WARSAW — In a bid to boost regional defense cooperation, the Czech government is considering setting up a joint air squadron with Hungary that would comprise Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets operated by the two countries' air forces, local news agency CTK reported.
The Czech Armed Forces operate 14 Gripens, and the country's government had been planning to establish a joint squadron with neighboring Slovakia. However, Bratislava decided to extend the servicing deal for its Russian-built Mikoyan MiG-29 aircraft and postpone its planned lease of the Gripen fighters.
Prague pays some 1.3 billion krona (US $54 million) annually to operate its Gripens, which are enabled with 2,200 flight hours per year. The Hungarian Air Force also leased 14 Swedish-made fighter jets, but only 12 aircraft are currently operable.
Earlier this year, a spokesperson for the Slovak Defence Ministry told local journalists the government plans to lease Gripen fighters from the aircraft's manufacturer following the March 5 parliamentary election. The left-wing SMER party of incumbent Prime Minister Robert Fico won the vote and, along with its coalition partners, it is expected to form a new cabinet, paving the way for a potential deal with SAAB.
Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.