The Czech Republic joins the F-35 Lightning II global team

Source: Lockheed Martin, Czech Ministry of Defence

The Czech Republic government signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) making official its intent to procure 24 Lockheed Martin 5th Generation F-35 Lightning II aircraft. Through the U.S. government Foreign Military Sale, the Czech Air Force will receive its first aircraft in 2031, which will be in the latest advanced Block 4 configuration.

 

“We are pleased the government of Czech Republic is now officially a part of the F-35 Lightning II program of record,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, program executive officer, F-35 Joint Program Office. “This partnership with the Czech Ministry of Defense will deliver and sustain the F-35 aircraft for decades, while providing the Czech Air Force with unmatched interoperability and ensuring it has the capability to counter current and future threats.”

 

 

In addition to the aircraft, the procurement also includes personnel training, service and logistical support, and developing other support services ensuring successful deliveries of all 24 F-35s.

“With the signing of the Letter of Offer and Acceptance between the Czech Republic and U.S. governments, the Czech Republic becomes the 18th nation to join the global F-35 program. We are honored to partner with the Czech Republic Air Force as its F-35s join other European nations in strengthening and growing interoperability, significantly increasing NATO’s deterrent capability,” said Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. “The F-35 is the best solution for the Czech Republic’s future fighter fleet with 5th Generation capabilities enhancing the nation’s effectiveness in the 21st Century Security battlespace.”

 

 

The F-35 is the European aircraft of choice for replacing legacy fighter fleets, offering unmatched interoperability with NATO and other nations to provide a key discriminator for the U.S. and its allies for decades to come. By the 2030s, more than 600 F-35s will work together from more than 10 European countries, including two full U.S. F-35 squadrons stationed at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. It is also the only fighter aircraft in production today that will create jobs for the next 40-50 years and enable strategic industrial partnerships with Czech industry.

F-35s are now operating from 32 bases worldwide. To date, Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 990 F-35s, trained more than 2,280 pilots and 15,400 maintainers, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed nearly 773,000 cumulative flight hours. Lockheed Martin continues to work side by side with F-35 operators to ensure allies remain ahead of the evolving threat.

 

Statement published by Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic:

Defence Minister Jana Černochová with the U.S. Ambassador Bijan Sabet signed today a Memorandum of Understanding between the Czech Republic and the United States of America on procurement of twenty four fifth-generation F-35 fighters, which is the most important project in the history of the Czech Armed Forces. The ceremony brought to a head the negotiations on the future of the Czech supersonic capability and marked the conclusion of this contract.

The procurement of 24 American F-35A Lightning II aircraft was authorised by the Government of the Czech Republic in September 2023. By the end of March 2024, it was necessary to complete a variety of administrative steps and formally conclude this phase of realisation of this strategic project through entering into the Memorandum of Understanding between the Czech and U.S. Government and the so-called Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA), whose acceptance executes an agreement with the U.S. Government. The Memorandum was signed today by Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic Jana Černochová with the United States Ambassador in the Czech Republic Bijan Sabet in attendance of the Chief of General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces Lieutenant General Karel Řehka. The LOA, which was delivered to Prague at the end of 2023, was countersigned by the Director General of the Czech MoD Armaments and Acquisition Division Lubor Koudelka upon the finalisation of all administrative steps mandatory under the Czech law.

 

 

The agreement includes industrial cooperation, which was contracted for by the Director General of the MoD Industrial Cooperation Division Radka Konderlová last week. There are eleven projects prepared with Lockheed Martin and three projects with Pratt&Whitney in the aggregate value of CZK 15.3 billion. Those will see the participation of 13 Czech enterprises and universities involved in four areas: manufacture of components, research and development, pilot training and maintenance, F-35 maintenance and servicing.

The Czech Republic discussed the signature itself with the United States in the past weeks as timing and location of convenience was to be identified. Given the health issues and subsequent convalescence of the United States Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, this option of signing the MoU in Prague was eventually selected. “I promised that the contract for the American F-35 aircraft would be concluded by the end of March and I delivered on the promise. This government-to-government agreement brings our country and its Armed forces into a whole new era, in which not only our servicemembers but also modern equipment rank us into the first league of European NATO Allies. As a matter of fact, fifth-generation aircraft are a backbone fighters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Moreover, their procurement will significantly increase combat readiness of the Czech Armed Forces,” Minister Černochová stated after the signature.

“The F-35 system is the only one to meet the mission in future battlefields and guarantee effective defence along with our Allies against external aggression if needed,” said Chief of General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces Lieutenant General Karel Řehka.

 

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The procurement process is scheduled for eleven years with the first aircraft arrival in 2031. Along with individual payments, the Comprehensive Implementation Plan is being developed to define the introduction of the F-35 system into the environment of the Czech Armed Forces. Specifically, the plan covers personnel, training, infrastructure, service and logistic support and the development of all other auxiliary services so as to receive the progressive deliveries of all 24 units of F-35 seamlessly from the very start.

The Swedish Gipen fighters in the Czech Air Force inventory will have performed their mission by 2035, when the F-35 system will reach its full operational capability. There are intensive negotiations underway with the Kingdom of Sweden on the operation of the Gripens in the given timeframe.

 

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