published: 11.09.2013, 16:11 | updated: 11.09.2013 16:12:24
Prague - The draft Czech-Swedish contract counts with an extension of Gripens lease by 14 years and it will be cheaper by one third than the original one, Czech Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek told journalists after a government meeting today.
He said the contract will be for 12 years with a two-year option.
The Gripens will be gradually upgraded in order to fulfil NATO standards and to use them not only against air, but also ground targets, he added.
The current Swedish offer is valid till the end of October.
The outgoing Jiri Rusnok government will draft an agreement on the prolongation of the lease that will be definitively confirmed by the government to arise from the October 25-26 early election, he added.
"The government has assigned the defence minister to draft an addendum to the contract and have it ready by December," Picek said.
The planned modernisation of the fighters will make it possible to use them in allied actions such as control of the airspace over Libya.
At present, Czech pilots cannot join it as the Gripen systems do not allow for the link with other countries' systems.
After 12 years of the new lease, the Czech Republic will be able to decide on whether to end or continue with it, Defence Ministry spokesman Jan Pejsek said.
After the next contract expires, the aircraft will be approximately past one half of their lifespan.
"If anyone believes that after (another) 14 years the aircraft will be obsolete, it is not so," Picek said.
The ten-year lease of 14 Jas-39 Gripen supersonic fighters by the Czech air force for some 20 billion crowns expires at the end of 2014. The original contract was approved under prime minister Vladimir Spidla (Social Democrats, CSSD) in 2004.
The first Gripens flew in the Czech Republic in April 2005.
Czech army pilots are satisfied with the Gripens.
Gripens are also used by the air forces of Sweden, Hungary, South Africa and Thailand.
A few years ago, the Czech "Tiger Meet" comprising Gripens won a NATO contest of similar units.
The Czech military agrees that the acquisition of other type of would force the military to heavily invest in the infrastructure now adapted to the Gripens.
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