Czech military close to selling surplus combat planes

L-159, photo: archive of Czech Army

The Czech Defence Ministry says it is close to a deal to sell most of its surplus combat planes. The potential buyer, the US firm Draken International, is reportedly interested in acquiring 28 L-159 planes that would be used as practice targets for US pilots. If agreement is reached, the Defence Ministry will receive around 500 million crowns for the planes.

L-159,  photo: archive of Czech Army
After years of unsuccessful efforts to sell the domestically produced L-159 combat aircraft to countries from Poland to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Czech Defence Ministry said on Friday that, at long last, it was very close to a striking a deal.

The US firm Draken International, which provides aviation services for the American military, wants to buy 28 planes the Czech army acquired in 1997 but no longer requires. Daniel Koštoval is a deputy defence minister.

“It’s generally known around the world that the Czech Republic would like to sell these planes. Draken International approached with an offer to buy as many as 28 of them. We do believe it will happen.

„I think Draken International would not enter into such detailed negotiations with us and would not be ready to discuss the price if they didn’t have a contract for the planes’ future use. As we understand it, they do have the contract, and in fact need the planes now.”

Daniel Koštoval,  photo: Vojtěch Brtnický / Czech Centres
Draken International, which prides itself in operating the largest privately-owned fleet of tactical aircraft in the world, would use the Czech planes as practice targets for US fighter pilots. That is reflected in the price offered by the US company – the Czech Defence Ministry would receive between 434 and 516 million crowns, depending on the planes’ equipment.

But that is only a fraction of what the government paid for the aircraft; a fleet of 72 planes cost around 50 billion crowns. But Mr Koštoval says the original purchase price included more than just the planes.

“The money was paid not only for the planes. The government also paid for the development of the aircraft as well as for the infrastructure needed to run and maintain the planes that are now in service.”

The Czech government acquired the L-159 planes in 1997. At that time, the Czech Republic was not yet part of NATO, and army strategists believed a strong air force was a necessity. But a few years later, the Czech military found that it only had use for 24 of the planes, and the rest were put on the market.

L-159,  photo: archive of Czech Army
For years now, they have been stored in a hangar, sealed in nitrogen atmosphere. If the deal materializes, the Czech army would be left with six aircraft but ministry officials say they would keep them as a source of spare parts for those plan that are in service.