An exchange of confidential emails between analysts and an undercover intelligence officer working for the US global security think tank Stratfor — issued today by WikiLeaks — signal that the Czechs planned to issue an “ultimatum” to Washington demanding a better deal on F-16 fighter jets for itself and other CEE members of NATO. Otherwise, Prague wants a significant role in the US anti-missile defense project, to counter the Russian “threat.”
The Czech Republic wants to continue to patrol its skies with the supersonic JAS-39 Gripen jet fighters after the current lease expires in 2015, but the government will not make a final decision about the long-term outfitting of its air force until the economy improves, Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) confirmed following Wednesday’s regular Cabinet meeting.
The Czech Ministry of Defense is hoping talks on Jan. 23 – 24 with Iraqi government and military representatives will produce a breakthrough for a Czech offer of twenty L-159 fighter planes produced by Aero Vodochody. The manufacturer, which is heading talks on the Czech side, is less concerned about the deal going through: last year it received Kč 25.2 million for simply storing the planes.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has cancelled his planned official visit to the Czech Republic due to a spate of attacks in mostly Shiite neighborhoods, raising fears of sectarian violence following the withdrawal of US troops in December, but an Iraqi delegation will still travel to Prague for talks on Jan. 23-24 about a possible deal on fighter jets and other bilateral business opportunities.
The Czech Republic and several other Eastern European countries have all expressed interest in buying “almost new” Eurofighter military aircraft from Germany, Financial TimesDeutschland, 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).
Czechs have come to expect inflated prices in public procurement deals, but even the most cynical observers were taken aback by the Defense Ministry’s purchase of four CASA C-295M transport planes. Nondisclosure clauses prevent scrutiny of the real costs, but Czech Position has obtained documents that confirm suspicions of grossly inflated prices on the CASA deal.
The Czech hire contract with the Swedish government for JAS-39 Gripen jet fighters to protect Czech airspace runs out in 2015; speculation is mounting over whether the deal will be extended or another fighter chosen. PM Petr Nečas is said to favor an American solution; charges that massive bribes were used by BAE Systems-SAAB when trying to land a deal to sell JAS-39s could work in Washington’s favor.
Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has amassed a horde of information about the corrupt practices of leading arms maker and seller BAE Systems. Some files concern the use of middlemen to land deals for the Gripen fighter jet in Central Europe. Czech investigators will hope this could provide a breakthrough in their long-running probe into one of the biggest suspected corruption cases of the decade.
During the visit by Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas to Iraq in May, his Iraqi counterpart, Nuri al-Maliki, announced that the two sides were negotiating the sale to Baghdad of 24 L-159 fighter planes manufactured by the Czech firm Aero Vodochody and owned by the Czech Air Force. On Friday, the daily E15 cited Aero Vodochody boss, Ladislav Šimek, as saying the Iraqis are now interested in acquiring 36 L-159s – in exchange for oil.