Czech Republic seeks to purchase 24 F-35s

By Briana Reilly / July 20, 2022 at 10:20 AM

The Czech Republic's defense minister is looking to procure two-dozen F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the country's government announced today.

The news came after the Czech cabinet moved to authorize Defense Minister Jana Černochová to begin negotiating the potential purchase with the U.S. government.

“Our decision to select this option is based on the analysis by the Czech Armed Forces, which clearly articulates that only the most advanced 5th generation fighters will be able to meet mission requirements in future battlefields,” Černochová said in the release.

The aircraft would replace Saab’s 14 JAS-39 Gripen C/D platforms, which are on lease until 2027. The announcement referenced that timeline, with Černochová noting that officials “must not hesitate because the lead times take years.”

The potential of increasing the government’s fighter fleet to 24, the release states, comes as the government recognizes “the present quantity of supersonic fighters no longer meets the current tasking.” It also cites “the worsening security situation,” which it notes will lead to more missions.

By moving forward with the F-35, the release adds, the Czech government will be able to share equipment with the U.S., Poland and other NATO allies, thereby strengthening “cooperation, joint training and capability sharing.”

Lockheed Martin, the maker of the F-35, touted the news in its own statement and pledged to “provide any support the U.S. government requires in discussions about an acquisition,” though it deferred questions to both countries' governments.

The Czech Republic’s decision to move forward with the F-35 comes after other European countries have formalized their own deals with the U.S. for the fighter aircraft, including, most recently, Switzerland, which announced in May it will buy 36 of the aircraft.

Those foreign military sales could help bolster Lockheed’s order tally as it works to formalize a “handshake” deal announced this week covering the next three F-35 production lots. Reached Monday, the lot 15-17 agreement includes 375 jets, according to the Pentagon -- some 100 platforms fewer than the current production framework, though officials noted the total could change based on lawmakers’ actions in the budget process or orders from international partners.