Czech Republic submits letter of request to buy F-35

by Gareth Jennings

The Czech Republic is to enter into negotiations with the US government for the acquisition of 24 F-35s to replace its leased Gripens. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The Czech government has submitted a letter of request to the United States for the procurement of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced the move on 3 October, noting that the letter of request for an offer is a non-binding solicitation that indicates interest in opening up negotiations for a purchase.

“The Czech government has authorised the MoD to negotiate the acquisition of aircraft following the expiring lease of 14 Swedish Gripen aircraft,” the MoD said, adding, “Handing over the letter [of intent] is a necessary prerequisite for further negotiations for the American side.”

With the Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala having announced his government's decision to acquire the F-35 in June, an interdepartmental negotiating team was formed in August, with initial meetings of the Czech and American expert teams being launched in September. According to the MoD, its representatives will discuss the parameters of the acquisition and operation of the aircraft in the United States in October.

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Romania receives first F-16s from Norway

by Gareth Jennings

One of the first of 32 F-16s for Romania being handed over by Norway's defence minister on 28 November. (Norwegian Armed Forces)

Romania has received from Norway the first of 32 surplus Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft it contracted in November 2022.

The Norwegian Armed Forces announced the transfer of the first three aircraft on 28 November, saying the jets were flown by Romanian Air Force pilots from Rygge Air Station to their future home operating station at the 86th Fetesti Air Base in eastern Romania.

“The sale of the F-16 will strengthen and modernise the defences of Romania, an allied nation along NATO's eastern flank that is also a neighbour of Ukraine,” Norwegian Defence Minister Bjørn Arild Gram was quoted as saying at the official handover of the aircraft.

Romania is acquiring 32 F-16AM/BM Block 15 mid-life upgrade (MLU) aircraft, as well as spares and support equipment, from Norway for EUR388 million (USD386 million at the time the deal was finalised in 2022). It is the largest-ever sale of military equipment in Norway's history.

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Lithuania acquires H145M helicopters for special forces and other roles

by Gareth Jennings

Lithuania has acquired three of the latest variant H145M D3 helicopters for its border guards. (Airbus Helicopters)

Lithuania has acquired three Airbus Helicopters H145M rotorcraft that its State Border Guard Service (Valstybės Sienos Apsaugos Tarnyba: VSAT) will use for special forces deployment and other roles.

Airbus announced the contract on 29 November, saying that the latest D3-standard H145M helicopters will also be used for search and rescue, disaster relief, medical evacuation, border patrol, firefighting, and for the transport of donor organs.

The announcement did not disclose a contract value or a delivery timeline.

The D3 standard of the H145M is most easily identifiable by the five-bladed main rotor assembly, in place of the previous four blades, for greater speed and/or lift capacity, as well as for easier maintenance. It has added an extra 150 kg lift capacity to take the aircraft's maximum take-off weight (MTOW) up to 3,800 kg, and also provides for easier maintenance due to reduced vibration.

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Taiwan preparing to replace F-5 with Brave Eagles

by Akhil Kadidal

Taiwan is preparing to retire its Northrop F-5E/F fleet from operational service before the end of 2023. (Annabelle Chih/Getty Images)

Taiwan's Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) is preparing to withdraw its ageing Northrop F-5 E/F Tiger II fleet from operational service by the end of 2023 and replace them with Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) T-5 Brave Eagle trainers.

In a statement on its Youth DailyNews newspaper on 28 November, the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defence (MND) said , “[The] F-5E/F fighter aircraft will soon be relieved of its training tasks. Only the RF-5E reconnaissance aircraft modified from the F-5E fighter aircraft will continue to be used.”

The newspaper added that the Brave Eagle will be used for “air-defence readiness and pilot training”.

In a press statement, the MND said the RoCAF's force of five RF-5E surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft will remain in service until Taiwan acquires six Collins Aerospace MS-110 multispectral airborne reconnaissance system pods and four General Atomics MQ-9B unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) currently on order.

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