Czech Gripen fighter jets train with NATO ships

A Czech squadron of Gripen fighter jets have reached the second week of their air-maritime integration and carried out joint missions with Danish, French and Icelandic vessels off Iceland.

Currently in charge of providing air interception capabilities for Iceland under NATO, the Czech JAS-39 Gripen fighter detachment, trained with the Danish patrol boat Thetis, French frigate Languedoc and Icelandic Coast Guard ship Thor, as well as the vessels’ on-board helicopters, on October 17.

“We were invited to participate in this exercise, which took place at sea some 80 km southwest of Iceland,” said Czech detachment commander in Iceland, Lieutenant Colonel Jaroslav Tomana. “The primary task of our pilots was to perform a simulated assault on the Languedoc, one of the newest ships of the French Navy. Ships of this class are adequately equipped against attacks from the air. So our Gripens were used to challenge the readiness of the crew,” he added.

Low-level flying manoeuvres over sea were another rare training occasion for the Czech fighter crews. “Our pilots were able to hone their skills with this important proficiency,” said Major Tomas Merta, one of the participating pilots. “Per se, our Gripen jets have a minimum flight level over sea of 30 metres. However, coming from a land-locked country we are not that experienced in this specialty. For safety reasons we therefore applied a minimum flight level of 100 metres.”

The whole air-maritime training was beneficial for both air and naval crews. The sailors practiced defence against airborne attacks while fighting a simulated on-board fire. They also conducted evacuation drills with ships, helicopters and speedboats. Meanwhile, the pilots learned what it meant to act against and with the maritime assets.