Jiří Protiva, CEO of LOM Praha, revealed in an interview with the Czech portal E15.CZ that the contract’s value is expected to hover around the “upper single-digit million-dollar range.” The negotiations concern the transfer of know-how and technology by Lockheed Martin in the realm of comprehensive F-35 pilot training. “Only the details are being fine-tuned. The agreement between LOM and Lockheed is slated for early next year. We are finalizing the contract value, though it may increase over time as our collaboration with Lockheed develops,” said Protiva. These negotiations build upon a memorandum signed by both parties during the NATO Days event in Ostrava last August.
According to the LOM CEO, this center will become the second certified F-35 pilot training facility in Europe, following one in Sardinia, Italy. After training Czech pilots, it will be capable of instructing hundreds of pilots from across Europe. By 2030, European air forces are expected to operate over six hundred F-35 aircraft. Consequently, the training endeavor could generate millions of dollars annually for LOM.
A training program for Czech F-35 pilots has already been outlined, consisting of three phases. The first phase involves simulator training and flights on L-39NG aircraft. LOM has purchased four such L-39NG planes from Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody, set to be operational by 2025. In the second phase, pilots will travel to the United States for F-35 training, akin to pilots from other countries. The third phase will become possible after the delivery of the first F-35 fighters to the Czech base in Čáslav, where training will be conducted on both F-35 aircraft and simulators.
LOM, specifically its subsidiary VR Group, will also play a role in this phase by negotiating the delivery of multiple F-35 flight simulators. These simulators will be integrated into a system that VR Group can operate, maintain, and upgrade. This will facilitate both joint training exercises and multinational training within a network of simulators and physical F-35 aircraft worldwide.
The separate project of delivering several F-35 flight simulator units to the Czech Republic is part of the finalized agreement between Lockheed and LOM. VR Group, as a subsidiary, will be responsible for servicing, maintaining, and upgrading these simulators. This opens up significant opportunities for the Czech Republic, elevating the importance of this relatively small nation among European F-35 users.