Gripen Team Makes Headway in Czech Republic
By Ryszard Jaxa-Malachowski,
AWN Central European Correspondent
A team from BAe Systems and Saab signed the Memorandum of Understanding last Tuesday with the Czech Republic government which some say lays a foundation for a future fighter order.
A joint commission is to be set up to coordinate potential offset and investments to be made in the Czech Republic.
The documents were signed by Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finances Pavel Mertik. Also present were the Czech Prime Minister and British and Swedish ambassadors, governmental representatives as well top ranking persons from BAe Systems and SAAB. The level of participants clearly presents the importance of this event for the troubled Czech economy.
Saab president and CEO Bengt Halse said the agreement opens new horizons for joint activities and initiates the process of creating new investments. The memorandum has been developed for last 12 months and is BAe/Saab's response to the local requirements concerning compensation in case of foreign military purchases.
However it is expected that compensation is generally focused into the local economy, not related to the military and aviation industry. This is reflecting attitudes in Prague, that 80% of the offset is to be located in non-aviation and non-military branches.
The memorandum comes into effect only if the Gripen is selected, of course. It is also in response to the Resolution No 421 made by the Czech government creating rules for foreign military purchase compensation programs.
Both BAe and Saab are thinking pretty seriously about incoming competition and have already created a strong back-up consortium of both domestic and foreign banks, which will create financial packages and later will be supporting the whole project.
It is expected that Prague will initiate its fighter bid later this month. Initial deliveries are planned around year 2004 or 2005. The local needs call for up to 36 multirole fighters both single and two seaters. These are to be introduced into service with two fighter squadrons, no 31 and 32 operating from Czaslav Air Base. The modern fighters will replace currently operated MiG-21MFs. However these might be withdrawn from service slightly earlier due to the fact that most of the MiGs will reach their life limits around 2003.
Prague has been trying to postpone the costly purchases beyond 2005 but has found it difficult to meet NATO's requirements concerning air defense and possible joint operations outside the country.
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