Caslav, Central Bohemia, July 22 (CTK) – The five Czech JAS-39 Gripen fighters that left for Iceland to guard its airspace this morning had to return to their base in Caslav over a defect of one of them and a new start has been set for Thursday, Petr Hromek, the base’s commander, has told CTK.
The Czech pilots are to replace Canadian fighters who were relocated to a NATO operation against Islamic State in Iceland, which does not have its own military.
The Czech planes took up shortly after 10:30. Soon it turned out that one of them has a defect.
The defect is a minor one, which should not jeopardise the Gripens’ deployment in Iceland, Hromek said.
General Staff spokesman Jan Sulc said it was a defect on the reserve flight data system.
This forced the pilots to return to the Caslav base after spending a certain portion of fuel. They landed safely before noon.
If a single plane has a defect, all of them automatically return to their home base. It is not possible to send only some fighter aircraft with an in-flight refuelling tanker to Iceland because the remaining plane could not get there without the tanker, Hromek said.
The defective plane is now being examined. Either it will be repaired or replaced with another plane, Sulc said.
“The situation has no influence on fulfilling the task [of Icelandic sky protection],” he said.
An Italian plane KC-76 will participate in the aircraft’s in-flight refuelling. The same procedure was tested during the Icelandic mission last autumn.
Four Gripens will guard Iceland’s airspace and one plane will be a reserve one. The first certification flights are planned for July 27-28 and the mission will fully start on July 29. Some 70 soldiers will be deployed in the mission.
Czech fighters were on an Icelandic mission from October 10 last within NATO’s joint system of anti-aircraft and anti-missile defence. They returned to their base on December 4.
The Czech military twice participated in guarding the airspace of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.