Prague - The Czech cabinet today approved the extension of the Czech lease of 14 Swedish Gripen supersonic fighters until 2027 with a two-year option, Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) said after the cabinet meeting.
Ministr obrany Martin Stropnický (vlevo) a velitel vzdušných sil Libor Štefánik vystoupili 12. března na tiskové konferenci v Praze. Vláda schválila prodloužení pronájmu švédských nadzvukových stíhaček Gripen do roku 2027 s dvouletou opcí. Roční splátky mají být o třetinu nižší, než byly podle současné smlouvy. ČTK Vondrouš Roman
The annual instalments are to be one-third lower than now, he told journalists.
He said Prague will pay an annual 1.7 billion crowns for the further lease of the planes.
A lower sum, about 1.4 billion a year, was mentioned previously. The sum announced by Stropnicky, however, was based on a different exchange rate and it did not take some taxes into account.
According to previous information, the new lease would have cost about 448 million Swedish crowns a year, which means 16.5 billion Czech crowns for the 12-year lease under the current exchange rates, but Stropnicky's new information means that the total sum will reach 20.4 billion crowns.
Stropnicky pointed out that the aircraft will be modernised and that the new contract will embed more services for the Czech Republic.
"The Czech Republic will keep its supersonic fighters. Its combat readiness will not decrease, but considerably increase," he added.
Chief of staff Petr Pavel said today's government decision was very good, long-expected news.
He said this would be a message to the military that "common sense has won."
The deal was prepared by the previous caretaker cabinet, but negotiations about the extension of the present lease of the Gripens started more than two years ago.
The extension will be secured by an addendum to the present contract.
The addendum focuses on upgrading the Gripens' efficiency in attacking ground targets, Stropnicky said.
It also includes the Czech Defence Ministry's requirements concerning the training of both the ground and flying personnel. Sweden is to train 25 Czech pilots and 90 technicians during the 12-year contract, he said.
Stropnicky said the Gripens will be equipped with night vision and will be able to communicate with allied planes within NATO.
This will enable their deployment in allied operations such as the former monitoring of the airspace over Libya, which Czech pilots could not join because the Gripens' systems were incompatible with those used by other allies.
Stropnicky said the present cabinet, which was appointed on January 29, hardly had any time for negotiations because the Swedish price offer lasted only until the end of March.
He said he has met Swedish government officials and tried to reduce the price, but was not successful.
In spite of this, the contract is beneficial and fair, Stropnicky added.
Apart from Sweden and the Czech Republic, the Jas-39 Gripens are used by Hungary, South Africa and Thailand.