Czech Air Force

Czech Air Force

The Czech Air Force, ICAO code CEF, is the air force branch of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic. The Air Force, with the Ground Forces, comprises the main combat power of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic. It is a successor of the Czechoslovak Air Force (up to 1992).


Interwar period (1918-1939)

For a modern nation surrounded by potentially hostile neighbors, without access to the ocean, the Czechoslovak leadership needed to build a capable air force. So was born the motto "Our sea is in the air."

The Czechoslovak government between the wars balanced a home-grown aviation industry with licensing engine and aircraft designs from allied nations.

Several major aircraft companies, and a few engine companies, thrived in Czechoslovakia during the 1930s. One well-known engine manufacturer was A. S. Walter located in Prague.

The Aero Company (Aero továrna letadel), was located in the Vysočany quarter of Prague. Its mixed construction (wood, metal and fabric covering) and all-metal aircraft were competitive in the early 1930s; however, by 1938, only its MB.200 (a licensed Bloch design) was not totally obsolete.

The Avia Company (Avia akciová společnost pro průmysl letecký Škoda), a branch of the enormous Škoda Works (Škodovy závody) for heavy machinery and defence industrial organization, was different. Founded in 1919 in an old sugar factory in the eastern Prague suburbs of Letňany and Čakovice, Avia made entire airplanes, including motors, which were usually licensed Hispano-Suiza designs. The standard Czechoslovak pursuit plane of the late 1930s, the B-534 reached a total production of 514 units. It was one of the last biplane fighters in operational use, and also one of the best ever produced.

The state-controlled Letov (Vojenská továrna na letadla Letov) was also situated in Letňany. It employed about 1,200 workers in the late 1930s, and it manufactured the S-328 biplane, of which over 450 were produced. The entire airframe was welded together, not bolted or riveted. The Letov factory was the only Czechoslovak plant that manufactured metal propellers.

World War II (1939-1945)

During this time, Czechoslovakia was divided into the "Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren" (Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) - a rump state directly controlled by Nazi Germany - and the Slovak Republic - a German puppet state.

Many Czech pilots successfully escaped to Poland and France, where they helped to fight against the Nazi "blitzkrieg" in the first period of the war, and later in Britain where they created fighter and bomber squadrons within the Royal Air Force, which were a constituent of the Czechoslovak army in exile on the British islands. Czech fighter ace Josef František became arguably the best top scoring allied fighter pilot of the Battle of Britain. Other Czech pilots continued to fight against the Germans in the Soviet Union.

Under German rule all Czech aircraft where absorbed into the Luftwaffe - and the huge Czechoslovak manufacturing base was converted to produce German aircraft and engines.

Cold War (1946-1988)

During this time Czechoslovakia was member of the Eastern Bloc, allied with the Soviet Union, and from 1955 a member of the Warsaw Pact. Because of this, the Czechoslovak Air Force used Soviet aircraft, doctrines and tactics. The types of aircraft were mostly MiGs. Fighters MiG-15, MiG-19 and MiG-21F was produced in licence.

Velvet Revolution to break up of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992)

Czech Republic (1993-present)

The Czech Air Force was still under the influence of the past in the 1990s. It was equipped mainly with older Russian aircraft. As the Czech Republic prepared to become a member of NATO in 1999, it began to revise and update its doctrines and aircraft.

The Czech government decided to buy a fleet of Swedish JAS 39 Gripen multi-role fighter aircraft capable of reaching supersonic speeds. Because of the devastating floods that hit the country during 2003 the deal was put off.

A new international tender was issued for an interim solution. Gripen again won this tender among six different bidders as the Czech Republic accepted a government to government 10-year lease from Sweden that did not involve BAE Systems. Media allegations of BAE Systems kickbacks to decision makers during the original sales effort have so far led nowhere in the judicial system.


The first Czechoslovak military aircraft wore, for a short time between September and November 1918, three-colour roundel, from the middle: red, blue and white. From 27 November 1918 it was replaced with slanted parallel lines in these colours. From 1920 they were replaced with an inverted roundel, from the middle: white, blue and red. From 21 December 1921 national insignia on aircraft became rectangular national flags. Finally, in December 1926 a current roundel of three parts in white, red and blue, was adapted. It remained the insignia of the Czech Air Force until today, although in recent years, a low-visibility variant, all in grey, was adapted in some cases.


List of aircraft

The Czech Air Force operates 190 aircraft, including 61 combat aircraft and 84 helicopters. Thirty-seven percent of the Air Force's aircraft were manufactured in the Czech Republic.

! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Aircraft ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Origin ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Type ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Versions ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|In service ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Notes |- | Aero L-39 Albatros || || trainer
attack || L-39C/ZA || 18 || |- | Aero L-159 Alca || || trainer
attack || L-159T1
L-159A || 4
24 || |- | Airbus 319 CJ || || VIP and transport || A319CJ || 2 || replacement of the Tu-154M |- | Antonov An-26 Curl || || transport || An-26 || 4 || |- | Bombardier Challenger 600 || || VIP || CL-601 || 1 || |- | Let L-410 Turbolet || || transport || L-410UVP
L-410UVP-T || 10 || |- | Mil Mi-17 Hip || || transport helicopter || Mi-17
Mi-171 || 21
16 || |- | Mil Mi-24 Hind || || attack helicopter || Mi-24V
Mi-35 || 18
10 || |- | PZL Mi-2 Hoplite || || utility helicopter || Mi-2 || 5 || |- | PZL W-3 Sokół || || utility helicopter || W-3A || 11 || |- | JAS 39 Gripen|| || fighter || JAS 39C
JAS 39D || 12
2 || leased for 10 years |- | Yakovlev Yak-40 Codling || || VIP
transport || Yak-40
Yak-40K || 1
1 || |- | Zlin Z 142 || || trainer || Z 142 || 8 || |- | Evektor-Aerotechnik EV 97 || || ultralight trainer || EV 97 || 1 ||


In addition, several Sojka III unmanned aerial vehicles are operated for reconnaissance and electronic warfare.

Types recently retired from Czech service include:


  • Brown, Alan Clifford. The Czechoslovak Air Force in Britain, 1940-1945 (PhD Thesis). University of Southampton, Faculty of Arts, School of Humanities, 1998, 237pp.
  • Titz, Zdenek; Davies, Gordon and Ward, Richard. Czechoslovakian Air Force, 1918-1970 (Aircam Aviation Series no. S5). Reading, Berkshire, UK: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1971. ISBN 0-85045-021-7.

See also

External links

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