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F-35 Jets on Czech Republic’s Radar: A Look at the Ongoing Negotiations

From April 3rd through 6th, 2023, overseen by Blanka Cupáková, the high-ranking director of the economic division of the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Defense, ongoing talks about the potential purchase of F-35 aircraft were held in the United States. These discussions touched on every facet of the prospective acquisition and were conducted in Washington, where relevant government entities (like the DSCA and JPO) have their base of operations, as well as at Lockheed Martin’s (LM) main office in Fort Worth, Texas. During the initial stage of this business journey, delegates from the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Industry and Trade engaged with LM’s representatives to go over project proposals for industrial collaboration, which LM had put forward to the Czech party after several months of intensive discussions.

Lockheed Martin values the caliber of the Czech industrial sector and, in some instances, its singular production abilities. The Czech delegation consistently highlights that top-tier industrial collaboration projects, which are aimed at preserving the nation’s critical security interests, could bolster the Czech Republic’s decision to purchase aircraft. Concurrently, a team of Czech pilots, led by Brigadier Jaroslav Mka, held a meeting in Fort Worth. During this meeting, they deliberated on the significance of the 5th generation aircraft system, spanning from the strategic mission of deterring potential enemies to its operational employment in multi-domain operations, right down to the individual roles of the F-35 system in specific situations. A portion of the agenda included an overview of the F-35 production, training programs, and a hands-on demonstration of the pilot’s gear. In conclusion, the Czech pilots got the chance to test some of the scenarios discussed on a ground simulator.

“I am content that our discussions with the U.S. government bodies are thorough and goal-oriented. We are succeeding in gathering particular data that we require for a holistic understanding of the project and for creating materials for the government,” Senior Director Blanka Cupáková commented on the talks, adding that the American party’s approach is cooperative.

“I plan to recommend to the Minister a package of high-grade and specific industrial collaboration projects between aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin and Czech firms. I understand that the range and quality of the industrial partnership offered to the Czech Republic will also be one of the factors that the government will consider when deciding on the potential procurement of 5th generation aircraft,” states senior director Blanka Cupáková.

In Washington, Senior Director Cupáková had a meeting with the leader of the program office (Joint Program Office, JPO) for F-35 aircraft, General Michael J. Schmidt. The focus of the conversation was the facets of preparing comprehensive information for the Czech Republic’s government. This was followed by a collective meeting of the Czech task force and U.S. representatives of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) and JPO. The agenda involved an evaluation of the completion of partial tasks and the outlining of the next steps. In addition to a more precise delineation of the possible financing structure, the dialogue concentrated on topics such as personnel training requirements, necessary infrastructure, a planned expert gathering on security issues, and the timeline. The government made the decision to commence talks with the U.S. about the potential procurement of 5th generation aircraft in July of the previous year, in response to a deteriorating security climate, particularly Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. By October 1, 2023, Defense Minister Jana ernochová will present the government with the outcomes of these discussions.

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