Czechia wants to exchange leased Gripens for US F-35 fighter jets

Another European country and a NATO member may soon opt for the American F-35 Lighting II fighter jet over the Swedish Gripen.

Photo by Milan Nykodym

Czechia (or Czech Republic) currently has 14 first-generation Gripen fighters, 12 of which are one-seat JAS-39C models and 2 of the two-seat JAS-39D model, used for training and without internal cannons. These Gripens are from the generation that preceded the Gripen NG, the JAS-39E/F, a model that Brazil bought and designated as the F-39E/F, respectively, for the one- and two-seat versions.

The Swedish fighters have been in the Czech Air Force since the turn of the millennium under a lease agreement (leasing) with SAAB itself, the aircraft manufacturer. The country was the first NATO member, along with neighboring Hungary, to buy the Swedish fighter jets. Even in a similar model, since of the 24 Gripen fighters that Hungary flies today, 14 of them are also leased from SAAB.

But all that could soon change.

With the Gripens contract nearing its end, expiring in 2027, a new purchase window opened and the F-35 would have come out ahead of the competition, being the favorite of the Czech military, according to local newspaper Echo24. The information ended up being confirmed by Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the F-35, during the show ILA air station in Berlin. When asked about Czechia and Greece’s intentions on the fighter, the F-35 program’s Vice President of Strategy confirmed the talks.

US Marine Corps F-35

Discussions are taking place with these two countries interested in purchasing the F-35. As far as I know, the Czech Republic is closer to making a decision.” said the executive, as reported by AeroTimeHub.

The Czechs’ plan is to have at least 24 new fighters and, in the competition, there would be, in addition to the F-35, the Gripen NG and the F-16V, the latter also from Lockheed Martin.

The F-16 would have the least chance, as it would not represent a major evolution in relation to the JAS-39C. The Gripen NG, in turn, would be the natural evolution, but the F-35 has the great advantage of being “almost invisible” to radar, but it has the highest cost in its category.

In recent times, the F-35 has taken all the major competitions, many of them in which the Gripen also competed: Canada, Poland, Switzerland and Finland opted for the US “invisible” fighter.

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