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The Czech Gripen fleet has been over a decade in service. The outstanding performance of the system, as demonstrated during NATO exercises and deployments, has increased interest from other Central European countries.

On a sunny afternoon at the Czech Republic’s Čáslav military air base, Captain Jan Ducha stands beside the runway awaiting the return of one of the 14 Saab Gripen that he swears he loves and nurtures like his own children.

 “Beautiful, no?” smiles the commander of Čáslav’s Maintenance Operational Centre, as the Gripen’s grey delta wing and canard silhouette finally materialise against the green of the surrounding countryside. “We’ve had these planes for over a decade now, but watching them come in still gives me pleasure.”

 In June 2004 the Czech and the Swedish government signed a 10-year, leasing agreement for 12 single-seat Gripen C and two twin-seat Gripen D. The first flight took place less than a year later, in April 2005.

 “Apart from the Swedes themselves, the Czech air force was the first to fly the Gripen,” notes Lieutenant Colonel Jaroslav Míka, Commander of Čáslav’s 211 Squadron. “It was we Czechs who proved that the Gripen was fully NATO-compatible.”

Read the full story here.

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The best players of the Gripen Fighter Challenge game, who competed against each other at SIAF 2017, spent one entire day with Czech Gripen pilots at the 21st tactical Air Force Base in Čáslav.

Slovak International Air Festival (SIAF) 2017 took place during the last weekend of August at Sliač airport in Slovakia. One of the biggest attractions of the whole event was the Saab Experience Hangar. Apart from getting to know about a series of products by Saab, the winners could test their abilities in the Gripen Fighter Challenge game as well. 

The reward for the top five players in the game was an excursion to the Air Force Base in Čáslav which happened on Tuesday, 31 October. 

When the winners reached the Air Base, there was a short introduction to welcome them, followed by which they were familiarised with the basic tasks at the Air Base. 

The winners were then taken for a tour of the local museum of aviation history. After that, the excursion continued with a visit to the airport’s biological protection station where the winners, thanks to an interesting lecture, learned about the predators that protect the runways and the airport surroundings from not only birds but wild animals as well. 

After a hearty lunch in the military canteen, the winners were taken to a point next to the runway where they watched the last pre-flight preparations of five Gripen aircraft. After the pilots took off to their regular missions, the winners went to the Gripen hangar, ...

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The Czech Air Force recently had a photo shoot featuring all the aircraft at the Caslav Air Base including Gripen,  L-39 Albatros, and L-159 ALCA.

"It was truly unique," said Tomáš Maruščák, a spokesman for the 21st Tactical Air Force Base in Caslav. "Nothing similar or this big has been conducted in the recent history of the Czech Air Force.

The preparations for the shoot took almost three hours. Besides the fighters, pilots and ground staff were also a part of this shoot.

Caslav Air Base, located in the northeast of the city, has been home to Gripen fighters since 2005 now. This photo shoot was aimed at capturing unique shots of Caslav Air Base track with all the aircraft and machines it houses.​

Image Courtesy: Czech Armed Forces

​Czech Gripen participated in NATO's annual Steadfast Noon exercise earlier this month. The exercise was held at two locations - Kleine Brogel Air Base in Belgium and Buchel Air Base in Germany.​

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Two Czech Gripen fighters and an L-159 ALCA light combat aircraft during Ample Strike 2017

The Czech Republic led exercise Ample Strike had fighters logging in 600 flight hours and conducting hundreds of missions this year.

"We began these types of exercises 15 years ago. In 2002, we had eight aircraft and only one Czech team of forward air controllers cooperating with British teams. Now, we have 39 aircraft from 18 countries comprising more than 1,200 soldiers taking part," said the Director of the exercise, Colonel Zdenek Bauer, when addressing the media before the exercise.

The Czech Republic has hosted the exercise for four consecutive years now. The exercise is planned around developing and improving joint coordination of air and ground forces

Read the full story here.

Image Courtesy: Czech Armed Forces website

Visitor at the Slovak International Air Festival (SIAF) watched the performance of  the top Czech Air Force display pilot, Captain Ivo Kardoš this year.​ The aerial display was the highlight of the festival. 

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"Gripen is the best choice for the Czech Republic," says Czech display pilot Captain Ivo Kardoše. In an interview with a local publication, he talks about his experience of flying at a recent airshow in Hradec Kralove.

Kardoše says that if one has to compare the cost and performance, Gripen is the best aircraft. It is not expensive to operate and does the same job as other advanced fighters.

About his performance at the Hradec air show, he says that the kind of demonstration a display pilot chooses for an airshow depends a lot on the weather. In Hradec, weather posed a few challenges but vertical maneuvers were still possible, so he chose a longer set. Also, a display pilot tries to demonstrate a combination of the aircraft features. The lowest altitude at which a non-maneuvering flight can be conducted is about 2km above ground. “For safety reasons, we cannot demonstrate the maximum capabilities of an aircraft at airshows," he says.  

On being asked what he likes more, performing at airshows or participating in foreign missions, Kardoše says both are great experiences. 

“It's hard to compare, everybody has their own preferences though. It was nice in Iceland, but the air shows have their magic too. A pilot just wants to fly,” he says.

Read the full story here.

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NATO aviation training exercise, Ample Strike 2017, that started last week, ends today.

The annual multinational exercise offers the perfect platform for air and ground forces to work together and be better prepared for joint missions when required. It focused on advanced air and land integration training, as well as improving interoperability between NATO allies and partner nations.

"It goes without saying that the host country has to make the most of the exercise. Almost half of all flights were conducted by Czech pilots of L-39 Albatros, L-159 ALCA, Mi-24/35, Mi-171Š helicopters, and Gripen," says Czech Colonel Zdeněk Bauer.

The exercises also included air-to-air refueling of Gripen with the US tank KC-13.

Besides the Czech Republic, participating air forces included that of Denmark, Croatia, the USA, Hungary, and Finland.

gripen_siaf2017.jpegCzech Air Force airmen and their Gripen aircraft attended NATO Tiger Meet 2017 in Landivisiau, France. They were placed second in the concours d’Elegance for the best camouflage with Gripen in the “Tiger design.​

Visitors to the Slovak International Air Festival (SIAF) on August 26-27 in Slovakia can expect an exciting program. The highlight of the show will be a flight demonstration of the Gripen supersonic jet fighter by the top Czech Air Force display pilot, Captain Ivo Kardoš.

Captain Kardoš recently won one of the most prestigious international display awards. He beat an international competition at one of the world's largest air shows, the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, Britain. Kardoš beat more than 60 pilots – which is quite an achievement given that he became a display pilot only at the beginning of this year. He also demonstrated his excellent flying skills at another air show - RNAS Yeovilton, Britain, where he won an award for his performance again.

We asked a few questions to Captain Ivo Kardoš.

What is the main role of a display pilot?

The main role of a display pilot is to represent the Air Force and to demonstrate his flying skills as well as the capabilities of the aircraft.

Can any Gripen pilot become a display pilot? Or does he need to fulfill certain criteria and undergo special training?

The display pilot is selected from the Gripen squadron pilots. ...

Czech International Air Fest (CIAF), the largest airshow in the Czech Republic, will be held on 2nd and 3rd September and Gripen will be one of the main attractions to the event.

The video shows Czech Gripen's performance at CIAF 2016.

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