter Squadron) that are scheduled for retirement in the second quarter of 2005.

Sweden will also provide extensive operational and tactical training of both Czech pilots and technicians as part of the agreement. The Swedish Air Force will undertake this training in Sweden. Saab will undertake several adaptations of the Gripen to meet specific Czech requirements and will also provide technical support for the entire duration of the lease period. Training devices will be provided for the full lease period in order to provide in-country training, while simulator training will also be provided in Sweden.

Also covered by the agreement is the necessary maintenance equipment, a fully integrated logistics support package including spares, ground support equipment, repairs and technical and tactical support systems for the full lease period.

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