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LN: Prague negotiating joint air squadron with Hungary

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Prague, March 2 (CTK) – The Czech Republic, which operates 14 supersonic Jas-39 Gripen fighters, is negotiating with Hungary about the formation of an international air squadron after a similar project with the neighbouring Slovakia failed so far, daily Lidove noviny (LN)) wrote on Wednesday.

The talks between Czech and Slovak military representatives on a joint air squadron have lasted for five years. However, Bratislava has not met the major condition to acquire the Swedish-made Jas-39 Gripen fighters.

Slovakia had no money left for the lease of the Gripens from Sweden after high investments in the upgrading of its air force and decided to extend the servicing contract for its MiG-29 Russian-made fighters instead, LN writes.

As Prague does not want to give up the idea of an international squadron, it has launched talks with Budapest in this respect.

The Hungarian military has Gripens as well, and cooperation of both countries would bring savings worth millions of crowns.

LN says Czech and Hungarian Gripens spent many hours in the air together within the Lions Effort aviation exercise in Caslav, central Bohemia, last May.

Now, Czechs and Hungarians are negotiating a joint air policing over Iceland in October.

“It would be advantageous as well as logical for both countries. First, they could share costs and second, Hungarians would train flying in the areas where they have not operated yet,” a strategist, from the Defence Ministry, told LN.

If the deal is struck, each country will send some 30 soldiers and two fighters to Iceland. The Czech military would thereby save a half of the planned 40-million-crown costs, it adds.

However, the talks on a possible cooperation in the Air Policing in Iceland are still going on, LN says, referring to Jan Sulc, from General Staff.

The paper writes that the Hungarian chances were complicated by a series of Gripen accidents last year due to which the Hungarian air force has only 12 out of the 14 Gripen fighters operable.

Despite that, the cooperation of both countries’ air forces seems more realistic now than three years ago since the abilities of Hungarian pilots have improved in the meantime, a ministerial expert said.

Budapest started to more participate in NATO joint operations. Hungarian Gripen pilots helped protect the Slovenian airspace and a few weeks ago, they returned from a demanding four-month mission in the skies above the Baltic countries to protect Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from unexpected Russian aircraft, LN writes.

Consequently, Hungarian pilots should cope with the Icelandic mission well.

The results of the talks between the Hungarian and Czech militaries may be clear in a few weeks, LN writes.

It says Prague has not shelved its possible cooperation with Slovakia either. It will depend on whether a new Slovak cabinet to emerge from the Saturday election will decide to upgrade the Slovak fighter squadron.

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