The Czech Air Force and four Gripen aircraft made history in May 2009 when they carried out the first ever Czech tactical aviation campaign over foreign territory. Already fully integrated in NATO, the Czech Air Force was easily qualified to patrol the airspace of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Gripen over the Baltic
The Baltic operation was carried out with only 75 crewmembers, operating 4 Gripen aircraft in Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Readiness 24/7 over 4 months. During the campaign, the Czech Air Force had to perform 8 live interceptions or “Alpha Scrambles”. Seven of the scrambles were initiated by Russian military aircraft in international airspace but with questionable transponder operation or lack of air-traffic control communication. In all, the campaign was very successful with the four Gripen aircraft logging 404 hours in 336 sorties. This far exceeded the planned 290 flight hours, proving the high reliability and flexibility inherent in the Gripen fighter aircraft.
Missions at the home base
This mission resembled the air policing task that is the main domestic duty of the Czech Air Force. The regular sustainment flying at the home base in Casláv includes NATO QRA missions with 2 Gripen aircraft on 24-hour alert and “Tango Scrambles” for practise purposes. Today the Gripen has successfully completed nearly 10,000 flight hour during missions and has proved to be everything the Czech Air Force anticipated. One of the most distinguished missions was to patrol the Czech airspace during the arrival and departure of the US and Russian presidents, Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, for their signing of the new strategic arms reduction treaty in Prague in April 2010.