A Gripen jet fighter lands at Czech Caslav air base. As the Czech and Slovak militaries increase interoperability, the Slovak Air Force may also acquire Gripens as it replaces older MiG aircraft, say defense officials. (Michal Cizek/AFP)
WARSAW — Under an agreement signed by the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the countries’ air forces will launch joint air patrols in January. The initiative has been debated for several years, but was recently accelerated by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and related security concerns of the two governments, reported daily Gazeta Wyborcza.
In addition to air patrols, increased cooperation between the Slovak and Czech militaries will also include special forces operations and military procurements.
“We are thinking and debating on ways to jointly acquire arms and military equipment, because such an option … seems to be the most effective for both countries,” said Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky.
Under the plan, the first joint procurements are to include radars and personal weapons for Czech and Slovak troops.
To increase its air combat capability, the Slovak Air Force is also planning to replace its MiG-29 fighter jets with new aircraft. According to senior defense officials, the most likely scenario is the acquisition of Saab JAS 39 Gripen aircraft from Sweden. Given that the jet fighters are also operated by the Czech Air Force, this is designed to enhance the interoperability of the two military branches.
The recent decision is expected to boost military cooperation between the two states, which parted ways in 1993 following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. The Czech Armed Forces have about 28,500 troops, while Slovakia has about 13,000 troops. ■