The Swedish ambassador to Czech Republic Fredrik Jörgensen said in an interview with Seznam Správy that Czech can keep the Saab 39 Gripen fighters that it leased from Sweden for free. The news comes as Czech is looking into buying 24 fighters as the lease for the Gripens will expire in 2027. According to the news report, the F-35 is the leading contender. In 2014, the governments of the Czech Republic and Sweden had signed a new agreement to extend the NATO nation’s lease deal for 14 Gripen C/Ds by a further 12 years. In 2015, the service decided to upgrade its fleet to the MS20 configuration. The MS20 upgrade was completed in 2018.
When the Czech Republic became a NATO member in 1999, they needed to replace their existing Soviet-built MiG-21 fleet with aircraft compatible with NATO standards. In 2000, the Czech Republic began evaluating a number of aircraft, including the F-16, F/A-18, Mirage 2000, Eurofighter Typhoon and the Gripen. In December 2001, having reportedly been swayed by Gripen International’s generous financing and offset programme, the Czech government announced that the Saab 39 Gripen fighter had been selected. On 14 June 2004, it was announced that the Czech Republic was to lease 14 Gripens, modified to comply with NATO standards.
The first six were delivered on 18 April 2005. The lease was for an agreed period of 10 years at a cost of €780 million; the 14 ex-Swedish Air Force aircraft included 12 single-seaters and two JAS 39D two-seat trainers. In September 2013, the Defence and Security Export Agency announced that a follow-up agreement with the Czech Republic had been completed to extend the lease by 14 years, until 2029; leased aircraft shall also undergo extensive modernization, including the adoption of new datalinks. The lease also has an option of eventually acquiring the fighters outright.
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab AB. The Gripen has a delta wing and canard configuration with relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire flight controls. The Gripen has good short takeoff performance, being able to maintain a high sink rate and strengthened to withstand the stresses of short landings. The Gripen is compatible with a number of different armaments, beyond the aircraft’s single 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon, including air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, air-to-ground missiles such as the AGM-65 Maverick, and anti-ship missiles such as the RBS-15.