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Future of Czech Republic’s Defense? Ongoing Discussions on F-35 Purchase

From April 3rd to 6th, 2023, steered by Blanka Cupáková, the high-ranking director of the economic division of the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Defense, extended discussions on the stipulations for the potential procurement of F-35 jets transpired in the United States. These deliberations encompassed all facets of the potential procurement and occurred in Washington, where the pertinent government entities (including DSCA and JPO) are located, and at Lockheed Martin’s (LM) primary office in Fort Worth, Texas. During the initial segment of the work trip, delegates from the Czech Republic’s Ministries of Defense and Industry and Trade conferred with representatives of the LM corporation about proposals for industrial collaboration initiatives that LM presented to the Czech delegation following numerous months of intensive discussions.

LM acknowledges the caliber of the Czech industry and, in certain instances, its exceptional production abilities. The Czech negotiation team frequently underscores that superior-quality industrial collaboration projects intended to safeguard the crucial security interests of the nation can bolster the Czech Republic’s decision to procure aircraft. Concurrently, a gathering of a team of Czech pilots led by Brigadier Jaroslav Mka was held in Fort Worth. Throughout this gathering, the significance of the 5th generation aircraft system was explored, from the strategic duty of deterring the opponent to its operational application in multi-domain operations to the individual roles of the F-35 system in specific scenarios. An overview of the F-35’s production, training programs, and a hands-on display of the pilot’s gear formed part of the agenda. Ultimately, the Czech pilots tested some of the discussed scenarios on the ground simulator.

“I am gratified that our talks with US government entities are thorough and focused. We are securing specific data required for a holistic understanding of the project and for compiling material for the government,” Senior Director Blanka Cupáková remarked about the negotiations, stating that the American side’s methodology is constructive.

“I plan to present the Minister with a proposition for a series of superior and specific industrial collaboration projects between aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin and Czech firms. I understand that the range and quality of the industrial collaboration offered to the Czech Republic will also be one of the criteria upon which the government will base its decision on the possible procurement of 5th generation aircraft,” mentions senior director Blanka Cupáková.

In Washington, Senior Director Cupáková held a meeting with the head of the program office (Joint Program Office, JPO) for F-35 jets, General Michael J. Schmidt. The focus of the discussion was the aspects of compiling comprehensive information for the Czech Republic’s government. This was followed by a joint session of the Czech work group and American representatives from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) and JPO. The meeting’s agenda was an evaluation of the completion of partial tasks and the determination of the next steps. Besides a more in-depth clarification of the potential financing profile, the conversation centered on requirements for personnel training, necessary infrastructure, the planned expert assembly on security issues, or the timeline. The government chose to commence negotiations with the USA on the potential procurement of 5th generation aircraft in July of the previous year in response to the deteriorating security situation, particularly Russia’s military hostility towards Ukraine. By October 1, 2023, Defense Minister Jana Černochová will brief the government on the outcomes of these negotiations.

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