Czech JAS-39Gripen Fighters Guard the Blue Skies over the Baltics

Czech JAS-39Gripen Fighters Guard the Blue Skies over the Baltics

By Maj. Daniel Stanescu


Time: 19:33... scramble alert... pilots and jets ready for take off... roar in the air... minutes later a target is intercepted... an airliner without an active flight plan...mission accomplished... return to base.
This is just a part of a routine mission for the Czech detachment deployed to Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania. Their duty is to provide air policing for the 6.8 million inhabitants of the Baltic States and to show NATO‘s firm commitment and resolve. For the Czech Republic this deployment is a historical one: It is a premiere for this country to send troops to the region and will remain recorded as the first Czech deployment abroad since World War II. These Czech pilots are proud to be the first ones to fly Gripens in the blue skies over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Until now the airspace in the Baltics was shielded by F-16, F-4s, Tornados F3s, Mirage F1s, Mirage 2000s, MiG-29s and MiG-21s that were deployed by different NATO nations.

On 1 May 2009, four JAS 39 Gripens from the Czech 211th tactical squadron, based at Caslav, Czech Republic, replaced the previous Danish F16 contingent. Since then the 75 member detachment has taken over responsibility to guard the very north east of the Alliance territory. The Czech grey patterned JAS-39 Gripen C jets have already successfully completed parts of the ambitious training program envisioned for the duration of the deployment. They will maintain the same pace for the remaining days of their until the end of August and will continue to be vigilant and ready to react 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The current detachment is the 20th rotation overall in the frame of the Baltic air policing mission carried out by NATO. The Gripens will be followed by German fighters to take over challenging duty on 1 September of this year. The Czech Air Force started to operate the JAS-39 Gripen fighters in 2005. The four jets presently deployed to Siauliai are part of a total of twelve Gripen C-model and two D-model operational trainers.


Photo Jan Kouba