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It is 10:25 in the morning at Čáslav air base and the sunrays are only just beginning to stream through the morning fog. There is no wind, all one can hear is the whistling sound of two Gripen fighters leaving their hangar. Soon, the whistle turns into a roar as the fighters ascend towards the sky. This is how a typical morning at the air base looks like.

The Czech Republic has been using Gripen system for over ten years to protect its airspace. The country also uses the fighters for NATO missions in countries like Iceland.

"The fighters are on constant standby to identify, escort, and if necessary, fight invasion of Czech airspace. Additionally, they also provide support to civil aviation, including escorting and providing guided landing of civilian aircraft, in case of technical failure or bad weather conditions,” says Jan Ducha, Ground Personnel commanding officer of the Czech Air Force.

Recounting his experience at this year's NATO Tiger Meet exercise in Saragosa, Spain, Jan says that Gripen is very easy to use and requires less staff as compared to other similar aircraft. Other countries participating with other aircraft systems brought up to 25 people per aircraft. To fly a Gripen, one needs only one pilot, one engineer and a mechanic (per aircraft), Jan adds. 

"What use is an aircraft of, if it is in a hangar, waiting for spare parts or if you need so much staff to attend to it that you cannot afford to fly ...

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Hungarian Gripen fighters have been scheduled to perform aerial displays after almost seven years at the NATO Days in Ostrava & Czech Air Force Days this year.

Hungarian Gripen fighters have participated in the Czech event many times before but it was mostly kept on static display. This year, a Hungarian Gripen will perform aerial display along with a Czech Gripen.

‘NATO Days in Ostrava & Czech Air Force Days’ is the largest and the most popular air-defence technology event in the Czech Republic and Central Europe. About  200,000 visitors attend the event every year.

The event will on 16 and 17 September this year at Ostrava Leos Janacek Airport.

Read the full story here.

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Last week, Czech and German fighters executed a joint training in the airspace of the Federal Republic of Germany. Two Czech Gripen fighters carried out aerial fights with two German Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.

The agreement to conduct the joint training regime was signed on 15 February in Brussels by the Czech and German Defence Ministers, Martin Stropnicky and Ursula von der Leyen. "The document confirms our resolution to create more intensive joint training scenarios and, at the same time, share our knowledge and experiences. Germany is one of our key strategic partners both inside and outside the NATO region," said Martin Stropnicky.

The exercise was carried out to increase mutual cooperation and improve inter-operability between the armed forces of the two countries. 

The one-and-half-hour training consisted of three combat scenarios. The flights were carried out within the format of aerial combat manoeuvring 2 on 1, 1 on 1, and 2 on 2 combats. The joint training is being conducted once in every two weeks.

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Czech Republic’s Ministry of Defense recently announced that it is in the process of procuring Gripen fighter terminals that will allow them to ensure classified data communication. 

Petr Medek, Defense Ministry spokesman, stated that using these terminals in the avionics of the existing Gripen aircrafts will help increase the operational capabilities in the area of classified communication. The technology is also needed for the aircraft to be full-fledged participants in Joint Alliance operations.

Czech Republic will be acquiring 15 terminals, of which 14 will be incorporated into the existing 14 aircraft and 1 will be a spare. 

The Czech army currently has a total of 14 Gripen aircraft on lease. The terminals purchased, however, will be completely owned and operated by the Czech army. 

Read the full storyhere​.

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According to a new cooperation plan signed by the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the two countries will jointly protect their airspace, reports Boston Herald.

The Czech Defence Ministry said that the protection that both the countries receive as NATO members is effective only for military threats. The cooperation plan, however, would cover non-military threats such as a terror attack committed with a civilian passenger jet, as well.

The pact has been approved by the Slovak government but still requires parliamentary and presidential approvals before coming in to effect.

Czech Republic uses Gripen C/D fighter jets for which Slovakia is in negotiation with Sweden to acquire. The Slovakian military uses Russian MiG-29 jets which were acquired in 2004.

Read the full story here.

Photo: Jorgen Nilsson

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The Governments of Slovakia and Czech Republic have signed an agreement that will lead to closer cooperation between the two countries for the protection of their combined airspace, reports Enrsi.rtvs.sk.

Both the countries have been conducting mutual air surveillance missions for more than two years now. The treaty, approved by the Slovak government, deepens this existing partnership and takes it to the next level.

The two countries protect their airspaces under NATO's integrated system of anti-aircraft and missile defence (NATINAMDS). This bilateral cooperation means they will share the cost of maintenance and pilot training. If there is a temporary loss of capacity to respond to threats, the neighbouring country will step up and enter the incapacitated country's airspace.

Read the full storym here.

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One of the biggest projects today for the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration,​ FMV, is the MS20 upgrade of the Czech Gripen fighters.

MS20 upgrade includes integration of the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and Boeing GBU-39 Small-Diameter Bomb, ISTAR missions plus, improved radar modes and a new laser designation pod (LDP).

The Czech Republic's first Gripen lease contract for 10 years was signed in the year 2004. In 2014, a new agreement was signed for a further 12 years. So the Czech Republic will continue to operate 14 Gripen C/D aircraft until at least 2027. It was this agreement that included several hardware modifications and system functionality upgrades for the Czech fighters.

Officials from FMV and its Czech counterpart meet four times a year, alternately in Prague and Stockholm, to discuss the upgradation process. According to an FMV report, some of the MS20 features for the Czech Gripen fighters will be different as compared to that of the Swedish Air Force fighters.

“There is a delicate interaction task, especially because they obtain a lot of hardware themselves to be reconciled with our packaging and delivery of Version 20 Czech Republic,” says Mikael Löfgren, project manager for the Gripen Czech Republic.

The upgrades of the Czech fighters are due in 2018.

Read the full story here.

​To fly in the Icelandic weather conditions, there are some preparations that have to be done. Here, Capt. Martin Špaček, a Czech Air Force Gripen pilot, describes how the daily life as pilot during the air policing mission in Iceland could look like.

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The video shows how Czech Gripen fighters perform their Quick Reaction Alert duties within the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System.

For many years now, NATO has been deploying Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) assets, provided by its member nations, for intercepts in places like Iceland and Baltic States which don’t have their own air forces.

During the recent participation in the Icelandic Air Policing, Czech Gripen fighters were slated to take up Quick Reaction Alert duties for initial certification process.  The Czech Air Force has been part of the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS) since 1999. This year was the first time when the Czech Air Force executed a twofold Quick Reaction Alert (Intercept) mission – one at home and one in Iceland.​

​During the Icelandic air policing mission, the Czech Air Force got an opportunity to train together with NATO Naval Forces in the waters outside Iceland.  

Three Gripen fighters joined in an exercise, in which Languedoc, a French frigate, Thetis, a Danish patrolling frigate, and Thor, the Icelandic coast guard's modern vessel, participated along with several helicopters. The exercise took place some 80 km southwest of the Icelandic coast and the main task of the Czech pilots was to simulate an attack on the Languedoc frigate, a state-of-the-art vessel the French Navy acquired this spring. 

The vessel is equipped with anti-aircraft missiles, and the Czech JAS-39 Gripen aircraft had to check the readiness of the ship’s crew. For the Czech pilots, the exercise was an opportunity to train for flying on low altitudes above the sea. 

"For Gripen, the lowest flight limit is 30 meters above the sea. However, since we do not fly at low altitude so often, we chose a safer variant of the minimal flight altitude of 100 meters," one of the participating pilots, Tomáš Merta, said. 

The Czech Air Force Iceland air policing mission ended last week and the pilots had logged a total of 166 flight hours.

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