Czech government approves plan to buy 24 F-35 jets

PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech government has approved a plan to buy 24 F-35 fighter jets, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on Wednesday, as the army seeks to boost its capabilities and work more easily alongside NATO allies.

Fiala said the first aircraft would be ready in 2029 and the rest by 2035.

“It is an effective solution,” Fiala said. “[The jet] is a system that has a longer perspective than other types of aircraft.”

Defence Minister Jana Cernochova said the state will pay 150 billion crowns ($6.47 billion) by 2034, which includes 44 billion for base upgrades in the Czech Republic along with fuel, staff training and taxes.

In June, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of F-35 jets, munitions and related equipment to the Czech Republic, which is due to replace leased Gripen fighters from Sweden’s Saab AB.

($1 = 23.1800 Czech crowns)

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Toby Chopra, Alexandra Hudson)