Superior and professional cooperation between the Air Force of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Armed Forces will continue in the future

 16. 02. 2024      category: Events
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The long-standing, above-standard and professional cooperation between the Czech Air Force and the Slovak Air Force will continue in the future - this is just one of the key conclusions from the recent meeting of experts from the F-16 and F-35 integrated working teams, which met on 13 February in Prague.

Foto: Letouny F-35 a JAS-39 Gripen  | prap. Martin Král / 21. zTL
Picture: F-35 and JAS-39 Gripen | Martin Král / 21. zTL

At first glance, it may seem that the Czech and Slovak Air Forces parted ways, especially at the beginning of this millennium, when the Czech Republic finally decided to abandon the Russian technology platform in the tactical fighter segment and successfully switched to Gripen in 2005. Slovakia then continued to operate a fleet of Russian MiG-29 aircraft, up to the threshold of their technical lifetime and the possibilities of logistical support for the operation of these legendary but now morally obsolete machines.

Foto: Společná fotografie z nedávného setkání expertů integrovaných pracovních týmů F-16 a F-35 | VzS AČR
Picture: A joint photo from a recent meeting of F-16 and F-35 integrated task force experts | Czech Army

In 2015-2016, the Government of the Slovak Republic flirted with the possibility of acquiring a fleet of Gripen aircraft as large as the Czech Republic, but in the end the Slovak Air Force decided otherwise, and in 2018 made the final decision to get rid of the existing MiGs and replace them with the most modern ones available at the time. This resulted in the acquisition of 14 American F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft.

Foto: F-16 Block 70 nesoucí slovenský znak |  Ministerstvo obrany SR
Picture: The first F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft bearing the Slovak emblem | MoD of Slovakia

And these days, the imaginary trajectories of the air forces of both countries have been connected again, because the Slovak and Czech governments are acquiring aircraft from the same company - Lockheed Martin, and mainly in the same way, through the so-called FMS (Foreign Military Sale) at the level of G to G (government-to-government) guarantees.

The Czech side also has some experience with this type of acquisition of military systems, but on a much smaller scale than the Slovak side, as the Slovak Republic has already acquired and put into service a fleet of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters in this way.

This was the reason why the Czech Integrated Project Team (IPT-TL AČR) F-35A recently invited Slovak colleagues and experts with experience from the FMS environment in the acquisition of helicopters and fighter aircraft to Prague for a joint meeting. The seven-member Slovak team, led by Brigadier General Martin Kuterka, Deputy Commander of the Slovak Air Force, willingly shared with the Czech colleagues all positive and negative experiences in negotiations with the American side and with representatives of cooperating companies.

Foto: Letouny F-35 a JAS-39 Gripen  | prap. Martin Král / 21. zTL
Picture: F-35 and JAS-39 Gripen  | Martin Král / 21. zTL

The meeting was opened by Brigadier General Jaroslav Míka, Deputy Director of the Force Development Section of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic and Head (IPT-TL of the Czech Armed Forces), with a short presentation on the status of the F-35A project. General Kuterka continued by appreciating the Czech side's efforts to share this experience and recalled the fact that they did not have this opportunity and had to "walk this thorny path on their own".

This was followed by presentations on the status of the Slovak Black Hawk fleet, where the Slovak colleagues talked about logistical problems, political aspects of these contracts or the demanding security policy to protect classified information and US technology. 

Experts from both sides then debated the details of setting up the operation and maintenance system, procurement of air munitions and provision of training in all military disciplines. The construction of fixed infrastructure at the main operating bases and the preparation of a backup airfield were also big topics. The Czech experts identified similar critical moments and aspects within this topic and greatly appreciated the opportunity to hear how the Slovak side was addressing them.

The Slovak experts drew the attention of the Czech side to the fact that the negotiations with the US side are primarily, and in a good sense, about business, where each customer has the opportunity to negotiate unique terms and conditions, or even to save considerable funds, especially in the setting of support service contracts. As is well known, in the FMS environment the price of the "product" is not negotiated, it is the same for all customers, but service and logistic support can be negotiated.

Finally, the Slovak colleagues shared their practical experience in providing security for soldiers and their families during training in the USA. It was evident throughout the meeting that both countries are on the right track in acquiring modern aircraft that will significantly enhance the defence capabilities, credibility and image of both countries in the region and within NATO.

Foto: Letoun F-35 | prap. Martin Král / 21. zTL
Picture: F-35 | Martin Král / 21. zTL

During his brief summary, General Míka emphasized, among other things, the benefits of such meetings on a professional and personal level. The Czech side also expressed the need to visit the Sliač air base and to get better acquainted especially with the issue of construction of immovable infrastructure on site.

Foto: Letoun F-35 | prap. Martin Král / 21. zTL
Picture: F-35 | Martin Král / 21. zTL

Ing. Petr Hromek, F-35A Project Director of the Czech Air Force, thanked his Slovak colleagues for their time and energy and expressed his firm belief that the air forces of both countries will be united again in the near future in their ability to fully contribute to the security of our region.

Source: Defense Magazine

 Author: pplk. Jan Ďucha

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