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Czech Republic on the Verge of a Historic F-35 Acquisition: The Negotiations Continue

Between April 3rd and 6th, 2023, led by Blanka Cupáková, the chief director of the economic division of the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Defense, additional discussions regarding the potential procurement of F-35 aircraft were conducted in the United States. These deliberations encompassed every aspect of the prospective acquisition, taking place in Washington, home to the relevant government agencies (including DSCA and JPO), and at Lockheed Martin’s (LM) main offices in Fort Worth, Texas. In the initial phase of the business trip, representatives from the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Industry and Trade conferred with LM representatives on potential industrial collaboration projects, which LM had proposed to the Czech side after months of extensive discussions.

LM recognizes the caliber of the Czech industry and, in certain instances, its distinctive manufacturing capacities. The Czech negotiation team consistently underscores that high-quality industrial collaboration initiatives, which are aimed at safeguarding the state’s vital security interests, can bolster the Czech Republic’s decision to buy aircraft. Concurrently, a team of Czech pilots led by Brigadier Jaroslav Mka convened in Fort Worth. Throughout the meeting, they discussed the significance of the 5th generation aircraft system, from the strategic mission of deterring opponents to its operational use in multi-domain operations to the individual roles of the F-35 system in specific scenarios. An overview of F-35 production, training programs, and a practical demonstration of the pilot’s equipment were part of the agenda. At the conclusion, the Czech pilots tested some of the discussed scenarios on a ground simulator.

“I am gratified that our negotiations with US government agencies are in-depth and goal-oriented. We are managing to gather specific data necessary for a comprehensive understanding of the project and preparation of material for the government,” expressed Senior Director Blanka Cupáková about the negotiations, adding that the approach of the American side is constructive.

“I aim to propose a collection of superior and specific industrial collaboration projects between aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin and Czech firms to the Minister. I am cognizant that the scope and quality of the industrial cooperation offered to the Czech Republic will also be one of the determining factors on which the government will base its decision on the possible procurement of 5th generation aircraft,” stated senior director Blanka Cupáková.

In Washington, Senior Director Cupáková had a meeting with the head of the program office (Joint Program Office, JPO) for F-35 aircraft, General Michael J. Schmidt. The interview’s focus was the aspects of preparing comprehensive information for the Czech Republic’s government. This was succeeded by a joint session of the Czech work team and American representatives of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) and JPO. The agenda was an evaluation of the fulfillment of specific tasks and the planning of the next steps. Apart from a more precise specification of potential financing options, the discussion revolved around personnel training requirements, necessary infrastructure, the anticipated expert meeting on security issues, and the timeline. In response to the deteriorating security climate, particularly Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, the government resolved to initiate negotiations with the USA regarding the potential procurement of 5th generation aircraft in July of the previous year. By October 1, 2023, Defense Minister Jana Černochová will report to the government about the outcomes of these negotiations.

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