The Czech Republic government has formalised its commitment to acquire 24 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft. 

The deal, facilitated through the US government’s foreign military sale, includes advanced Block 4 configuration jets, training, logistical support, and services to ensure the fighters’ integration. The Czech Air Force’s inclusion as the 18th nation in the F-35 programme bolsters NATO’s deterrent capability.

Signing the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) marks a milestone. The first batch of jets is scheduled for delivery in 2031. 

F-35’s European dominance

Czech Republic’s participation in the F-35 programme is a notable capability upgrade over its small fleet of leased J-39 Gripen aircraft. Additionally, the F-35 is being procured widely across NATO and other allied ‘Western’ nations, making it a wise choice for interoperability and joint operations, according to GlobalData’s intelligence on the Czech Republic defence market.

According to GlobalData’s “The Global Military Fixed Wing Aircraft Market 2023-2033” report, in Europe, the growth of the Combat Aircraft segment is mainly driven by F-35 programmes in countries such as the UK, Norway, Belgium and Finland.

In another recent F-35 development, the US has granted the Hellenic Air Force’s request to purchase 40 F-35A Lightning II fighter jets and related equipment in an $8.6bn deal, further solidifying the F-35’s status as a standard fighter jet in the NATO military alliance.

US Air Force Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, the programme executive officer for the F-35 Joint Programme Office, expressed satisfaction with the Czech Republic’s inclusion in the F-35 programme. “This partnership with the Czech Ministry of Defense will deliver and sustain the F-35 aircraft for decades while providing the Czech Air Force with unmatched interoperability and ensuring it has the capability to counter current and future threats.”

The procurement package extends beyond the aircraft, covering aspects such as personnel training, service, logistical support, and the development of support services for successfully operating all 24 F-35s. 

F-35 programme faces modernisation setbacks

Despite the F-35’s global importance, the programme faces modernisation setbacks, with the Block 4 programme experiencing cost growth and delays, impacting its completion timeline and cost. Originally slated for completion in 2026 for $10.6bn, the Block 4 programme now estimates a total cost of $16.5bn, with a projected conclusion in 2029. However, this will be in time for when the Czech Republic will receive the aircraft. 

Bridget Lauderdale, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of the F-35 programme, highlighted the honour of partnering with the Czech Republic Air Force, “The F-35 is the best solution for the Czech Republic’s future fighter fleet with 5th Generation capabilities enhancing the nation’s effectiveness in the 21st Century Security battlespace.”

Its interoperability with NATO and other nations further solidified the F-35’s position as the European aircraft of choice. As the 18th nation to join the global F-35 programme, the Czech Republic contributes to a network of more than 600 F-35s operating together by the 2030s. This collaboration includes two full US F-35 squadrons stationed at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, reinforcing the aircraft’s strategic importance.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 programme is a defence solution that catalyses job creation and long-term industrial partnerships. The collaboration with the Czech industry is expected to generate economic opportunities and technological advancements for the next 40-50 years. 

With F-35s already operational from 32 bases worldwide, Lockheed Martin continues its commitment to working closely with F-35 operators to stay ahead of evolving threats and ensure allies’ readiness worldwide.