The celebration was opened by a fly past of 10 Gripen fighters over the air base. This event and the following press conference was attended by senior representatives of the Czech Republic and Sweden, headed by the Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic Martin Stropnický and his deputy Daniel Koštoval, and Senior Adviser of the Swedish Ministry of Defence, General Arne Hedén. Mr. Stropnický said in the press briefing that the Gripen is a reliable aircraft, and that the pilots are satisfied with it. This is evidenced by statistics, which show that Czech pilots have flown 20,000 flight hours during 10 years of their use of 14 Gripen aircraft.
Lion Effort 2015, the international exercise of Gripen user nations, took place at the 21st Tactical Air Base in Čáslav between May 11 and 24, 2015. Twenty two Gripen fighters from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Sweden participated in the event. Representatives of the Czech Air Force both appreciated the importance of the exercise as well as their excellent experience with Gripen on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the aircraft’s introduction into the Czech Air Force. The Lion Effort exercise was concluded with an Open Day at the base on Saturday, May 23.
“The Gripen lease has been agreed in a comprehensive form to provide a complex combat system that secures the protection of the airspace of the Czech Republic with its own supersonic aircraft that are capable of operation in all weathers, day and night, and in collaboration with other NATO member states”, said commander of the Czech Air Force General Libor Štefánik. “After 10 years experience, we can say that this particular system of operation of a modern supersonic aircraft in the conditions of the Army of the Czech Republic has proven to be efficient. If I should evaluate cooperation with the Swedish side, I have to say it is of very high quality,” added General Štefánik.
The Czech Air Force has operated 12 single-seat JAS 39C and two twin-seat JAS 39D aircraft since May 2005. The contract between the Czech and Swedish governments for the lease of the aircraft was signed in June 2004. The lease was extended until 2027 with a two-year option until 2029 in May 2014. Pilot and engineer training, and the provision of maintenance services and spare parts are part of the contract. Upgrades to the aircraft after 2015 will include the NATO-compatible Link-16 datalink communication system, smart missiles enabling air-to-ground combat, and enhanced software for the aircraft’s radar.
"Cooperation with the Czech Air Force has always been excellent,” said Daniel Boestad, Vice President, Group Marketing & Business Development at Saab. “Operation of the Gripen by the Czech Republic is a great example of long-term operation of aircraft by a NATO squadron,” added Boestad.