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US approves Czech F-35 buy

The Czech Air Force is looking to field 24 F-35A aircraft to equip two squadrons in Čáslav Air Base. (US Air Force)

The US government has approved the sale of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to the Czech Republic.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced the approval on 29 June, saying the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) covered up to 24 aircraft, air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, spares, training, and support for an estimated USD5.62 billion.

“The proposed sale will improve the Czech Republic's defence capabilities, as well as support NATO operations by guarding against modern threats and maintaining a constant presence in the region,” the DSCA said in its notification of the US State Department approval.

The proposed sale must now be approved by Congress, with the Czech government expected to finalise its decision on whether to go with the F-35 or another aircraft type in October. With the lease on the Gripen C/Ds set to expire in 2027 (with a possible two-year extension up to 2029), the Czech Air Force (CzAF) had set out three possible options for its future fighter force. These options were to extend the lease on the Gripen C/Ds, to acquire the Gripen E, or “to switch to a different supersonic platform”. The service's preferred intent became clear in June 2022 when the official Twitter account for the country's armed forces tweeted alongside a photo of the F-35, “We know what we want. We always knew it.”

As noted by Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala earlier, the CzAF is looking to field 24 F-35A aircraft to equip two squadrons in Čáslav Air Base.

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