In January 2020, the Czech Air Force concluded their 4-month long NATO mission to protect the airspace over the Baltics.
The Gripen fighters were off to a great start with a total of 200 flight hours and 9 sharp take-offs within just a month of the mission. Apart from Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) patrols, the Czech Gripen pilots also conducted training flights in the Baltic airspace like in-flight refuelling exercises and low-level flights above sea. They also participated in joint missions including Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) as part of two alliance groups led by Canada and Germany in Latvia and Lithuania, respectively.
The Air Policing mission commenced on the first week of September in 2019, and was the third Baltic mission and the sixth international mission for the Czech Gripen fighters. The Czech Air Force had sent five Gripens and 75 air and ground personnel, mostly from the 21st Tactical Air Force Base Čáslav to Estonia for this mission.
Gripen in Czech Republic
The Gripen squadron consisting of twelve Gripen C (single seater) and two Gripen D (twin seater) is based at Čáslav airbase. From here, it protects the Czech airspace and participates in joint exercises with the armed forces.
Since the Czech Air Force started to operate Gripen, continuous capability upgrades have been made for their fighters. A couple of years ago, they got the new MS20 capability enhancement for their Gripens which involves both hardware and software upgrades, giving a whole series of improvements and new functionality both in terms of the aircraft itself and the ancillary support and training systems.
The upgrade greatly enhances Gripen’s ability to engage ground targets by incorporating unguided and laser-guided bombs into the aircraft payload and the air-to-air capability is enhanced by the introduction of new radar modes. Another key element represents the integration of the targeting electro-optical pod Litening 4i, which is used not only for guiding missiles and bombs, but also in aerial reconnaissance and combat. The MS20 upgrade has also introduced NVG and implemented the Alliance datalink – Link 16 – as well as cryptomodules for covert communication.
With continuous capability upgrades, the Czech Air Force and Gripen will stay on the forefront as a protector of both their own and NATO alliances’ airspace, for a long time to come.