Czechs deny plans to buy old German Eurofighters to replace Gripens

FT Deutschland: Czechs mull replacing leased Swedish JAS-39s with used German jet fighters; MoD says no talks took place

Politics & Policy|Companies|Foreign Affairs
Brian Kenety | 05.01.2012
A Eurofighter Typhoon in flight over Abu Dhabi

The Czech Republic and several other Eastern European countries have all expressed interest in buying “almost new” Eurofighter military aircraft from Germany, Financial Times Deutschland, the local version of the UK business daily, reported on Thursday, with Berlin looking to offload eight planes, which, if new, would cost some €60 million to €80 million each (including ancillary services).

“According to FTD’s information, Bulgaria is interested in the purchase of eight Eurofighters now in the Luftwaffe [German air force]. The topic should arise during the visit of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to Berlin at the end of January,” the newspaper said. “Other Eastern European countries are interested in the nearly new aircraft. These include the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia and Romania.”

The Czech military is currently leasing 14 supersonic jet fighters, the JAS-39 Gripen made by the BAE Systems-SAAB consortium, from the Swedish government; with that  contract due to expire in 2015, speculation has been mounting about whether that leasing agreement will be renewed or another type of fighter plane chosen.

Eurofighters of Spain, Italy, Germany and Great Britain in flight

The Czech Ministry of Defense has denied having negotiated with its German counterparts, the news server iDNES.cz reported. “I can completely exclude that talks have taken place, even a [informal] probing,” ministry spokesman Jan Pejšek was quoted as saying, leading the publication to speculate that Germany was floating trial balloons to tell the world its old Eurofighters were on the market.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) has showed little enthusiasm for extending a Gripen deal, warning in June 2011 that it would be difficult to imagine renewing the contract when an investigation about alleged massive corruption relating to the original deal — to buy 24 JAS-39 fighters over several years — has yet to be concluded. That deal was dumped by the Czech parliament in 2003 in favor of the leasing option (at a cost of Kč 20 billion, one-third what it would have cost to buy the planes).

Last month, Nečas said that the country’s deteriorating economic situation would have to be taken into account when considering the possible options for patrolling the Czech skies in years to come. The European consortium that makes the Eurofighter has reportedly tried to drum up interest in its Typhoon model — a twin-engine aircraft comparable to older US-made F-16 fighter jets produced by Lockheed Martin — that are now in use by Italy.

The Eurofighters are mainly in use by the militaries of the countries that participated in the consortium: Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Austria has 15 of them in its air force (for which it reportedly paid some €1.54 billion) and they are also in use by the Royal Saudi Air Force. In total, order for more than 700 of the Typhoon aircraft have been placed.

See related articles: Battle escalates over future Czech fighter contract as Gripen deal runs down and Czechs hope for Gripen graft breakthrough from SFO 

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